The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the stay on the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand in the alleged embezzlement case, while rapping the Gujarat police for seeking custodial interrogation in a case involving alleged financial irregularities.
"It is directed that the petitioners (Setalvad and her husband) will not be arrested in connection with the case," PTI cited the statement by a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Adarsh Kumar Goel.
The bench also reserved its judgement on the couple's plea seeking anticipatory bail against arrest by the Gujarat police.
The bench then slammed the Gujarat government, saying, "This isn't a case of any scam which needs custodial interrogation. This is a case of misuse of funds of NGOs."
"There may be basically a mismanagement of accounts," Justice Misra orally observed during the hearing, according to The Hindu report.
The Gujarat police allege that Ms Setalvad raised ₹9.75 crore between 2008 and 2012 through her NGO and used ₹3.75 crore for branded clothes, shoes, and foreign travel, according to NDTV.
While explaining to the Gujarat police what Setalvad wants from the SC in her anticipatory bail, Justice Misra said: "Give me liberty or give me death. Personal liberty is paramount. No one will barter his or her liberty for all the teas in China, for all the pearls in the sea and for all the stars in the sky".
Both Setalvad and Anand had applied for anticipatory bail in the case of alleged misuse of the funds donated to two trusts by the residents of Gujarat's Gulberg society for the construction of Museum of Resistance in remembrance of 2002 Gujarat riots.
The Gujarat government, based on the complaints of some residents of Gulberg society, accused the couple of using the funds for personal expenses. Following this, the Gujarat government sought their custody for personal interrogation, which was rejected by the apex court.
"... this is a case in which personal liberty should be taken away... it may be a case in which there may be irregularities in accounts. But what is there to warrant a personal interrogation?" Justice Misra asked advocate Mahesh Jethmalani who is representing the Gujarat government.
Jethmalani, in his arguments, accused Setalvad of "rank non co-operation and tampering with witnesses." He accused her of showing arrogance to the investigating agency.
However, when Justice Misra asked him if Setalvad had refused to come on being summoned, Jethmalani had to accept that she had appeared before the police every time she was summoned, but gave "stock answers."
The court has however, assured that it will take action if needed. "If they will not cooperate with you in the investigation, you can file an application before us for cancellation of their bail," the court said.
The SC Bench has directed Setalvad and Anand to co-operate with the investigation and provide all documents, vouchers and list of persons who donated to their NGOs Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace, to the police.
The court also had a word of advice to Setalvad's counsel Kapil Sibal. "You don't act smart. Produce all the documents," Justice Misra said, asking him to ensure that Setalvad cooperates with the police withr regard to the investigation.