TAMIL NADU

Apex court grants bail to Serijabanu

NEW DELHI, FEB. 26. The Supreme Court today ordered the release on bail of Serijabanu and her mother Rameeza, detained in a ganja case since July last, but vacated the stay on trial. The case is before a Madurai special court.

A Bench of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice B.N. Srikrishna granted bail on their furnishing a bond for Rs. 50,000 with two sureties each for a like sum to the satisfaction of the trial judge. They should not leave Madurai district and report before the Karuppayooranai police station once in 15 days for three months.

The Bench dismissed as withdrawn a transfer petition filed by Ms. Serijabanu and her mother seeking transfer of the case outside Tamil Nadu and asked the trial court to conclude the trial expeditiously as possible.

The Bench agreed with the contention by senior counsel for the petitioners, Kapil Sibal and K. Subramanian, that there was no explanation on the receipt of a telegram on July 9, 2003, nine hours before the alleged seizure of ganja, alleging illegal detention of the petitioners.

Counsel submitted that the police had violated the apex court guidelines, issued in the `D.K. Basu case', transporting the two accused during night. Describing how a case was `foisted' on them, Mr. Sibal said the police had stated Rs. 1.40 crores was seized from the accused and that this amount constituted proceeds of ganja sold by them.

Mr. Sibal said the two accused had been in illegal custody from July 9 and there were sufficient circumstances to indicate that all the mandatory provisions were violated but the Madras High Court did not consider all these aspects and rejected their bail plea.

Even as Mr. Sibal was arguing how the High Court had dealt with the issue casually, the Bench observed, in a lighter vein, ``In Tamil Nadu there is an element of histrionics in everything, whether it is in the executive or the judiciary or with the common man''. Mr. Sibal replied: ``That is why every actor was joining politics now''.

The Bench wondered why the High Court as well as the media sensationalised such a simple case. When Mr. Sibal was trying to explain the ``politics'' behind this case, Justice Srikrishna said, ``I can understand even complicated law but not such politics''.

Mr. Subramanian contended that the limitation of Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (relating to bail) would not apply where the court, on the basis of strong circumstances on reasonable grounds, believed that a case had been foisted.

The additional solicitor-general, Altaf Ahmed, said all mandatory requireme nts were met and once the charges were framed, the presumption of innocence would not apply and it was only the trial court that could appreciate the evidence on the basis of available materials.