Legal Experts Question Grounds for Denial of Bail to Teesta, Sreekumar

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Ahmadabad :Gujrat Police Crime branch produces Activist Teesta Setalvad in the court in Ahmedabad on Saturday, Jul 02, 2022.(PHOTO:IANS/Siddharaj Solanki)

“The order doesn’t mention what Teesta is responsible for, or what she has done. It goes into generalities and doesn’t throw any light on what crime she has actually committed,” says Mihir Desai, a lawyer based in Mumbai

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – Prominent lawyers have questioned the grounds for rejecting the bail plea of noted human rights defender Teesta Setalvad and former senior police official R B Sreekumar by a sessions court in Ahmedabad.

The two prominent personalities are behind bars after the Supreme Court called for prosecution of the people who helped Zakiya Zafri in fighting her case for her husband, late Ehsan Jafri, against the Gujarat government and then chief minister and present Prime Minister Narendra Modi over 2002 Gujarat riots.

While dismissing Jafri’s plea against clean chit given to Modi by the SIT, the Supreme Court said, “[A]ll those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.” A day later, the Gujarat ATS booked and arrested Teesta and Sreekumar.

Both the accused moved the session’s court for the bail, but the court rejected their bail plea on 30 July alleging that they used Jafri to level allegations against Modi.

According to The Wire, the judgment delivered by Additional Principal Judge DD Thakkar, who while refusing to exercise discretion in favour of the bail applicants, said, “There is no need to give detail and elaborate reasons for the same.”

“[I]f I do so, then it will adversely affect the right of the parties as well as investigation and it amounts to evaluating the evidence without the trial.” It added.

The court frequently said that the accused tried to defame the then chief minister and accused Teesta of “having nature to derail the investigation in the present case if she is enlarged on bail”. The court also observed that in the past, Teesta had “tried to pressurise the media” as well as “written a letter to the [then] amicus curiae”.

Legal experts raised questions over the grounds for rejecting bail pointing to the failure of the court to look into the legal rationale.

Mumbai-based prominent lawyer Mihir Desai said that the court failed to explain what Teesta is responsible for.

“The order doesn’t mention what Teesta is responsible for, or what she has done. It goes into generalities and doesn’t throw any light on what crime she has actually committed,” Desai was quoted by The Wire as saying.

He further questioned the grounds for tampering evidence on which the court rejected Teesta’s bail plea.

“They say that they will not give bail because there is likely to be tampering of evidence. But now, if the allegation was that she was acting at the behest of the Congress party, then this tampering could even be done by anyone from the Congress party right? It doesn’t have to be done by her,” said Desai.

He also pointed out that Teesta does not know the name of those who testified before the SIT.

“We don’t even know who has given this evidence. How then would she go around tampering with this evidence?” Desai asked, noting that the court could have granted bail by putting certain conditions if it wanted to.

Ahmedabad-based lawyer Anand Yagnik also questioned the grounds for rejecting bail to Sreekumar pointing out prominent jurisprudential principle “Bail is the rule, jail exception”.

“The sessions judge should have had no option but to release Sreekumar. He is a 75-year-old man, a former DGP and not likely to run away,” Yagnik.

He further pointed out how Sreekumar has “from 2002 till date” been living in Gujarat and that he has “never fled anywhere”. “He is a respected former top-police official and has testified as a witness himself in the aftermath of the riots, what is the risk of someone like him tampering with any witness statements or evidence?” he said.  

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