CHENNAI: The principal sessions judge in Egmore remanded DMK organising secretary and Rajya Sabha member R S Bharathi in judicial custody till June 5 within a few hours of his arrest on Saturday on charges of insulting judges from the Scheduled Caste.
The judge R Selvakumar, however, granted interim bail to Bharathi till May 31.
The judge pointed out that a prima facie case is made out in the FIR under the relevant provisions of the SC/ST Act against the accused. Remand can be refused only when there is no prima facie case made out from the prosecution records. "Under these circumstances, this court finds no reason to refuse remand. Hence, the accused is remanded custody till June 5," he said.
He added that it was submitted that the family members of the accused are doctors. In view of the prevailing, COVID-19 situation, there are possibilities of the spread of infection to other inmates of the jail due to the admission of the accused in prison under judicial custody.
"Hence, this court is of the considered view that pending orders on the criminal original petition (of the accused) before the Madras High Court (seeking to quash the criminal proceedings and seeking advance bail), which is posted on May 27, it is better to grant interim bail till May 31, rather than keeping him in jail. Accordingly, the accused is released on his executing a personal bond for Rs 10,000," the judge said.
Bharathi shall surrender before this court on June 1 without fail, subject to the result of the CoP pending before the High Court, the judge said.
The case was based on certain remarks he made during an internal party meeting held in February.
Bharathi had recalled how a particular judge from the Dalit community was appointed in the higher judiciary during the regime of former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and that Dalits coming to such prominent postings was an "alms made by the Dravidian movement".
After portions of his speech went viral in social media, Bharathi had subsequently apologised. He stated that his intention was only to highlight the schemes which was implemented by the former Chief Minister Karunanidhi for the betterment of Dalits.
The case was registered against Bharathi based on the complaint from one Kalyanasundaram of Aadhi Tamilar Makkal Katchi and that his remarks amounted to insulting judges and those belonging to Scheduled Caste community.
Meanwhile, DMK MP and senior advocate P Wilson has moved the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court seeking permission to quash a petition along with an application for advance bail for another DMK MP T R Baalu, who is also facing a similar charge.
Following a complaint lodged by K Sekar of Coimbatore, a case was registered against Baalu under the SC/ ST Act.
The CJ has directed the Registrar (Judicial) to place the file before the portfolio judge -- Justice M Nirmal Kumar -- and the same is likely to be taken up shortly.
Earlier, senior police officers confirmed the arrest to Express and said Bharathi has been booked under sections 3(1)(U), 3 (1)(V) of the Prevention of SC & ST Atrocities Act, 1989.
The case was initially registered at the Teynampet police station and later transferred to the Central Crime Branch of the Chennai police.
He was taken into custody from his Alandur residence early on Saturday morning and a senior police officer told Express that the Central Crime Branch police is questioning Bharathi.
The action comes in the backdrop of National Commission for Scheduled Caste recently issuing a notice to the Tamil Nadu government asking for an action taken report against another DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran for his recent comments. Maran had expressed disappointment over the manner the Chief Secretary K Shanmugam treated the DMK MPs when they met him to hand over petitions from public seeking relief during the lockdown. He commented whether they are "people from downtrodden" community to deserve such a treatment.
The National Commission for Scheduled Caste is also probing an allegation that the office of DMK's party newspaper 'Murasoli' is located on a Panchami land that belongs to the Dalit community.
Incidentally, RS Bharathi was appearing before the commission to represent Murasoli in the case and he is also one of the trustee members of the Murasoli Trust. Also, L Murugan, who was a few months ago appointed as the Tamil Nadu president of the BJP, was heading the National Commission for Scheduled Caste when the commission began the probe into the Murasoli case.
DMK deputy general secretary VP Dursisamy, who also hails from the Dalit community, on Friday joined BJP after his met the BJP leader Murugan and subsequently removed from the post by DMK.
The DMK has condemned the arrest. Bharathi has said that he has been arrested to "satisfy someone else". He said his remarks made on February 15 in an internal party meeting was twisted out of context.
Senior DMK leader TR Baalu condemned the arrest while AIADMK MLA S Semmalai denied political motives behind the arrest. Semmalai said Bharathi has been arrested on the basis that all are equal before the law.
Meanwhile, BJP national secretary H Raja welcomed the arrest of Bharathi. In a tweet, he said, "Next, Dhayanidhi Maran in the waiting list?".
On Friday, Bharathi had moved the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Principal Sessions Court here to consider his bail application the same day and he would prefer to surrender in connection with a case booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Meanwhile, DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran has filed an urgent plea in the Madras High Court seeking anticipatory bail. DMK advocates said that Justice M Nirmal Kumar has agreed to hear the plea and the hearing is expected to commence later in the day.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Saturday said that the arrest of DMK Rajya Sabha MP RS Bharathi was a legal action taken by the police based on a complaint filed by an individual Kalyanasundaram under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Speaking to reporters at Salem, the CM further said, “There is no political intention or government interference in the arrest of DMK MP RS Bharathi. When a functionary makes derogatory comments against SC/ST, the opposition party leader should condemn the functionary and should not blame the ruling party.”