28 nov 2011
New Delhi: Six months after she was arrested, Kanimozhi, the Rajya Sabha MP whose father heads the DMK, has been granted bail.
She was not present in the Delhi High Court on Monday which agreed to her request to leave jail. Kanimozhi was instead at the trial court headed by Judge OP Saini who is handling the telecom trial against Kanimozhi and 13 others, including her partyman and former telecom minister A Raja. At Judge Saini’s court, she thanked a group of DMK ministers who were present at the hearing with her as a show of support.
But she will have to wait till Tuesday to leave Tihar. The High Court order on her bail reportedly reached Judge Saini’s court after he had left for the day; all formalities will be conducted at the trial court on Tuesday.
Mr Karunanidhi, who has repeatedly said he is worried about his daughter’s health in prison, said she phoned him minutes after her bail was sanctioned. “We both shared our happiness,” he said in Chennai. When asked whether his daughter would get a party post now, he replied, “I am not an autocrat. The party will decide that.” Party sources say Kanimozhi will visit Chennai on Saturday. It’s not clear yet whether the court will allow her to leave Delhi; she has been asked to deposit her passport in court.
Explaining one of the reasons for her bail, the High Court order states, “It has never been the case of the proseccuting agency that the petitioners are likely to flee from the process of law. Almost all accused persons (in the 2G scam) have roots in the society – therefore there’s no chance of their fleeing from the process of law.” The High Court also disagreed with Judge Saini who had said that because of her privileged background, she could not claim her gender as grounds for bail. The judge today also made it clear that cues were taken from the Supreme Court which granted bail last week to five executives who had been imprisoned for their alleged role in the telecom scam.
This was Kanimozhi’s fifth attempt at bail. Along with her, Sharad Kumar, Asif Balwa, Rajeev Agarwal and Bollywood producer Karim Morani have also been granted bail. Mr Kumar is the Managing Director of Kalaignar TV, a channel in Chennai co-owned by Kanimozhi and her stepmother. Mr Kumar and Kanimozhi have been accused of allowing their channel to serve as the landing place for a 214-crore kickback that was paid to Mr Raja by Swan Telecom, a telecom company he reportedly obliged with an out-of-turn license in 2008. Mr Balwa, Mr Agarwal and Mr Morani all allegedly served as conduits for that bribe.
Of the 14 people being tried for charges ranging from criminal conspiracy to forgery, ten have now been granted bail. Last week, the Supreme Court allowed bail for five executives whose companies have been accused of colluding with Mr Raja – they included Sanjay Chandra of Unitech Wireless; Vinod Goenka of Swan; and Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair of Reliance ADAG.
Mr Raja has said he will not ask for bail; he says he wants to demolish the court case against him. Arguments for and against bail for Siddharth Behura, a former bureaucrat who worked closely with Mr Raja, are continuing. RK Chandolia, another former telecom bureaucrat, is still in jail. So is Shahid Balwa, a promoter of Swan Telecom.
The telecom scam, allegedly masterminded by Mr Raja, revolves around under-valued licenses being sold at sweetheart deals with free spectrum thrown in to companies that were ineligible.
Kanimozhi’s arrest has stretched her father’s patience and his relationship with the Congress. At the Centre, Mr Karunanidhi is a valuable player with 16 Lok Sabha MPs. He has said that the 2G scam does not impact his alliance with the Congress, but he has also referred publicly to the possibility of “political reasons” motivating his daughter’s term in jail.