Wednesday, the Supreme Court asked the CBI and the Gujarat government why they want to put Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand, back in jail after they have been out on anticipatory bail for more than seven years.
Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Abhay S. Oka, and BV Nagarathna on a bench said, “The question is how long you can keep someone in jail. Since the first time anticipatory bail was given, seven years have passed. You want to put her in jail again.”
Advocate Rajat Nair, who was there to represent the CBI and the Gujarat government, said that the court needed to see more information about the cases. He said that four weeks might be enough time to do this. Setalvad and her husband Anand were represented by senior lawyer Kapil Sibal and lawyer Aparna Bhat. They said that in one of the cases where the CBI has appealed, she was given anticipatory bail, then a charge sheet was filed, and then she was given regular bail.
He said that since regular bail had already been given, the investigation agency’s appeal against anticipatory bail had no chance of being heard. Nair said that this happened in one case, but there are more than one case against her. He asked the court for four weeks so that he could add more evidence.
“A two-judge bench has sent this case to a larger bench and asked questions that this court needs to answer,” Nair said.
The judge said that the case would be heard again in four weeks. Sibal gave the bench a note in response to a previous order. In it, he explained which appeals are still being looked at and what needs to be decided since some things may have been taken care of by the passage of time.
Setalvad, Anand, the Gujarat police, and the CBI all filed petitions with the top court after three FIRs were filed against the couple.
On March 19, 2015, the top court sent Setalvad and her husband’s request for anticipatory bail to a larger bench in the case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society, which was destroyed in the 2002 riots. The interim order protecting them from arrest was also extended. It had said that the question is whether freedom on the one hand and a fair and effective investigation on the other make a case for extending the benefit under Section 438 CrPC (anticipatory bail).
In 2014, a FIR was filed against them with the DCP, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, on charges of cheating, breach of trust, and under the IT Act in connection with the building of the “Museum of Resistance” in the Gulbarg housing society.
Feroz Khan Saeed Khan Pathan accused Teesta Setalvad and her husband, who were trustees of two trusts called “Citizens for Justice and Peace” (CJP) and “Sabrang Trust,” of getting a few crores of rupees from donors in India and abroad by showing them how bad things were for people in Gulbarg Society after the riots.
In its order from March 19, 2015, the highest court said that Pathan had said in his complaint that the couple had made a plan and told the people in the housing society that they would build a museum in honour of the people who died in the 2002 riots. The court also knew that the couple had asked the other people in the housing society not to sell their homes.
Pathan said that the couple didn’t build the museum like they said they would or use the money to help the members of the Gulbarg Society. They also didn’t sell the victims’ properties like they said they would.
In the second case, the CBI asked the highest court to stop Setalvad and her husband from getting bail before their trial. They are accused of misusing foreign funds. The investigation agency says that the couple’s company, Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL), got Rs 1.8 crore from the US-based Ford Foundation without the approval of the Centre, which is required.
It had asked for their anticipatory bail to be taken away, saying that the Bombay high court made a mistake when it gave them the bail after finding that the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) had been broken.
In the third case, the Ahmedabad police appealed to the Supreme Court against an order from the Bombay High Court on April 5, 2018, which said that the couple could not be arrested in an FIR filed on March 31, 2018, for allegedly getting Rs 1.4 crore in “fraudulent” central government funds for her NGO Sabrang Trust between 2010 and 2013.
The Gujarat police say that the money was supposed to go to a project in some districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat to help the victims of the post-Godhra riots of 2002, but it was stolen or used for something else.
All of the accusations in the FIRs, which are being looked into by Gujarat police and the CBI, have been denied by the couple.