New Delhi | Supreme Court today stayed till tomorrow the arrest of social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, soon after Gujarat High Court rejected their anticipatory bail plea in a case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Gulbarg society, devastated in the 2002 riots. A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu said Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand would be protected from the arrest till the matter is heard tomorrow.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal orally mentioned about the imminent arrest of the couple, soon after Gujarat High Court rejected their anticipatory bail. Sibal along with advocate Aparna Bhat mentioned the plea, when the bench, which also comprised justices A K Sikri and Arun Mishra, was hearing another case. The lawyers said the police was at their doorstep and hell bent to arrest them. This is an extraordinary situation and therefore should be heard urgently, they said.
The bench said that the appeal against the High Court decision could be filed in the course of the day. The couple rushed to the apex court within an hour of the High Court dismissing their plea for a stay on its order to allow them time to move the Supreme Court. The High Court also observed that Setalvad was not cooperating in the probe and they cannot be armoured with full fledged anticipatory bail when applicant did not cooperate with the investigation.
Setalvad and her husband have been booked by the Crime Branch of Gujarat Police on charges of cheating, breach of trust and under the IT Act, in a matter relating to the construction of Museum of Resistance in the Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad which was hit by communal riot in 2002.
One of the riot victims from Gulbarg housing society, which was burnt during the 2002 post Godhra riots, had lodged a complaint with the Ahmedabad Police against Setalvad, Anand and two NGOs run by them – Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust, alleging misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 1.51 crore. According to the complaint, the accused persons had collected funds in the name of converting part of the Gulbarg society into a museum and had allegedly misappropriated funds worth Rs 1.51 crores.
The accused had contended that they have been implicated in the case and were victims of political vendetta. They claimed that they were being targeted by the perpetrators of the riots. In 2006, the social activists decided to build the ‘Museum of Resistance’ at the site of the Gulbarg society. Accordingly in 2009, a part of the plot was sold to Sabrang Trust. However in 2012, the idea of the museum was dropped as the prices escalated. The same was communicated to the society. But, according to the complaint filed against Setalvad, funds were collected by her despite the idea being dropped.
Earlier in the day, the Gujarat High Court had turned down the bail applications and paved the way for their possible arrest. The High Court today also rejected Setalvad’s lawyer’s prayer for a stay on its order to allow them time to move the Supreme Court. It maintained that their custodial interrogation was in public interest and in the interest of justice and said that Setalvad had filed the pre-arrest bail plea just to avoid custodial interrogation.
The applicant has never cooperated with the probe and whenever she was called for questioning, she insisted that cops ask her everything in writing and also maintained that she had said everything in her affidavits before the sessions court, the High Court said. The court also said that affidavits by witnesses had brought out several shocking facts about the applicant having used the funds collected in the name of riot victims and meant for the poor and needy people for personal and materialistic purposes.