NEW DELHI/BENGALURU:The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Karnataka High Court order granting bail to four accused in the Lokayukta corruption and extortion case.
A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra stayed the high court order after hearing both the parties.
The High Court had last week granted conditional bail to Lokayukta Joint Commissioner (PRO) Syed Riyaz, journalist M B Srinivasa Gowda, Ashok Kumar and Shankare Gowda, who were arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is probing the case.
The court’s order came on the plea of the SIT, which had challenged the order of the high court citing the fear that the accused could threaten or influence the witnesses.
Though the high court had granted bail, it deferred the release of the accused till the time SIT filed a chargesheet on or before September 16. The SIT filed the chargesheet on Wednesday.
Hours before the apex court stayed the bail, the accused were brought to the Lokayukta Special Court in Bengaluru to complete the formalities for their release. The counsel of the four accused began completing the formalities, including giving surety and execution of bonds.
However, Lokayukta public prosecutor D Ramesh Babu objected to it, saying the SLP was coming up for hearing before the apex court on Wednesday and hence, the court should not release the accused.
Riyaz’s counsel contended that the accused should be released on bail in compliance of the high court’s order.
However, Judge V G Bopaiah adjourned the matter till 3 pm, with the accused and their relatives anxiously waiting, expecting the release. However, confirmation of the apex court staying the high court order an hour earlier, came just before their release.
SIT chief investigating officer Labhu Ram produced the copy of the communication of the counsel representing the State of Karnataka, which stated that the Supreme Court had stayed the high court order.
The judicial custody of the accused has been extended till September 29.
Commenting on the SC order, Judge Bopaiah said it was like a “slip between the cup and the lip’’ as the accused were hoping that they would be released, in keeping with the high court order.
The four were granted bail in connection with a case filed by government executive engineer M N Krishnamurthy, who alleged that a group of extortionists operating in the Lokayukta had demanded a Rs 1-crore bribe to prevent the Lokayukta from initiating corruption proceedings against him. Among those arrested in the case is also Ashwin Rao, the son of Karnataka Lokayukta Y Bhaskar Rao. Aswhin is the prime accused in the racket.
What the High Court bail order said
In his bail order, Justice L Narayanaswamy said: “The investigation is almost complete and the chargesheet would be filed in another 10 days. There is no chance of accused influencing the prosecution witnesses and tampering with evidence of the prosecution. I am inclined to grant bail to the accused. Accordingly, accused are granted bail.”