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Supreme Court grants bail to former Tamil Nadu Minister Rajenthra Bhalaji

The Supreme Court has on Wednesday granted interim bail for a period of four weeks to former Minister K.T. Rajenthra Bhalaji who has been arrested by Tamil Nadu Police in connection with a Government Job Scam Case. 

A bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana has granted bail in view of the order passed by in a Suo Motu Writ titled “IN RE : CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN PRISONS” to decongest jails in view of the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We have given certain directions in SMW 1/2020, to decongest the jail in offences less than 7 years or less serious offences. In view of that, we grant bail to the petitioner for a period of four weeks on a condition that he will not leave the jurisdiction where the crime was registered. He should surrender his passport and Cooperate with the investigation,” noted the CJI in its order. 

“The order has to be communicated with the concerned Magistrate and on filing of the papers Bhalaji maybe released. Concerned Magistrate/In-charge magistrate to release him tomorrow. List after three weeks,” said the bench which also comprised Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli. 

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.

Courtroom Exchange 

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi arguing for the State for Tamil Nadu opposed the maintainability of Bhalaji’s habeas corpus plea under Article 32. And challenge to anticipatory bail which became infructuous after he was arrested.

Mukul Rohatgi said statements recorded under Section 164 CrPC will show that there is evidence against the Minister. It was the State Agent who promises the victims to pay money against the job. There are at-least 10-15 witnesses in every case. Two complaints, one by Ravindran, and one by the State Agent. 

Zero tolerance for corruption: Justice Surya Kant

Justice Surya Kant said, “We have zero tolerance for corruption charges and we want to know whether there was any political vendetta.” 

Rohatagi said, “If it was a case of vendetta then the complaint should have been given at the earliest.” 

CJI Ramana said, “Politics will be there. This matter was filed after dismissal of the anticipatory bail.” 

Rohatgi said the High Court dismissed the anticipatory bail on 17/12/2021. 

“That’s is why we want the State to place the record before the High Court. We want to know why the house of the advocate was raided by the police. Doesn’t the accused have the right to go to a lawyer? According to the report it’s says “his wife was generous to open the door and inspect the house”…That shows the threat of uniform”, remarked Justice Surya Kant.

Rohatgi said, if the complainant turned turtle then it doesn’t mean that other statements recorded under Section 164 CrPC could not be considered. Which is recorded in two crimes in case of Raveendaran and other was in Case of Advocate of State Agent. A person who is absconding is not entitled to any relief. Why could he not appear before the police? He is a public person. It is unfortunate that this happened on 5th January, 2022. Look at both sides. 

CJI said if we are looking at one side then we should have granted bail last week only. 

Habeas Corpus will not be maintainable if there is a valid remand order: Rohatgi 

Rohatgi said, “See the events, there are 31 witnesses. And 8 statements under S 164, which could not be brushed aside. See the nature of proceedings. The Anticipatory Bail order was infructuous as the remand order was in place. He could have only challenged the remand order. How can a petition under 32 lie for grant of bail? It is not the FIR without a jurisdiction. Even the Habeas Corpus will not lie if there is a valid remand order. I have circulated the police diary which shows that money was received by him in his house. How can a court entertain this kind of petition? People have sold their jewellery to pay money to him. I can show lordship judgments of this court.” 

Rohatgi: “We have 32 complaint as of today. There are several judgments of this Court that a Habeas Corpus petition will not lie for the grant of Bail. In Case of Niharika 2021, SCC Online 3151. Another Case is of 2019, 5 SCC 266, where the Delhi HC granted interim bail under 226, this Court set aside that order observing that there was valid remand order. There are other two other order by Justice Khanwilkar passed in 2019. If this is the position and none of his petition, whether anticipatory bail petition which is become infructuous. He can go only for quashing before the High Court. He is not entitled to get any relief in any of his petition from this Court.” 

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave for the petitioner: As far as case of cheating, there is no inducement from the side of the minister. There is a political vendetta. There is no case against the minister either in 406 IPC or 420 IPC. It is a case of political vendetta. Police is using the criminal to turn out against me. There are series of cases against the complainant. There are judgments of this Court saying that if Anticipatory Bail is rejected then the accused may not be arrested immediately and we have written a letter to the Superintendent of Police. We moved this Court and the case has been listed after the winter vacation. What would happen if he had not been arrested for one week? The Court should come down heavily on the State. They have filed a counter, only allegation is this that you knew this boy. The learned Magistrate has not even given us the copy of the remand order.”

CJI said to AAG Tamil Nadu V Krishnaswamy, “We have passed an order in the Writ Petition. Mukul Rohatgi said we haven’t passed the notice. What does it mean? Do we have to say that notice issued when we have passed an order?” 

Dave: If you are going to take away citizens’ rights like this, nobody is safe then. 

Advocate Dr Aristotle for State of Tamil Nadu: He has been taken to Madurai Jail and shifted to Trichy  Jail. 

CJI: Jurisdiction is Madurai Jail. I don’t understand. The issue is becoming very complicated now. 

Dave: There are two jails in Madurai. 

CJI: Mr V Krishnamurthy, do you want to file any affidavit on the bail application? 

AAG: Yes we will pass. 

CJI: We will pass some orders. Not only Trichy Jail. 

Justice Kant: The fact that you didn’t issue any notice to him. The way you arrested him. The way you have taken him 300 km away from Madurai. Did he request to be taken to good jail in Trichy? 

CJI: If your jails are over crowded in Madurai, why you are not decrowding the jail? 

Dave: There is one week holiday in Tamil Nadu. They overreach your lordships court. They are telling citizens don’t go to the Supreme Court. We have moved the Apex Court on 20/12/2021. 

Supreme Court Order

CJI: Issue notice in the writ petition also. The detailed order will be passed. After the anticipatory bail dismissed by the HC, the petition was filed before this Court. The matter was listed on 6/01/2022, by the time he was arrested on 5/01/2022. It is seen that petitioner’s advocate made a representation to the Superintendent of Police. 

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi argued for the State of Tamil Nadu, vehemently against any relief to the petitioner. We have been informed by the counsel for the petitioner that he was taken to jail which is 300 km away from Madurai.

“We have given certain directions in SMW 1/2020, to decongest the jail in offences less than 7 years or less serious offences. In view of that We grant bail to the petitioner for a period of four weeks on a condition that he will not leave the jurisdiction where the crime was registered. He should surrender his passport and Cooperate with the investigation. The order has to be communicated with the concerned Magistrate and on filing of the papers Bhalaji maybe released. Concerned Magistrate/In-charge magistrate to release him tomorrow. List after three weeks,” noted the CJI in its order. 

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