Supreme Court lets five corporate executives out of jail in 2G case

Declaring that the right to bail cannot be denied merely because of the community's sentiments against the accused, the Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to five corporate executives, accused in the 2G spectrum case.

A Bench of Justices G. S Singhvi and H. L. Dattu directed the release of Unitech managing director Sanjay Chandra, Swan Telecom director Vinod Goenka and Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group executives Hari Nair, Gautam Doshi and Surrendra Pipara on their executing a bond with two solvent sureties, each for a sum of Rs. 5 lakh, to the satisfaction of the special judge, Central Bureau of Investigation.

The court order has given hope to the other 12 accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi and the former Telecom Minister A. Raja (who is yet to file a bail application), to come out on bail.

Writing the judgment, Justice Dattu said: “When undertrial prisoners are detained in jail custody for an indefinite period, Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life and liberty) is violated.”

The Bench said: “Every person, detained or arrested, is entitled to speedy trial [and] the question is whether the same is possible in the present case. The statement of the witnesses runs to several hundred pages and the documents on which reliance is placed by the prosecution are voluminous. The trial may take considerable time and it looks to us that the appellants, who are in jail, [would] have to remain in jail longer than the period of detention had they been convicted.”

The Bench said: “It is not in the interest of justice that the accused should be in jail for an indefinite period. No doubt, the offence alleged against the appellants is a serious one in terms of huge loss to the state exchequer.” However, that by itself “should not deter us from enlarging the appellants on bail when there is no serious contention of the CBI that the accused, if released on bail, would interfere with the trial or tamper with evidence.”

The Bench said: “We are conscious of the fact that the accused are charged with economic offences of a huge magnitude. We are also conscious of the fact that the offences alleged, if proved, may jeopardise the economy of the country. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the investigating agency has already completed the investigation and the charge sheet is filed.

“Therefore their presence in custody may not be necessary for further investigation. We are of the view that the appellants are entitled to the grant of bail, pending trial, on stringent conditions in order to allay the apprehension expressed by the CBI.” The appellants should not directly or indirectly make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing them to the court or any other authority.

The Bench granted the CBI liberty to seek modification/recall of this order if, for any reason, the appellants violated any of the conditions.

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