The Supreme Court on Monday termed as a “mistake” on technical grounds an order extending interim protection from arrest granted to Teesta Setalvad and her husband, indicating that the relief was granted by a two-judge bench earlier instead of three.
“Earlier, it was a mistake,” a bench comprising justices A R Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel observed when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the activist, said the protection against arrest was expiring on October 15 and moreover, last time this two-judge bench had itself extended the relief.
“It is a three-judge bench matter… place it before the appropriate bench,” the court said and asked Sibal to mention it before the Chief Justice for making available the special bench to extend the relief.
“I do not want to lose the protection,” Sibal said. The relief was granted to the activist couple in a case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society that was devastated in the 2002 riots.
Meanwhile, the counsel for Gujarat police sought adjournment on the hearing of its plea seeking a direction to Teesta for supplying certain documents, which was allowed.
The court, on September 11, had extended by four weeks the interim protection from arrest granted to Teesta Setalvad and her husband in the case.
Sibal had then mentioned the issue on behalf of the couple, saying the interim order was expiring on September 15.
Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand have challenged the order of the Gujarat High Court denying them anticipatory bail in the case. The High Court order was stayed by the apex court and has been pending to be heard by a three-judge bench.
The apex court had on April 16 constituted the three- judge bench to hear afresh the anticipatory bail plea of Setalvad and her husband as a two-judge bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Adarsh Kumar Goel on March 19 had referred it to a larger bench and extended its interim order protecting them against arrest till the larger bench takes up the matter.
The couple have denied all charges levelled by Gujarat Police, which in an affidavit in July had alleged that they had misappropriated funds meant for charity for personal expenses, buying items ranging from wine to mobile phone, besides tampering with evidence.
Teesta and her husband, who have been fighting for justice for the riot victims, have denied all allegations contending that they have been implicated in the case and were victims of political vendetta.