SC grants protection to Teesta Setalvad, her husband from arrest till May 31

Teesta Speaking in a program in Patna (Image Source: Holy Creatures)

New Delhi, April 9, 2018 (TMC Desk) The Supreme Court on Monday extended, till May 31, the interim protection from arrest ti social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand in a case relating to fund embezzlement.

A bench of Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice M.M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Navin Sinha said Setalvad and her husband will not be arrested till May 31 and asked them to approach the competent court in Gujarat for anticipatory bail.

“We direct the respondents (Setalvad and her husband) to seek appropriate remedy from the competent court in Gujarat before May 31. The interim bail granted by Bombay High Court shall extend till May 31,” it said.

“Since the FIR is in Gujarat, the competent court will be in Gujarat,” the bench while making it clear that the Bombay High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain their plea and the Gujarat court has as the FIR was registered by the Gujarat Police.

Challenging April 5 order of the Bombay High Court, by which they got protection from the arrest till May 2, the Ahmedabad police had approached the top court.

During the hearing, senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state of Gujarat, told the court that at this stage of the case, Ahmedabad police has no intention to arrest Setalvad and they are also not against her travelling abroad.

The Bombay High Court order of granting transit anticipatory bail to the couple was illegal, said the counsel, adding that they should approached a Gujarat court.

Senior advocate C.U. Singh, appearing for the couple, argued that the Bombay High Court had jurisdiction in granting transit bail as the alleged offence pertains to an educational project in Maharashtra.

The apex court, however, ruled that it was a settled law that the jurisdiction lies with the concerned court of the state where the FIR is lodged and the transit bail is granted for making a person to appear before the competent court.

On March 31, the Ahmedabad Crime Branch had registered an FIR against the couple for allegedly securing central government funds worth Rs 1.4 crore “fraudulently” for her NGO Sabrang between 2010 and 2013.

The funds, as per the Gujarat Police, had been ostensibly obtained to help the victims, who were targeted by mobs during the 2002 Godhra riots in the state after a fire in the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra railway station burnt alive 59 karsevaks arriving from Ayodhya, but were misappropriated or used for other purposes.

The case was filed against the couple and Sabrang trustees by Ahmedabad Crime Branch on the basis of a complaint lodged by her former close associate Raees Khan Pathan.

Pathan had accused them that the grant for educational purposes was allegedly misused and materials were printed and distributed that could cause communal disharmony.

The complaint was registered under sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) of the Indian Penal Code.

In his complaint, Pathan had alleged that Setalvad and Sabrang Trust tried to “mix religion with politics” and were spreading disharmony through the curricular material prepared for the erstwhile UPA government which had given it a grant of about Rs 1.4 crore.

Pathan had alleged that a large amount from the Ministry of Human Resource Development funding was used during 2008-14 on ‘Khoj’ project of the Sabrang Trust under the scheme of ‘National Policy on Education’ in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well as on the ‘Peace Building and conflict resolution” project.

The project was launched by Setalvad’s NGO in some districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

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