gujarat high court

Gujarat High Court: In an application filed under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘Cr.P.C.’) by activist Teesta Atul Setalvad/applicant, wherein she was seeking regular bail in respect of First Information Report (‘FIR’) for offences punishable under Sections 468, 469, 471, 194, 211, 218 and 120-B of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), the Single Judge Bench of Nirzar S. Desai, dismissed the application for regular bail and directed Teesta Setalvad to surrender immediately.


On 01-03-2007, one person along with Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, Citizens of Justice and Peace, filed an application before the Court seeking directions to the Director General of Police to register an FIR regarding the aftermath incidents of Godhra Train burning and further direct the same to be investigated by an independent agency i.e., Central Bureau of Investigation. The said petition was dismissed by this Court on 02-11-2007. A petition was preferred before the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court vide Order dated 27-04-2009 directed that the complaint shall be examined by the Special Investigation Team (‘SIT’). It was concluded by SIT that there was no prosecutable material available against any of the then accused person. Thereafter, an FIR was registered against then Deputy Inspector General of Police (‘DIG’) Sanjiv Bhatt, R.B. Sreekumar retired IAS and Teesta Setalvad, wherein it was stated that they had conspired to abuse the process of law by fabricating false evidence to make several persons to be convicted for an offence that is punishable with capital punishment and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 194 of the IPC. It was also alleged in the FIR that they intended to cause injury with false and malicious criminal proceedings against innocent persons which is an act punishable under Section 211 of the IPC.

It was stated in the FIR that in the final report submitted by SIT, Teesta had conjured, concocted, forged and fabricated facts and documents and / or evidence including fabrication of documents by persons who were prospective witnesses of the complainant. She had preferred an application under Section 439 of the Cr.P.C. seeking bail before the City Civil and Sessions Court at Ahmedabad, however, the said application for bail was rejected. Subsequently, she was granted an interim bail by the Supreme Court on 02-09-2022. While passing the said interim bail order, the Supreme Court had observed that the pending application before the Court shall be considered by the High Court independently and uninfluenced by any of the observations made by the Supreme Court.

Court’s Decision

Referring to Vinod Bhandari v. State of M.P., (2015) 11 SCC 502; Naveen Singh v. State of U.P., (2021) 6 SCC 191 and Satish Jaggi v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2007) 11 SCC 195, the Court stated that it was abundantly clear that it is the duty of the Court to keep in mind the aspect of seriousness or gravity of offence as well while considering the application for bail.

The Court perused the statements of the several witnesses and noted that the statement of one of the witnesses made under Section 164 of the Cr.PC., who knew Teesta since year 1992, had stated in his statement that Teesta had discussed with Late Ahemad Patel, a then political leader, about Gujarat riots. As per the statement, she was also insisted to work in such a manner in Gujarat that the establishment in power at the relevant point of time and the then Chief Minister were sent behind bars and that his reputation was tarnished. A conversation about arrangement of funds for such work was also discussed. The Court also said that as per the statement of the witness, Teesta had told late Ahemad Patel that in the month of April she will publish a special edition of her magazine i.e., Communalism Combat and will break a big news that would tarnish the image of the then Chief Minister to such an extent that he will have to resign.

The Court also noted that she had prepared affidavits of people with their exaggerated versions of the incidents and certain provocative photographs related to the riots were printed in the magazine. The Court said that it was shocking that the names of certain innocent persons were also mentioned in the affidavits and that Teesta had told people that in those affidavits they can mention whomsoever names they want, even if that person was innocent and she will see to it that such persons will be punished. It was also mentioned that she had tutored the affected persons of the riots and sought funds in their names. The Court said that it was shocking that those affidavits were far from truth as it named innocent persons also in it, and those affidavits were prepared and filed just to fulfil personal and political agenda.

The Court said that the statement of the witness gave an idea as to how Teesta had collected money just to unsettle the establishment and to defame and disapprove the then Chief Minister. The Court also noted that as per the statement of another witness, wherein it was stated that Teesta was ear-poisoning the victims against the Government. The Court said that as per the statements, it was indicated that she had also collected huge funds from Islamic countries by making false allegations about how the minorities in Gujarat were tortured, oppressed and not getting justice. She had also made fake promises to the victims of the incidents. The Court said that prima facie, it seemed that she did not actually help people but only worked with a view to gain personal and political benefits, she had used them and collected huge funds in their names. The Court said that she started as a Journalist in English newspaper and with passage of time conveniently projected herself as a social leader and ultimately became the member of Planning Commission.

The Court said that the victims of the riots and the close associates of the Teesta Setalvad had unequivocally given statements against her, making serious allegations which prima facie supported the case of the prosecution. The Court said that it was important to see that in a democratic country, the Constitution provides for any State to be ruled and run through democratically elected Government as per the wish of people of that State, if a person becomes part of the larger conspiracy and just for money and to fulfil her personal ambition to hold prestigious position goes to any extent and thereby, make active efforts not just to unsettle democratically elected government by disrupting the then Chief Minister, Government machineries and by using the victims by convincing them to file false affidavits before various forums and before the Supreme Court and by playing with the sentiments of two wounded communities as she had used sentiments of a particular community to her benefit, collected money for her and ultimately did not help those victims as promised, and intended to implicate innocent persons, therefore, the Court said that if any leniency is shown towards such person, there was a strong possibility that in future also that many more persons would come out openly to help any entity in fulfilling their agenda in an illegal and unlawful manner and show readiness to do anything by playing with the sentiments of the community just to ensure that particular political party gets sufficient swing in their favour by changing the mindset of people by exploiting their religious and communal feelings and provoking them as persons who are oppressed and are not given justice by the establishment.

The Court said that in the instant case, Teesta Setalvad had started her career as a journalist and prima facie it seemed that by using victim and witnesses as ladder for her own benefits, she had ultimately reached on to Padmashree to become Member of Planning Commission.

Therefore, the Court viewed that, when we are heading towards the progress of the country with efforts to strengthen the communal harmony and brotherhood which would create an atmosphere which can accelerate and develop the progress of the country, if the applicant was enlarged on bail, it would deepen and widen the communal polarisation. The Court also said that she had not left any stone unturned to exploit the feelings of minorities, not only she had past track record of going to any extent to achieve the agenda which is entrusted to her as she had already done by influencing the witnesses and by aggressively propagating against Government and its machinery as well as the then Chief Minister and she had shown courage in the past to threaten the witnesses, tampering with the evidence and to influence the people.

Therefore, considering the gravity of the offences, the Court dismissed her application for regular bail. Further, the Court said that as the applicant was on interim bail, she was directed to surrender immediately. The Court had also rejected the request to stay of the said order for a period of thirty days.

[Teesta Atul Setalvad v. State of Gujarat, R/Criminal Misc. Application No. 14435 Of 2022, decided on 01-07-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

For the Applicant: Senior Advocate Mihir Thakore, Advocate S M Vatsa;

For the Respondent: Public Prosecutor Mintesh Amin, Additional Public Prosecutor Manan Mehta, Additional Public Prosecutor Ronak Raval.

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