The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the source of money in the bank accounts of social activist Teesta Setalvad and others which were frozen by Ahmedabad police in 2015 after allegations of misappropriation. 

“Whose money is this? From where did the money in these bank accounts have come,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra asked the counsel for Setalvad. 

“There are multiple donors who have donated the money for various purposes. Our personal bank accounts and the bank accounts of NGOs have been frozen by them, which also include fixed deposits. At least the court should direct them that personal bank accounts should be defreezed as lot of time has passed,” advocate Aparna Bhat appearing for Setalvad said.

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She said they have submitted the details of source of money to the Gujarat government but till now no action has been taken on defreezing the accounts. 

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, told the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar, that some time was needed to file detailed reply on the issue. 

The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on April 18. 

On November 9 last year, the apex court had fixed the pleas of Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand and her two controversial NGOs challenging the freezing of their accounts for final hearing. 

Setalvad had objected to repeated adjournments taken by Gujarat government after the apex court issued notice saying their accounts have remained frozen for nearly three years. Teesta, her husband and two NGOs — Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace — had approached the apex court challenging the October 7, 2015 verdict of the Gujarat High Court rejecting their pleas for defreezing their personal bank accounts. 

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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 69 people killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots, but it had not been utilised for the purpose. 

The freezing of the accounts by Ahmedabad Police had come soon after its Crime Branch had started probing a case in which Setalvad and others were accused of embezzling Rs 1.51 crore collected to convert Gulberg Society into a 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 before the apex court, the petitioners had alleged that their accounts were “illegally” frozen 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 has said. 

The petitioners had claimed there was no nexus between the alleged offence and their accounts which were frozen. 

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“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. 

In the embezzlement case lodged by the Gujarat Police, the couple had 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. 

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

Feature image source: PTI/Representational Image