Tuticorin Chief Judicial Magistrate K. Venkatasamy on Friday granted interim stay of the conditional bail granted on Thursday to 35 men, including the crew of the detained U.S. ship, ‘Seaman Guard Ohio’.
The court passed the order while hearing a criminal revision petition filed by the ‘Q’ Branch police against the conditional bail granted by the Tuticorin Judicial Magistrate I, C. Kathiravan.
The CJM stayed the order saying that the conditional bail, with surety of Rs.10, 000 each, in a serious incident posing a challenge to national security, ran counter to the order passed in the case by the High Court a few days ago and a few other similar cases by the Supreme Court.
Justice M. Sathyanarayanan of the Madras High Court dismissed the bail petition on the grounds that the crew had not produced valid documents to possess arms and ammunition and that the investigation was at a crucial stage.
The CJM observed that it was shocking that bail had been granted in a case of national importance that concerned the security of the people of south Tamil Nadu. It was possible that the accused, being foreigners, might escape from the clutches of law anytime after paying Rs.10,000 each. In that scenario, the court could only issue a warrant for their arrest. Foreigners imprisoned here could be released on bail only after obtaining an assurance from the respective embassy that they would be available during the course of investigation. The court did not find out from the police whether the investigation was over or a charge sheet was ready before granting the bail, he said. In such case, they could not be arrested and produced before the court, unless an undertaking to that aspect was obtained from the embassy. On taking up the bail application urgently, the conditional bail was granted without knowing whether the investigation was over.
The accused were held on charges of trespassing into Indian waters sans permission and possessing weapons illegally after the Indian Coast Guard apprehended the U.S. vessel on October 12.