New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a plea by social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand for unfreezing of their bank accounts put under restrictions by Gujarat Police on the charge of misuse of donations.
The donations were allegedly collected in the name of Gulberg Cooperative Housing Society, which was targeted by rioting mobs during the 2002 riots in the state after a fire in the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra railway station burnt alive 59 karsevaks arriving from Ayodhya.
Dismissing the plea, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said an investigation in the matter was in progress and both have to explain their positions to the Investigating Officer.
Two NGOs — Citizens for Justice and Peace, and Sabrang Trust — had also moved the apex court to seek unfreezing of their accounts. The two NGOs are headed by Setalvad and Javed Anand.
The couple had challenged the October 2015 Gujarat High Court order that declined their plea for unfreezing of the accounts.
The accounts were seized following a complaint that they had misutilised huge funds collected with an avowed objective of helping victims of Gulberg Society by projecting their plight in the wake of the 2002 post-Godhra Gujarat riots.
“Indisputably, investigation is still in progress. The appellants (Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their two NGOs) will have to explain their position to the investigating agency and after investigation is complete, the matter can proceed further depending on the material gathered during the investigation,” said Justice Khanwilkar while pronouncing the judgment.
“The suspicion entertained by the investigating agency as to how the appellants appropriated huge funds, which in fact were meant to be disbursed to the unfortunate victims of the 2002 riots will have to be explained by the appellants,” the apex court said.
The court said once the investigation was completed and police report was submitted to the court concerned, it would be open to Teesta and Javed Anand to apply for unfreezing of the bank accounts.
“It will be open to the court concerned to consider that request in accordance with law after hearing the investigating agency, including to impose conditions as may be warranted in the facts of the case.”
The apex court said this while addressing a common question raised in the four appeals on the sweep, purport and applicability of Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which empowers police to seize certain property.
The court clarified that upon the completion of investigation, if the Investigating Officer is satisfied with the explanation offered by the appellants and is of the opinion that the continuance of seizure of the bank accounts or any one of them is not necessary, he will be well advised to issue instructions on that behalf.
In our opinion, the court said, such a course would meet the ends of justice.