A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court posted to March 4 the hearing on bail petitions filed by 16 accused persons in the Suryanelli case.

The Bench comprising Justice K.T. Sanakran and Justice M.C. Joseph Francis adjourned the hearing as the record of the case from the Supreme Court was yet to reach the High Court. The petitions sought to suspend the sentence of rigorous imprisonment awarded by the Special Court in Kottayam and release them on bail pending fresh consideration of the appeals.

The counsel for the petitioner said the accused had filed the petitions in compliance with the directive of the Supreme Court. They were forced to approach the High Court as their bail bonds had been cancelled.

Director General of Prosecution T. Asaf Ali submitted that the appeals had to be considered on merit. The applications by the accused had to be treated as appeals.

The accused approached the court in view of the Supreme Court order setting aside the High Court verdict acquitting all but one accused in the case. The apex court had also ordered the High Court to consider afresh the appeals filed by the accused. The Special Court verdict had been restored following the Supreme Court order. The Special Court sentenced 35 accused to rigorous imprisonments of varying terms.

The accused who moved the bail petition included Raju; Varghese; Cherian; Sabu; Babu Mathew; Thankappan; Rajendran Nair; Jacob Stephen; Antony, alias Baji; Jigi; Mohammed Yousef; Joseph, alias Baby; Asharaf Sunny George; George Kutty; and Jose.

The petitioners submitted that their family members would be subjected to hardships if the court did not permit them to remain on bail by executing fresh bail. They contended that there might not be any justification for sending them to jail after all these years, solely for the purpose of the fresh hearing of the appeal.

The petitioners undertook that they would not abuse the bail granted and would strictly follow the conditions, if any imposed. The petitioners claimed that they were absolutely innocent in this case, but, the trial court could not properly appreciate it and has overlooked the petitioners’ innocence.

Two more accused, Satheesh and Thulaseedharan also moved the High Court for bail.