New Delhi, Nov 23: Five top corporate executives, accused in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, were today granted bail by the Supreme Court raising the hopes of other accused including former Telecom Minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi, who have been jail for more than six months.
In the first bail in the 2G case, a bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and H L Dattu directed the release of the five corporate honchos—Unitech Limited MD Sanjay Chandra, Swan Telecom Director Vinod Goenka and Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group executives Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.
The prolonged detention of the accused with Raja alone being behind the bars for more than 10 months had drawn criticism from jurists, who felt that denial of bail was not not proper.
“.....But at the same time, right to bail is not not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused,” the bench said in a 63-page verdict.
Hours after the apex court judgement, Special CBI Judge O P Saini ordered their release from Tihar Jail after all the five accused furnished a bond with the two solvent sureties, each of the sum of Rs Five lakh.
Buoyed by the judgement, Kanimozhi and five others approached the Delhi High Court for advancing the hearing on their bail plea which is scheduled for hearing on December 1.
Apart from Kanimozhi, others who have pleaded for bail are former Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura, DMK-run Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar and Bollywood filmmaker Karim Morani, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal, directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd.
Former Telecom Minister A Raja, who is the main accused in the scam, has so far not approached any court for the bail.
The bench considered that the investigation against the accused was complete and the trial may take long time to conclude coupled with CBI's failure to make out a case for refusal of bail.
Imposing stringent conditions for their release, the court said “the trial may take considerable time and it looks to us that the appellants, who are in jail have to remain in jail longer than the period of detention, had they been convicted.”
The bench said it was not in the interest of justice that the accused should be in jail for an indefinite period, though the accused are charged with economic offences of huge magnitude which if proved “may jeopardise the economy of the country”.
“No doubt, the offence alleged against the appallents is a serious one in terms of alleged huge loss to the state exchequer, that, by itself, should not deter us from enlarging the appellants on bail when there is no serious contentions of the CBI that the accused if released on bail would interfere with the trial or tamper with the evidence.”
“We do not see any good reason to detain the accused in custody, that too, after the completion of the investigation and filing of the chargesheet,” Justice Dattu, writing the 63-page judgement, said.
“The grant or denial is regulated, to a large extent, by the facts and circumstances of each particular case. But at the same time, right to bail is not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused.
“The primary purposes of bail in a criminal case are to relieve the accused of imprisonment, to relieve the State of the burden of keeping him, pending the trial, and at the same time, to keep the accused constructively in the custody of the Court, whether before or after conviction, to assure that he will submit to the jurisdiction of the Court and be in attendance thereon whenever his presence is required,” the bench said.
The decision was welcomed by lawyers Ram Jethmalani, Majeed Memon and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for many of the accused, saying the court has upheld the well-established bail jurisprudence of the country.
However, the bench said failure to comply with the bail conditions would not stop CBI from seeking cancellation of the bail granted to them.
“We reserve liberty to the CBI to make an appropriate application for modification/recalling the order passed by us, if for any reason, the appellants violate any of the conditions imposed by this Court,” the bench said.
Among the conditions for granting bail, the court restrained them from going abroad and asked them to surrender their passport before the trial court.
It further said that the accused will have to appear before the Special CBI court on each hearing and have to take prior permission for not attending the proceedings.
Other accused in the case include Raja's Private Secretary R K Chandolia and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, Three telecom firms Reliance Telecom Ltd, Swan Telecom and Unitech (Tamil Nadu) Wireless Ltd too have been listed as accused in the CBI cahrgesheet in the case.
The CBI had chargesheeted 14 persons in the scam, with Raja being the first to be arrested on February 2, along with his former Private Secretary Chandolia and former Telecom Secretary Behura.
The five executives, who were today granted bail, were arrested on April 20.