The Vacation bench of the Supreme Court of Justices A.K.Sikri and Deepak Gupta, on Monday, heard heated arguments of the rival counsel on the merits of cancelling anticipatory bail to former officials of the Jodhpur Development Authority, K.K.Mathur and Rajendra Singh Solanki. The Anti-Corruption Bureau of the State Government had registered cases against them for alleged irregularities in JDA in 2013.
While the Rajasthan High Court had granted them anticipatory bail on April 21, the Supreme Court bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and S.Abdul Nazeer has suspended the operation of the High Court’s judgment, in the interim, on May 2, on an appeal from the State Government.
Senior advocate, Kapil Sibal, on behalf of the respondents, criticized the stay granted on the anticipatory bail by the two-Judge bench on May 2 as improper, because it was ex-parte, and not on merits. “My anticipatory bail stands cancelled without hearing me”, he told the bench. “You have deprived my liberty, without following the law laid down by this Court”, he further submitted.
Sibal pointed out that there is no allegation of quid pro quo against the respondents. He described it “absolutely shocking” that the State wanted cancellation of their anticipatory bail only because they belonged to the Congress, and not the BJP. This made the bench to remark whether the hearing is turning “political”.
The High Court, in its judgment, found that the allegations are related with entrustment of contract to an unqualified contractor for giving him undue advantage and flagrant violation of the Rajasthan Transparency in Public Procurement Act, 2012. On a bare reading of the FIRs, the High Court found that there is no direct insinuation against the respondents (petitioners before the High Court) for defalcation or misappropriation of public money.
“That apart, there is no whisper in any of the FIRs about loss to the exchequer as most of the payments are not made”, the High Court observed.
The High Court further reasoned that the allegations made in all the FIRs are edificed on documentary evidence which the investigating agency has collected or is in the process of collecting.
The High Court expressed its surprise about the allegation of the Additional Advocate General that 16 files relating to construction works are missing in the office of the JDA, and wondered why there is no whisper about this in the FIRs, and why the State has not placed any material to substantiate it.
The High Court was not impressed by the State’s argument that arrest warrants had already been issued against the accused. Issue of arrest warrants cannot circumscribe the power of the Court for favourable consideration of bail application, if the grounds set out therein are substantial for grant of bail, the High court had reasoned.
The High Court justified its grant of anticipatory bail to the petitioners on the ground that they are public servants who cannot flee from justice.
The High Court also took note of the fact that Rajendra Singh, one of the accused, is the leader of opposition in Jodhpur Municipal Corporation, and therefore, believed that he would cooperate with the investigation.
Additional Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, made submissions, defending the cancellation of the anticipatory bail to the accused.
Arguments will continue on Tuesday.
Read the High Court Judgment here.