With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) failing to file a charge sheet in the Adarsh housing society case within the stipulated period, seven accused were released on bail on Tuesday.

By late evening, they walked out of the Arthur Road jail, after completing the bail requirements.

A special court granted bail to the following accused: Maj. Gen. (retd.) T.K. Kaul; Pradeep Vyas, former Collector of Mumbai City; P.V. Deshmukh, former Urban Development Department deputy secretary; Brig. (retd.) M.M. Wanchu; society's promoter R.C. Thakur; Major General (retd.) A.R. Kumar, and former legislator Kanhaiyalal L. Gidwani.

They were released on a cash surety of Rs. 5 lakh each. The court also directed them to furnish a personal bond within four weeks. It also directed them to cooperate with the investigation, and remain present for questioning on Tuesday and Thursday. Their passports would be in the custody of the investigation agency.

“For offences punishable by less than ten years, the charge sheet has to be filed within 60 days. If it isn't filed, the accused can apply for bail on the 61st day under Section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC). It is the indefeasible right of the accused to get bail under this Section. All the seven applications for bail were moved under this Section,” Satish Maneshinde, defence counsel for Mr. Gidwani told The Hindu on the phone.

The period of 60 days for filing the charge sheet expired on May 20 for the three accused and on May 21 for the remaining four. “It's a statutory requirement that if the charge sheet isn't filed within 60 days, bail can be granted. Our actual case is under the Prevention of Corruption Act, where the sentence is only of seven years,” a top CBI official who didn't want to be quoted, told The Hindu on the phone.

Asked why the charge sheet wasn't filed within the given period, the official said, “Our investigation is not over. How can we file the charge sheet before that?”

The accused were charged for alleged offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, and the Indian Penal Code.

While opposing the bail pleas, the CBI told the court that they intended to invoke Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and Section 467 (forgery), which attract life imprisonment.

The court, however, noted that a case under these sections couldn't be made out, and that there was no substantial evidence to prosecute under these sections.

Two other accused in the case who are under arrest, namely Ramanand Tiwari, former UDD secretary, and Jairaj Phatak, former Municipal Commissioner, Mumbai, have had their bail pleas rejected earlier.

Their 60 days in custody end on June 3. The CBI had told the Bombay High Court earlier that they would be completing their investigation in the case by June 15.

Expressing relief at the court's order, Shyam Gidwani, brother of Kanhaiyalal L. Gidwani told The Hindu outside court, “We are very happy. We were hopeful that he would get bail.”