CJM stays bail to US ship crew
Tuticorin: A court here has granted interim stay of the conditional bail granted by a Judicial Magistrate to the 35 crew members of a US ship, describing it as `flawed`.
Chief Judicial Magistrate K Venkatasamy passed the order on a criminal revision petition filed by the `Q` Branch of Tamil Nadu police yesterday challenging the conditional bail to the crew, arrested on charges of illegally carrying weapons on board the vessel and straying into Indian waters.
The CJM said in a serious incident posing a challenge to national security, granting conditional bail was against the orders of the Higher courts, including the Supreme Court.
The CJM observed that it was shocking that bail had been granted in a case that involved the security of the nation.
Besides bail could be granted only after obtaining an assurance from the respective embassy that they would be available during investigation. The Judicial Magistrate failed to find out whether the investigation was over or a charge sheet was ready, the CJM said.
On December 26, Judicial Magistrate-I C Kathiravan had granted conditional bail after the crew in their bail plea argued that the `Q` branch had failed to file the charge sheet even after 60 days of their arrest. He had ordered that they report at the office of the `Q` branch , investigating the case, and sign everyday.
Earlier, their bail pleas had been rejected by a court here and the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.
The 35 crew members of the ship MV Seeman Ohio were arrested on October 18 by Tamil Nadu police after it was intercepted by the Coast Guard. They were booked under the Arms Act and Essential Commodities Act.
The crew members were also accused of illegal purchase of diesel from local agents.
Twenty-two foreign nationals among the crew are lodged in the Chennai Puzhal Central prison, while another from UK and 12 Indians are in the Palayalamkottai Central Prison in Tirunelveli.
On December 18, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had dismissed their bail petitions, stating the probe was in the initial stage and if they were released on bail, it could affect the investigation.
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