Diwali in Tihar for Kanimozhi, four others; bail reserved
Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar, Directors of Kusegaon Fruits & Vegetables Asif Balwa, Rajiv Agarwal and Bollywood producer Karim Morani, today moved their bail plea in the wake of framing of charges against them in the case.
CBI, which did not oppose the plea of the five accused, however, chose to raise objections on the bail plea of Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa and former telecom minister A Raja's former private secretary R K Chandolia, saying specific charges framed against them carry seven years jail term as maximum sentence.
Giving reasons for not opposing the bail, Special public prosecutor U U Lalit said Kanimozhi and four others faced "specific" charges, apart from the "umbrella section" of 120-B (criminal conspiracy) IPC, which entail only five years sentence as maximum punishment.
"Let’s put Shahid Balwa and Chandolia in different category at this stage...I submit, one can make distinction so far as those for whom maximum punishment can be five years and those against whom maximum punishment can be seven years.
"At this juncture, I am opposing the bail pleas of accused Chandolia and Shahid Balwa," Lalit told Special CBI Judge O P Saini.
Regarding Kanimozhi and four others, Lalit said, "Of course, bail should be granted to them subject to discretion of the court which may impose certain conditions to ensure their presence during the hearings."
On the charges framed against Kanimozhi and four others under section 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC, which carries life term sentence as maximum punishment, Lalit said it was accompanied by the charge of criminal conspiracy as well.
CBI is categorising the five accused as distinct from Shahid Balwa and Chandolia on the basis of maximum sentence carried by the specific charges framed against them apart from the "umbrella section" of criminal conspiracy, Lalit said.
He said the specific charges framed against Kanimozhi and four others, includes offences under provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, which carries five years as maximum sentence.
"As a public prosecutor, this is my duty to see that the offences for which these accused (Kanimozhi and four others) are charged carries a maximum punishment of five years. We have no objection. We are not opposing their bail pleas.
"I would humbly submit and request the court to consider the bail pleas of these five accused," Lalit said.
He added, "I do not know how much time each accused has spent in custody but they have at least spent 5-6 months. This court might consider their bail pleas."
The court would pronounce the order on all the seven bail pleas on November 3 after advocate Vijay Agarwal, appearing for Shahid Balwa and Chandolia, wrapped up his arguments on their bail pleas.
Senior advocate Altaf Ahmed, appearing for Kanimozhi and Kumar, said as per the June 22 order of the Supreme Court, both of them could approach the special court seeking bail after framing of charges.
"As per the Supreme Court order on June 22 in the case of Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar, liberty was given to them to file fresh application for bail before the special court after framing of charges," Ahmed said, adding, even the CBI has not apprehended that they could tamper with evidence or influence the witnesses.
Senior advocate Sidhartha Luthra, appearing for Morani, said his health condition is not good, the probe against him is complete and charges too have been framed, so there is no requirement for keeping him in custody.
"I am not the person who is, in any manner, involved in the spectrum allocation," Luthra said, adding, the court could impose conditions on him for granting bail.
Chandolia's counsel pressed for his bail saying there is a "social stigma" and if he is kept in jail for long, it might affect the marriage prospects of his two daughters.
"There is a social stigma and we all are a part of society. Chandolia is a father of two grown up girls who are of marriageable age. If he is kept in jail for long then it might affect his daughters' marriage prospects," advocate Vijay Agarwal said.
Rajeev Agarwal and Karim Morani too endorsed the same plea that their daughters are of marriageable age.
The defence counsel said that after framing of charges, the circumstances have changed as section 420 (cheating) of the IPC has been diluted and after considering this aspect, court should grant Chandolia bail.
The counsel, arguing for Shahid Balwa, Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal, said, "Earlier the court had rejected their bail pleas by citing the reason of magnitude of crime but now the charges have been framed against them and the bail cannot be opposed on this ground."
The counsel said when charge sheet was filed, Shahid Balwa was booked for forgery but the court while framing charges against him has dropped this charge.
Balwa also said he was willing to deposit his 55 percent share in Etisalat DB with the court as prerequisite condition for bail.
"The allegation against me (Shahid Balwa) is that I had off-loaded 45 percent of my share in Etisalat DB. My equity in the company is much more than that i.e 55 percent and I am ready to deposit it with the court. Then where will I flee?" he said.
Arguing on bail pleas of Asif and Rajeev, the counsel said these are two persons who are in custody for the longest time as far as supplementary charge sheet is concerned.
"Considering their (Asif and Rajeev) period in custody and that the charges are already framed, court... should grant them bail," he said.