SC questions delayed listing of Setalvad’s bail plea by HC

Top court wonders whether ‘this lady has been made an exception’
SC questions delayed listing of Setalvad’s bail plea by HC

NEW DELHI: Pulling no punches, the Supreme Court on Thursday wanted to know the reason for the delayed listing of activist Teesta Setalvad’s bail plea by the Gujarat High Court, wondering whether “this lady has been made an exception” and asking the State government to furnish information about any such precedent.

It wondered why the High Court listed the bail prayer for hearing on September 19, six weeks after it sent a notice to the State government seeking a response to her application. Referring to the case against Setalvad, which was registered days after the June 24 verdict of the apex court in the Zakia Jafri case, the bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said, “Today as the case stands, the FIR is nothing but whatever has happened in the (supreme) court (judgment).”

He was apparently referring to the verdict by the apex court bench led by Justice (since retired) AM Khanwilkar who had blamed the petitioners in the Zakia Zafri case for “keeping the pot boiling” and showing the “audacity” to question the integrity of the Special Investigation Team, and observed that “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”. Setalvad was arrested a couple of days after the verdict was pronounced.

“The High Court has made it returnable after six weeks. You (state government) have said that we are making an exception in favour of this lady and that is the reason why we want to know...We are actually thinking on this as how could the high court can make it returnable after six weeks,” said the bench, which also comprised justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia.

They posted posting Setalvad’s plea for further hearing on Friday. ”Give us instances where a lady accused in such cases has got such dates from the high court. Either this lady has been made an exception....How can the court give this date? Is this standard practice in Gujarat?” an apparently displeased CJI said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, said the state does not make any exception for anybody, man or woman, and that the dates are given by the high court without any discrimination.

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