Home / Politics / Policy /  SC refers Teesta Setalvad’s anticipatory bail plea to larger bench

New Delhi: Noting that human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand’s, plea for anticipatory bail raised the question whether liberty on the one hand and fair and effective investigation on the other, make out a case for extending the benefit of anticipatory bail, the Supreme Court on Thursday referred the plea to be adjudicated by a larger bench.

A bench of justices Dipal Misra and A.K. Goel has, however, said that the earlier stay order protecting them from arrest shall remain in force till the larger bench takes up the matter.

“Having stated about the value of liberty, the concept of regulated freedom, the societal restriction, the supremacy of the law, the concept of anticipatory bail and the assertion of the prosecution about the non-cooperation of the appellants (Setalvad and Anand) in the investigation, and the asseverations made by the appellants, we think it appropriate that the matter should be heard by a larger bench," the apex court said in its judgment.

Setalvad and Anand had approached the apex court in February after the Gujarat high court declined to grant them anticipatory bail in a case of alleged embezzlement of funds collected through donations for the construction of a memorial for the 2002 Gujarat riot victims at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad. The money had been collected through Setalvad’s two trusts—the Centre for Peace and Justice and Sabrang Trust.

Accusing Setalvad and Anand of “non-cooperation" and “tampering with witnesses", the state of Gujarat had sought their custodial interrogation.

Setalvad has been charged with cheating, breach of trust and evading tax after a complaint was filed by former residents of Gulbarg society and others alleging that she had embezzled 1.51 crore collected through donations.

The charges relate to the construction of a Museum of Resistance in the aftermath of the 2002 communal riots in Gulbarg society. On 28 February 2002, a mob attacked the Muslim neighbourhood of Gulbarg Society and more than 60 people were killed or went missing.

Though Setalvad’s plea was first heard by a bench of justices S.J. Mukhopadhaya and N.V. Ramana, it was abruptly shifted to another bench. The Supreme Court registry clarified later that the change took place since one of the judges in the bench recused himself from the case.

Separately, the human resource development ministry is set to remove Teesta Setalvad from the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). CABE is the apex advisory body of the ministry comprising state education ministers, experts and central government officials and helps the ministry in education policy making.

It has set up a three-member committee to investigate the possible misuse of funds by Setalvad that it received under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the scheme that has a mandate to universalise elementary education in India. “Once, the committee submits its finding, final action will be taken," said a ministry official declining to be named.

Prashant K. Nanda contributed to this story.

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