The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand to cooperate with the Gujarat Police in probing the case filed against them over alleged misappropriation of funds while refusing to interfere with the anticipatory bail it had granted her.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice SK Kaul passed the order after Additional Solicitor General SV Raju submitted the two were not cooperating in the investigation.
“Charge sheet has not yet been filed. ASG submits that there is an element of lack of cooperation. Be that as it may, the respondents will cooperate with the investigation as and when required,” the bench, also comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and PK Mishra, said while disposing of a plea by the Gujarat government challenging the grant of anticipatory bail to Setalvad.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Setalvad, opposed ASG’s submission and asserted the social activist was cooperating.
The top court also disposed of a plea by Setalvad seeking the expunction of remarks made by the Gujarat High Court in its February 8, 2019 judgement while granting her anticipatory bail.
“It is trite to say that any observation made at the stage of bail can hardly influence the trial of the matter. We are not required to say anything more,” the bench said and made her anticipatory bail absolute.
The crime branch of Ahmedabad Police registered a case of alleged misappropriation of funds on a complaint accusing Setalvad and Anand of “fraudulently” securing grants of Rs 1.4 crore from the union government through their NGO Sabrang Trust between 2008 and 2013.
According to Gujarat police, the funds had been ostensibly obtained to help the victims of the 2002 post-Godhra riots but were misappropriated or used for other purposes.
The complaint was registered under sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) of the Indian Penal Code.
The case was filed against Setalvad and Sabrang trustees by the crime branch on a complaint by her former close associate Raees Khan Pathan, who has alleged the grant was misused and material printed and distributed that could cause communal disharmony.
Pathan has alleged that Setalvad and Sabrang Trust tried to “mix religion with politics” and were spreading disharmony through the curricular material prepared for the erstwhile UPA government which had given it a grant of about Rs 1.4 crore.
The complaint had taken into account the report of a panel of the Ministry of Human Resource Development which in its finding claimed a prima facie case existed against her under sections 153A and 153B of the IPC for promoting enmity on grounds of religion and making imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration.
Pathan alleged a large amount received from the HRD ministry was used during 2008-14 on ‘Khoj’ project of the Sabrang Trust under the scheme of ‘National Policy on Education’ in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well as on the ‘Peace Building and Conflict Resolution’ project. The project was launched by Setalvad’s NGO in some districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat.