Legal Eagle: Different Strokes For Different Folks While Granting Bail

Legal Eagle: Different Strokes For Different Folks While Granting Bail

If we adhere to the aphorism that bail is the rule and jail is the exception then Kejriwal is also entitled to bail just as the minor walked out of the detention home

Olav AlbuquerqueUpdated: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 11:14 PM IST
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Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal | File/PTI

The granting of bail to the Pune-based minor who was a few months short of turning 18 years, with remarks that the boy was “traumatised” and “must be kept safe and secure” after being released into the custody of his paternal aunt, shows an insensitivity to the trauma of the two victims’ families. There is no doubt that this minor cannot be jailed under the Juvenile Justice Act because he was a few months short of turning into a major. But the right to life of the two young engineers has been ignored on the fallacious notion that the dead stay dumb forever.

Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice Act ousts the Criminal Procedure Code from being applied to those between the ages of 12 and 18 years who commit crimes. Those below the age of 12 are deemed to be incapable of criminal intent. But super-rich families like those of the rich Porsche-driving brat can manipulate the entire system to ensure their wards walk out free after they consume alcohol and kill two young engineers.

Even more shocking is that the doctor who was to do the testing switched the blood sample of the minor with that of his mother after accepting Rs 3 lakh as a bribe to do so, proving that many doctors are corrupt. The chairman of the Juvenile Justice Board directed the minor to write a 300-word essay on how to prevent road accidents after the heinous killings. This chain of events prove that sympathy shown to the minor is misplaced.

The Pune Crime Branch said Atul Ghatkamble, who worked under Dr Ajay Taware, took the money to bribe Dr Shrihari Halnor who reportedly confessed to the Pune Police that he accepted the bribe. It is well known that the police do accept bribes but they too shy away from accepting “blood money” to dilute murder or suicides where they believe they will acquire bad karma because the victim’s soul will not be at peace until justice is done. Unlike the police, who do have their own code of ethics, doctors like Shrihari Halnor do not shy away from allegedly accepting “blood money” in such heinous crimes.

What is even more shocking is the Eknath Shinde government used this incident as a photo opportunity to display a cheque for Rs 10 lakh which was given to the victims’ families to allegedly quieten them. The government has chosen not to appeal against granting of bail to the minor although he ought to be tried as a major for voluntarily consuming alcohol and driving the Rs 1 crore Porsche.

The driver of the car was kidnapped and told to take the rap on the promise that he and his family would be well looked after. This is reminiscent of Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s driver Ashok Singh who stated that he was behind the wheel of the vehicle when it ran over five pavement dwellers and killed one on the spot. After the trial court convicted him, the Bombay High Court freed him on bail and later acquitted him of all charges. The government has appealed against this decision in the Supreme Court.

Now, if we compare the way this minor has been granted bail with the judges saying he had undergone “trauma” after the death of two innocent techies, the stark contrast with the way Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has been refused bail emerges. Of course, the Juvenile Justice Act is the antonym of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The former law has been enacted pursuant to international treaties to which India is a signatory, while the PMLA has to ensure that the rich and powerful like the grandfather and father of the minor who mowed down two innocent techies, do not get away with money laundering.

No doubt as a chief minister, Kejriwal can destroy evidence against him, but it is well nigh impossible for him to abscond since he is a public figure. So, if a minor who has killed two engineers can be freed on bail, it appears illogical why Kejriwal cannot be granted bail. If we adhere to the aphorism that bail is the rule and jail is the exception then Kejriwal is also entitled to bail just as the minor walked out of the detention home.

Undoubtedly, bail under the PMLA is not necessarily granted easily. The PMLA was enaced to prevent powerful politicians or bureaucrats from tampering with evidence or intimidating witnesses from deposing against them but under this law .

The Delhi high court had stayed the granting of bail to Arvind Kejriwal in a money-laundering case linked to the now-scrapped liquor policy. The high court said the trial court did not apply its mind while not giving sufficient opportunity to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to put forth its arguments to oppose bail for Kejriwal. Kejriwal who headed the group of ministers was accused of formulating the Delhi excise policy to favour private business entities.

This was one of the reasons why Kejriwal returned to jail after campaigning for the Aam Admi Party during the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections. After the Delhi government implemented a new liquor policy, the former Delhi Congress president Chaudhary Anil Kumar alleged a multi-crore scam by allowing private players to dominate the industry. The Congress and the BJP alleged the government allowed the excise department and private players to earn crores in exchange for bribes.

Whether Kejriwal is guilty of money-laundering or not is left for the courts to decide, but keeping him in jail when the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI have their own methods of collecting, collating and evaluating evidence cannot be doubted. There appears to be no cogent reason to keep Kejriwal in jail beyond 14 days. Whatever evidence was to be collected could easily have been collected within one month.

What we must accept is that notwithstanding the introduction of the three new laws from July 1, such heinous crimes will continue unabated and the state more often than not is complicit in them.

Olav Albuquerque holds a PhD in law and is a senior journalist and advocate at the Bombay High Court

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