Holds that he is likely to flee justice if released on bail

The Principal Sessions Court here on Tuesday dismissed the bail petition of Shaji Purushothaman, prime suspect in the Mercedes accident case, holding that he was likely to flee justice if released on bail.

The city police arrested Shaji, scion of the Empee Group, at Kochi International Airport on June 13. He was alleged to have driven a Mercedes while drunk in the early hours of May 23. The car hit persons on the pavement near the Maternity Hospital, Egmore.

He was charged under Section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting murder) and other provisions of Motor Vehicle Act for the offence of killing a13-year-old boy and injuring others in the accident.

In his bail petition, Shaji claimed he was not driving the car, but it was co-accused Kumar who was at the wheel.

Dismissing his bail petition, Principal Sessions Judge G. Chockalingam said Shaji drove the vehicle in a rash and negligent manner after consuming liquor with the knowledge that such act would lead some untoward incident and could cause death.

“There is a prima facie case for an offence under Section 304 (part ii) against the petitioner (Shaji).

The perusal of witness statements recorded by the police also reveals that the petitioner drove the vehicle rashly and negligently and the driver of the car (Shaji) has not cared about the warning given by police patrol personnel,” said Mr. Chockalingam.

Vehemently opposing Shaji’ bail plea, State Public Prosecutor S. Shanmuga Velayutham contended that Shaji fled to other countries after the incident. With great difficulty, the police arrested him in Kochi. Being the son of an industrialist and a highly influential person, he would not attend trial if released on bail.

S. Anantharaman, counsel for Shaji, contended that Shaji went along with driver Kumar to the police station and attended the enquiry. The investigating officer allowed him to go home. He did not run away. After his arrest on June 13, the investigation was over.

“Now, Shaji is a known figure. He will not go underground if released on bail and he will abide by any conditions imposed by the court,” counsel said. He also submitted that the co-accused in the case were granted bail by the Madras High Court.

Rejecting his contention, Mr. Chockalingam pointed out that the High Court had given bail to others only on the ground that they travelled only as passengers.

“Hence, the grant of bail to the co-accused cannot be a ground to release Shaji on bail since he is the prime accused and he played a key role,” he added.

Considering the nature, gravity of the offence and the overt act attributed against Shaji, the Judge said, “If he is released on bail, he will flee from clutches of law and there is (a) chance for tampering with witnesses and hampering the investigation.”