Conditional bail for Stalin, 2 ex-Ministers

CHENNAI, JULY 6. Seven of the accused, including the Chennai Mayor, Mr. M.K. Stalin, and the former Ministers, Messrs K. Ponmudi and Ko. Si. Mani, were granted conditional bail by a sessions court here in the `mini flyover scam case'.

The Principal Sessions Judge, Mr. S. Ashok Kumar, directed each of them to execute a personal bond for Rs. 10,000 along with two sureties for a like sum each. They were asked to appear before the court at 10.30 a.m. every Monday.

The judge also ordered that if Mr. Stalin was required for interrogation, the place and time should be intimated to him at least a day in advance. He should be allowed to have two counsel with him during interrogation.

While Mr. Stalin, lodged in the Madurai Prison, surrendered before the judge on June 30, all others were picked up by the CB- CID from various places.

However, hearing on the anticipatory bail application of two other accused - Mr. Raja Shankar and Mr. N. Raghavan - was posted for July 11.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Ashok Kumar declined to heed the Public Prosecutor, Mr. Gomathinayagam's plea for adjourning the case on the pretext of further investigation. ``Before seeking adjournment, satisfy yourself whether it is justified or not,'' he said, adding one could not curtail the liberty of an individual merely on grounds of further investigation.

The judge went to extent of dubbing the midnight arrests unwarranted, not legal, and said they could not be justified. He asked the prosecution what yardstick it had used to arrest some members of the Traffic Improvement Committee and the High-level Steering Committee, while selectively leaving out others.

At one point he even threw down the gauntlet to the prosecution, saying he would dismiss all bail applications if it gave a satisfactory answer to three crucial questions:

(i) What are the break-up figures for the pecuniary benefits the accused persons received?

(ii) How different are the roles of the three accused - Mr. M. Karunanidhi, Mr. A.P. Muthusamy and Dr. N.S. Srinivasan - from others in the `conspiracy?'

(iii) How will the prosecution be prejudiced if all the accused are granted bail?

Mr. Gomathinayagam could not give the exact figures because ``the investigation was still at an early stage''. To this, the judge asked what then was the necessity for and urgency in arresting these personalities when even the preliminary investigations had not been done.

Expressing his dissatisfaction, Mr. Ashok Kumar said he resented the way the complaint was lodged, the FIR registered and arrests were made. The complainant, Mr. Acharyulu, had neither direct knowledge of the `fraud', nor did he consult the engineers and councillors involved in the project since its inception.

Also, the complaint, which should have been routed through the proper channel, was sent to the CB-CID straightway, he said. ``The complainant cannot choose his own investigation officer'', he observed.

Noting that he could have refused to remand the prime accused at the first stage itself, he said had he done so ``thousands of motives would have been attributed to the action''.

Nevertheless, counsel for one of the accused came out with an interesting discrepancy in the FIR. While the former Chief Secretary, Mr. K. A. Nambiar, retired on June 30, 1998, he was implicated in the `conspiracy' which is mentioned as having commenced on September 9, 1998.