During a high-voltage hearing, the court first suggested to the couple to "surrender and seek regular bail" but later gave them protection from arrest till February 19. Also Read: Gulbarg fund case: We had planned to arrest Setalvad, say police Read More: Teesta Setalvad suppressing facts in Gulbarg fund embezzlement case, alleges Gujarat govt
There were a number of occasions during the 30-minute hearing when the bench put a number of questions to senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the couple, and later made clear that the "allegations" against them were "grave" and warned against bringing "politics" in the matter.
The Bench comprising Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and N V Ramana, which observed that it was not a case for "quashing of the FIR,", said it was not going to be moved by the names of persons and the matter would be treated like that of any ordinary citizen or individual.
The bench made it clear that it would independently examine the basis of the FIR whether it is a case for granting anticipatory bail or not which has been denied to Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand.
The Apex Court was hearing the appeal filed by the Setalvad and her husband against the yesterday's judgement of the High Court by which their plea for anticipatory bail was rejected for not co-operating with the investigation.
After hearing Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, who opposed the plea, the bench posted the matter for February 19, asking the parties to place before it the Gujarat High Court judgement and additional documents.
"In the meantime, the order passed on Thursday granting them interim protection, shall continue till then (February 19)," the bench said after Sibal sought some time to place relevant documents pertaining to the case in which Setalvad and her husband have been accused of collecting funds in the names of riots victims and religion.
When Sibal assailed the High Court judgement and accused the state government of settling personal scores against the social activist, the bench asked, "is it (not) a case where crores of rupees have been used for personal purpose in the name of religion?"
Interrupting Sibal, the bench said "since you are arguing without the judgement in hand, we are independently considering whether it is a case of anticipatory bail or not."
The senior advocate said Setalvad and her husband were left with no option but to approach this court as the state government with its full might was hell-bent on arresting them.
Sibal agreed with the bench that it is not a case for quashing the FIR and said "we are also only for anticipatory bail". All documents would be placed to satisfy that "it is not a case of custodial interrogation," he said.
Without naming any individual, he said people chargesheeted in the murder case has been allowed to walk out of the jail on bail and in this case, in which the FIR has been lodged on wrong facts, the petitioners were denied anticipatory bail.
He was arguing that a concocted case of fund embezzlement of crores of rupees has been lodged without proper verification of accounts of the NGOs have been named in the FIR.
However, the bench said "in cases where a sum of crores of rupees is involved will you say it did not fall in the category of murder to deny bail."
The High Court had also observed that Setalvad were not cooperating in the probe and that "they cannot be armoured with full fledged anticipatory bail when applicant did not cooperate with the investigation."
Setalvad and her husband have been booked by the Crime Branch of Gujarat Police on charges of cheating, breach of trust and under the IT Act, in a matter relating to the construction of "Museum of Resistance" in the Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad which was hit by communal riot in 2002.
On February 28, 2002, in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident, armed rioters had swooped on the Gulbarg society and killed 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri.
Sibal said Setalvad was ready for investigation but court cannot go ahead without providing protection to them as "the might of the state is looming large."
The bench said "FIRs like this can't be ignored. You have taken money in the name of the victims." At one point during the hearing, the bench asked "why don't the petitioners surrender and go for regular bail."
During a high-voltage hearing, the court first suggested to the couple to "surrender and seek regular bail" but later gave them protection from arrest till February 19.
Also Read: Gulbarg fund case: We had planned to arrest Setalvad, say police
Read More: Teesta Setalvad suppressing facts in Gulbarg fund embezzlement case, alleges Gujarat govt