Defreezing of Account: SC Asks Guj to Reply to Teesta's Petition

New Delhi
Defreezing of Account: SC Asks Guj to Reply to Teesta's Petition

Social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand were today asked to wait for the response of Gujarat Government on their plea seeking defreezing of their personal bank accounts, with Supreme Court expressing reservation on passing an order pending the probe.

"The whole problem is that investigation must be complete. They must wait till investigation is over. There are allegations of violation of FEMA," a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan said when the matter came up for hearing.

The bench said that before passing any order, it would like to have the assistance of state government's counsel Hemantika Wahi and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared before it.

"We would like to respond to the petition," Mehta told the bench, which agreed to his request to allow Gujarat Government to file a response without issuing it a notice.

As soon as senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Teesta, told the court that even personal accounts of the couple have been frozen, the bench spoke about the pending probe and asked the social activists to wait for its conclusion.

However, Sibal said, "this is not the FCRA (Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act) matter. This has nothing to do with the FCRA issue."

"Even the accounts of Citizens for Justice and Peace which has nothing to do with the matter have been frozen. There are no allegations against it. Even funds given by Ford Foundation and HRD Ministry are frozen," he said, adding that "the money came through cheque."

To this, the bench said, "we can grant you the liberty to come to the court after investigation is over."

"We are not issuing any notice," the bench said, adding "a copy of the petition be served to the counsel for Gujarat. Let the matter be listed on August 17."

Teesta, her husband and the two NGOs -- Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace -- have approached the apex court challenging the October 7 verdict of the Gujarat High Court which had rejected their pleas for defreezing their personal bank accounts. The accounts were frozen by the Crime Branch of Ahmedabad Police.

The action of the Ahmedabad police had come soon after the Crime Branch had started probing a case in which Setalvad and others are accused of embezzling Rs 1.51 crore collected to convert Gulberg Society -- where 69 people were killed during the post-Godhra riots -- into a 2002 riots museum.

The high court had upheld the verdict of a lower court in this regard observing that the probe was at a serious point in the alleged case of Gulberg society fund embezzlement.

In their plea filed before the apex court, the petitioners have alleged that their accounts have been "illegally freezed" without following the due process of law.

"The accounts of the petitioner have been frozen by the respondents without any prior notice and this act of freezing her personal accounts is not pursuant to the discovery of any offence but is in terms of a fishing expedition as an attempt to find out if any offence has been committed," the plea said.

It claimed there was no nexus between the alleged offence and their accounts which have been frozen.

"The freezing of the accounts of the petitioner has led to personal hardship and humiliation. It is also a violation of the fundamental rights of life, association and assembly.

"The aim of the respondents was and is, to humiliate and defame the Petitioner in every way possible as also to financially cripple the Trusts and even block her personal finances so that legitimate activities come to a standstill," it alleged.

One of the residents of Gulberg Society, Firoz Khan Pathan, had filed a complaint against Setalvad and others alleging that money was raised to make a museum at Gulberg Society in the memory of those who were killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots, but it had not been utilised for the purpose.

In the fund embezzlement case lodged by the Gujarat Police, the couple challenged the cancellation of bail in the apex court, while in the alleged FCRA violation case, CBI has challenged the anticipatory bail granted to them by the Bombay High Court.

Gujarat Police has filed an affidavit in the apex court alleging that the funds collected by them for setting up of museum in memory of the riots victims of Gulberg Society was spent on personal use.


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