The Supreme Court today stepped into the row over the transfer of activist Teesta Setalvad’s anticipatory bail plea to a new bench, saying it was done after one of the judges of the previous bench recused from the case.
Referring to news reports that Chief Justice of India HL Dattu had transferred Setalvad’s plea to a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra despite the fact that neither of the judges of the previous bench, justices S J Mukhopadhya and N V Ramana, had recused, an apex court registrar said it has “no basis or substance”.
He, however, declined to identify which of the two judges Justice Mukhopadhyay or Justice Ramana—had sought recusal.
“Whatever has been done has been done at the direct recusal of one of the Hon’ble judges of the previous bench. Assigning a case to a bench is in the administrative domain of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India,” M K Hanjura, Registrar of the Supreme Court, told reporters.
“Whatever has been reported has no basis and no substance,” he said, adding that media should not report “incorrect facts”.
The bench of justices S J Mukhopadhyaya and N V Ramana, on February 13, had extended interim protection by six more days against arrest to Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand in a case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society that was devastated in the 2002 riots. It had posed some tough queries to the couple.
However, the matter was later transferred to a new bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and Adarsh Kumar Goel which on February 19 restrained Gujarat police from arresting them and reserved its verdict of their plea, saying that personal liberty cannot be “bartered”.