A high-voltage drama is expected in the Supreme Court on Thursday when a new bench will hear an appeal by social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, seeking protection from arrest in connection with a case of alleged financial fraud.
Less than a week after a bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and N V Ramanna dubbed the allegations against Teesta as “grave”, the bail plea has now been listed before a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Adarsh Kumar Goel.
A case usually gets transferred to a different bench when a judge or the judges on the bench recuse or when there is a specific directive by the Chief Justice of India on the administrative side to shift the matter.
While as many as five applications were filed on Wednesday by co-trustees of NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in support of Setalvad, Gujarat Police has adduced various reports by its investigation officer to show alleged fraud.
Raghunandan Maluste, I M Kadri, Cyrus Guzdar and Anil Dharkar moved separate applications as co-trustees of the NGO, and sought to rebut a finding by the Gujarat High Court that Teesta and her husband Javed Anand were in charge of all financial transactions relating to the NGO.
Teesta and Javed were compelled to move the Supreme Court after the High Court rejected their anticipatory bail plea, leaving the police at liberty to arrest them. Advocate Kamini Jaiswal is likely to appear for Maluste while former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising is expected to appear for another trustee. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal is representing Teesta and Javed.
“The Honb’le High Court has given a finding that the petitioners are running the show and other trustees had no role to play in the trust. This finding, it is most respectfully submitted, is completely erroneous and not based on record or evidence. It is submitted that the trustees are very much involved in the work being carried out by the trust and all major decisions are taken collectively and each of the trustee’s opinion/consent is taken before any work,” stated one of the applications.
All the four applications by the trustees have maintained that this “campaign of vendetta has been undertaken” to “cripple and break the struggle for justice” by the NGO, which has been instrumental in bringing perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots to book.
The fifth application has been filed by the Ashoka Innovators for the Public (India), which is a charitable trust. The trust has claimed that Teesta was selected for a fellowship by them in view of her work and she was given a total stipend of Rs 7.2 lakh since 2003. It contended that although this money was meant for Teesta’s personal expenditure and not for the NGO, the investigation seemed to have computed this money also as a donation for the museum.
Gujarat Police has filed copies of the investigation reports in the case, citing the alleged discrepancies in the accounts of CJP and Sabrang Trust and accused Teesta and Javed of various offences, being the “managing trustees”.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who had appeared for Gujarat Police in the High Court, is likely to argue against the bail plea Thursday, instead of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared last week.