Teesta Setalvad| Do What You Do When An Ordinary Citizen Whose Bail Is Rejected Approaches Court: Tushar Mehta Told Apex Court
Yesterday, during the unprecedented hearing of Teesta Setalvad's appeal against the High Court's order denying her bail before the specially constituted bench (second in the day) of the Apex Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared on behalf of the Gujarat Government pointed out that such extraordinary efforts from the Apex Court not called for.
Tushar Mehta referred to Teesta Setalvad as an "extraordinary citizen", during the hearing.
He told the Bench of Justice BR Gavai, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Dipankar Datta that it should only do what it does when an ordinary citizen whose bail is rejected approaches the Court. Mehta said that an ordinary citizen who approaches the Court in appeal surrenders in compliance with the impugned order before challenging that order.
Both Courts below, the Gujarat High Court as well as the Ahmedabad Sessions Court had rejected the bail application Teesta. The High Court heard the matter for seven days, one and a half hours each day. The High Court's order is 127 pages, giving reasons why the Court was compelled to author a detailed order in a plea for bail.
I am also grateful that Your Lordships assembled. Having assembled, I would earnestly urge and I would earnestly expect Your Lordships to do the same thing when an ordinary citizen whose bail is rejected is before the Court, the Solicitor General submitted at the outset.
"A person is on bail from..." Justice Gavai said, when Mehta intervened and said, "There are a large number of such persons".
Justice Gavai continued, "A person is on bail from 20th September 2022, another order of this Court. Ten months have passed. What is so urgent that the person should not be granted even 7 days period to challenge that order? Are the skies to fall?"
"The sky never falls, My Lord", Mehta replied and continued with his arguments.
Further during the hearing, when Tushar Mehta said he should be given sufficient time to argue, the Court agreed and asked Senior Advocate CU Singh who appeared for Teesta Setalvad to sit down by saying, "You can be confirmable".
"He can be comfortable, My Lord. He should be comfortable, he is not just an ordinary citizen whose bail is rejected", Mehta said smiling.
During his arguments, Mehta said, "An individual who thinks, I am not supposed to be treated like an ordinary criminal. She is an ordinary criminal". Justice Gavai replied, "Even an ordinary criminal will be entitled to challenge that order". "Not like this, My Lord...", Mehta paused and then continued, "I will not go into that. It is not in good taste". "Ordinary criminals are surrendering and they are appearing before Your Lordships and Your Lordships are releasing them on bail if Your Lordships find merit", he continued.
During the further course of the hearing, when Justice Bopana said that the Bench might have to sit till morning, Mehta remarked smiling, "I am only a State, My Lord. Not an extraordinary citizen, I can't trouble Your Lordships".
"You are mighty State. Mighty Solicitor appearing for a mighty State", Justice Gavai said on a lighter note. "No no My Lord, a poor Solicitor appearing for a good state", Mehta responded smiling.
Towards the end of the hearing, when Additional Solicitor General SV Raju attempted to make submissions, Justice Gavai said that he would be permitted to make submissions only if he is appearing for a different party. SG then submitted that the ASG is appearing for the Investigating Officer. Justice Gavai then said that IO and the State (represented by SG) are the same thing and the ASG will not be heard.
After the hearing, the Bench said in its order that "In ordinary circumstances, we would not have considered such a request. However, it is to be noted that after the FIR was registered against the petitioner on 25.06.2022 and the petitioner was arrested, this Court considering the application for grant of interim bail had granted the same on certain conditions, vide order dated 02.09.2022. One of the factors that weighed with this Court was that the petitioner was a lady and as such entitled to special protection under Section 437 Cr.P.C".
A two-judge Bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra had conducted a special hearing only a few hours back, when both the Judge differed on the question of granting interim relief to Teesta. It appeared that Justice Oka was in favour of granting interim relief while Justice Mishra differed.
The Gujarat High Court today pronounced its Order on Teesta Setalvad’s application seeking regular bail, rejecting the same. The Court found that prima facie Teesta has exploited the feelings of minorities by provoking them and manipulating things. The High Court directed her to surrender immediately and refused the request of her Counsel to stay the Order for 30 days.
The High Court noted in its Order that Teesta played with the sentiments of a community just to ensure that particular political party gets sufficient swing in their favour. The Court also found that Teesta was funded freely by a political party and was assured of more funds if requires. The High Court also observed in its Order that Teesta played with the sentiments of two wounded communities and that she used the sentiments of a particular community to her benefit, collected money for herself and ultimately did not help the riot victims as promised.
The Supreme Court on September 2, 2022, granted an interim bail to Setalvad. That was a Bench of the then Chief Justice U. U. Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia.