Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Supreme Court hears Teesta Setalvad’s plea, asks why has Gujarat HC made notice returnable in 6 weeks?

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The Supreme Court on Thursday partly heard the plea of jailed activist Teesta Setalvad challenging the refusal of interim relief by the Gujarat High Court on Thursday. The next hearing will be on Friday.

The bench of Chief Justice U. U. Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia said the case against Teesta Setalvad involves the offence of forging documents, and police custody may only be needed for the initial period.

When it was said that there are a number of cases pending and court has to look at them as well. The bench asked if there is a case that involves a lady and the High Court has made notice returnable in six weeks?

To this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the state of Gujarat, said no lady has committed such an offence.

Mehta objected to the maintainability of the petition stating that Setalvad who elected to move the High Court, could not have approached the Supreme Court under Article 136, as per the doctrine of election.

He added submitted that the Gujarat High Court has entertained her plea but has refused to give her any special treatment since other citizens in similar situations are also in jail.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Teesta Setalvad, said the FIR against her is not maintainable as allegations are in relation to documents that are filed in Court, which has not registered any complaint so far.

Sibal added that the FIR has been registered based only on the Supreme Court’s judgment stating to find the conspiracy and an FIR cannot be registered to find out something.

Sibal read Sections 195 of CrPC and Section 194 of IPC and said FIR cannot be registered under Section 194 of IPC.

The Solicitor General was asked as to what has been found in the investigation over the past two months with Teesta Setalvad in custody.

Chief Justice Lalit also said that there is no offence in the case where bail cannot be granted like in the case of UAPA or POTA. The CJI said a lady is entitled to favourable treatment even if she is a petitioner. The Solicitor General then asked if normal litigants had rushed to the Supreme Court as Teesta did, would they have been entertained?

SG said that many litigants like the petitioner are waiting and Teesta is no different to be treated favourably.

SG also added that in normal cases, High Courts must have the final word in matters of bail.

The SG told the Court that as the case demands, there are Section 164 statements against Teesta Setalvad. He conceded that in exceptional cases, a party can directly approach the Supreme Court from the Sessions Court.

Challenging the refusal of interim relief by the Gujarat High Court in the case filed by Gujarat ATS, Teesta Setalvad moved the Apex Court.

The affidavit filed in reply by the Gujarat Government stated that statements of witnesses establish that the conspiracy was enacted by present petitioner (Teesta), along with other accused persons, at the behest of a senior leader of a political party.

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