The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a four-week bail to former Tamil Nadu minister KT Rajenthra Bhalaji who was arrested in connection with an alleged job scam. The court also slammed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu over the manner in which Bhalaji was arrested when his appeal against the rejection of anticipatory bail by Madras High Court was pending before it.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana directed that the former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) minister be released on bail subject to the condition that he shall not leave the jurisdiction of the police station where the crime was registered, surrender his passport to the concerned magistrate and cooperate with the investigation.
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, directed that the order be communicated to the concerned magistrate or the in-charge magistrate.
The Tamil Nadu Police arrested Bhalaji, after a three-week search, from Haasan in Karnataka last Wednesday. He is accused of taking money to offer jobs in Aavin, the state-run milk producer, as minister for dairy development.
Quizzing the DMK government over the manner of arrest, the Supreme Court asked the state to file an affidavit explaining its stand. The bench was furious that even the lawyers of the petitioner had been raided by police.
“If this is the way, we will have to order an inquiry into how…your police are behaving with advocates”, CJI Ramana told senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for the state.
“In what manner the liberty of a man has been snatched? Was the lawyer harbouring the accused? Doesn’t the accused have the right to go to a lawyer? The police say the wife of the accused generously opened the house and allowed them to inspect the house…That shows the threat of uniform”, remarked Justice Surya Kant.
“The manner in which he was arrested, the manner in which the lawyer’s office was raided…It is objectionable”, the judge added.
The court also sought to know why after the arrest, Bhalaji was taken to the Trichy prison which is 300 km away from the Madurai prison which was the jurisdictional prison.
“Why have you taken him 300 km away from the place of arrest”, the CJI asked another senior counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu who answered that it was to ensure his safety.
“Why? Was he some targetted person?”, asked the CJI adding “it’s a matter of serious consequences..It requires a serious view and we will have to order investigation”.
“The manner in which you have arrested him, the manner in which you have taken him 300 km away from the jurisdictional jail…all these call prima facie for a judicial inquiry”, added Justice Surya Kant.