HOPE FO R THE BIG FISH
Cash-for-votes accused are out of jail. Now, SC will take up the question of bail as a matter of right. ON NOVEMBER 15, A THREE-JUDGE BENCH OF THE SUPREME COURT AGREED TO EXAMINE THE LARGER ISSUE OF DENIAL OF BAIL IN HIGH-PROFILE CASES.
Grant of bail to BJP ideologue and former L.K. Advani aide Sudheendra Kulkarni, two former party MPS Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahabir Singh Bhagora, and sitting MP Ashok Argal in the 2008 cash-for-votes scam on November 16 by Delhi High Court augurs well for high-profile accused in jail, including those locked up in the 2G spectrum case. The mood of the judiciary seems to be changing, with the settled dictum of “bail is the rule and jail an exception’’ becoming a matter of public discourse.
It is being debated now if rejection of bail violates the fundamental right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. On November 15, the Supreme Court agreed to examine the larger issue of denial of bail in high-profile cases. A bench of Justices Altamas Kabir, S.S. Nijjar and Jasti Chelameswar accepted the plea of senior counsel Ranjit Kumar and Mukul Rohtagi questioning whether trial courts and high courts
could deny bail in such cases simply on the ground of “gravity of offence”. The bench agreed to hear the larger issue of bail on January 18, 2012.
Kumar pointed out that of late, trial courts had not been granting bail in high-profile cases, some of which “are media-driven” and “judges are afraid of the confidential reports needed for promotion’’. With Rohtagi, Kumar was appearing for Ashok K. Sinha, an associate of the former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, detained for offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Indian Penal Code.
Kumar argued that his client had been in jail for more than two years, whereas the minimum sentence for the alleged offence was three years and the maximum, seven years. In Sinha’s case, though the chargesheet against him had been filed more than a year ago, the trial was yet to start and he had been denied bail. “A serious situation has arisen as a result of denial of bail to the accused, who also have fundamental rights,’’ Kumar said, adding that it was time that the Supreme Court clearly laid down the law “so that rights of the accused are not trampled upon’’.
Though senior advocate Raju Ramachandran feels that it is “premature’’ to say that the mood of the judiciary is changing towards bail, his colleague K.T.S. Tulsi says that “it is definitely the beginning of a correction’’. According to Tulsi, not granting bail is an aberration which has to be corrected. “It has derailed the process of justice,’’ he adds. Asked whether the 2G spectrum scam accused should get their hopes up, he says that until the Supreme Court gives its judgment on bail, the lower courts are not likely to oblige.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Dattu had on November 1 reserved its order on the bail plea of five 2G scam accused, including Unitech Managing Director Sanjay Chandra, DB Realty Managing director Vinod Goenka as well as Reliance ADAG executives Hari Nair, Gautam Doshi and Surendra Pipara.
(( FROM LEFT)) BHAGORA,, ARGALAND KULASTE