SC to Teesta: Cooperate in FCRA probe, extends bail

New Delhi

The Supreme Court today told Teesta Setalvad and her husband that their failure to adhere to the conditions imposed by the Bombay High Court may lead to the cancellation of the anticipatory bail granted to them in a case where they have been accused of misusing foreign funds.

The apex court asked Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand to cooperate with the CBI in its investigation in the case in which their company, Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL), had received Rs 1.8 crore from US-based Ford Foundation allegedly without mandatory approval from the Centre.

It orally observed that their “anticipatory bail may be cancelled if they would not follow the conditions imposed by the High Court.”

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice A R Dave issued notice to the couple asking them to respond to the CBI petition seeking their custodial interrogation and charging them with failing to cooperate in the probe of misusing foreign funds received by them and posing a threat to communal harmony.

“It is expected that the respondents (Setalvad and her husband) will adhere to the conditions of anticipatory bail,” said the bench, also comprising Justices F M I Kalifulla and V Gopala Gowda, which also extended the interim protection from arrest till December 5 to the couple in another case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society that was devastated in the 2002 riots.

During the hearing of the FCRA case which is posted for December 1, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the couple, denied the allegations of CBI that they were not cooperating in the probe and claimed that they have submitted all documents sought by the agency.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar had alleged that Setalvad and her husband were not cooperating in the probe and had marched to the CBI office in Mumbai in procession carrying placards and chanting all sorts of slogans.

Taking note of the Solicitor General’s submission, the bench said, “why do you (Setalvad and husband) want to go in procession. That is the allegation. Don’t go in procession.

“You (Sibal) advise your client that they don’t go in procession. You advise them to go with advocates/accountants,” the bench said.

The high court had denied CBI the custodial interrogation of the couple saying, “prima facie this court holds that there has been violation under the FCRA. But where is the threat to national security and public interest?”

In the fund embezzlement case, the apex court court, on September 11, had extended by four weeks the interim protection from arrest granted to Setalvad and her husband.

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.

Setalvad and her husband have denied all allegations contending that they have been implicated in the case and were victims of political vendetta.

The case of alleged violation of provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was taken after the bench had extended the interim bail of the couple in the fund embezzlement case in which Gujarat Police in an affidavit accused them of misappropriating funds meant for charity for personal expenses, buying items ranging from wine to mobile phone, besides tampering with evidence.

A two-judge bench on October 12 had admitted that it was a mistake to consider extending the interim bail of Setalvad and her husband in the fund embezzlement case by them as it was referred to the three-judge bench.

Accordingly, a three-judge bench was constituted to consider the matter, which witnessed heated exchange of words between Gujarat police counsel Mahesh Jethmalani and others including senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who was one of the counsel along with Sibal appearing for Teesta.

While Dave was insisting that the interim protection from arrest to them be extended till further order, the bench said it can stay the order of Gujarat High Court ordering custodial interogation till a particular time limit and granted the relief till December 5.

However, when the FCRA matter came up, the bench first was of the view that it should be placed before a two-judge bench but Sibal and others pleaded that the matter be taken by the same bench.

In the FCRA case, the agency has come out with several grounds to challenge the August 11 order of the Bombay High Court granting anticipatory bail to Setalvad and her husband after it was denied by the sessions court.

CBI has sought cancellation of their anticipatory bail claiming that the high court had erred in giving relief after “prima facie” finding that FCRA provisions were violated.

While the couple has denied all charges saying they have been victimised for taking up the cause of riots victims, the agency said after ‘prima facie’ holding that there was misuse of funds they had received from Ford Foundation for which they were “undoubtedly answerable”, the high court ought not have granted anticipatory bail by using its extraordinary discretionary powers.


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