Indrani Mukerjea, a former media executive accused of killing her daughter, was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, with the top court observing that she had been in custody for 6.5 years, which was “too long a time”. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, B R Gavai and A S Bopanna refrained from making any observations on the merits of the case but said that the trial was unlikely to end soon and the woman had been behind bars for six-and-a-half years.
“Indrani Mukerjea has been in custody for 6.5 years. We are not making comments on the merits of the case. Even if 50 per cent witnesses are given up by the prosecution, the trial will not be over soon,” said the SC. Further, the apex court clarified: “She will be released on bail subject to the satisfaction of the trial court. The same conditions imposed on Peter Mukerjea will also be imposed on her.”
On November 16, 2021, the Bombay high court had rejected her bail plea saying: “The material in the form of circumstantial evidence very much connects the direct involvement of the applicant (Indrani) in the crime.”
Her bail applications having been rejected on four earlier occasions by the special court and the HC, she had filed an appeal before the SC.
Indrani’s counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued that she was a person entitled to special dispensation under section 437 and she had been in jail for 6.5 years. Rohatgi further argued that the trial had not progressed for the last 11 months. He further contended that hardly 68 of the total 237 witnesses had been examined in the case so far. Besides, he contended that she had never been out on parole (temporary release before the expiry of a sentence) all these years.
On a court query, Rohatgi said that she did not avail parole leave. He further informed the SC that her then husband Peter too had been granted bail.
Rohatgi said that while granting bail to Peter Mukerjea, he was asked to submit his passport, regularly attend trial, not to establish contact with witnesses and not to tamper with evidence.
When Rohatgi said that “they (Indrani and Peter) are accused of killing their own daughter, this is bizarre,” Justice Gavai remarked: “Not their own. it was only of the woman (Indrani).”
Opposing her bail plea, Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the CBI, argued: “One witness has been examined who has nailed the lady to the hilt. He turned an approver.” He further said that Peter Mukerjea’s role was very limited.
Highlighting the gravity of the crime, Raju said that there had been tampering of evidence in the case since Sheena’s body was destroyed.
The apex court noted in its order that Indrani had been charged with murdering her own daughter, after conspiring with her husband. “The allegation made against the petitioner (Indrani) is that she planned the murder in view of live-in relationship of daughter with Rahul Mukerjea, who was the son of Peter Mukerjea and his earlier wife,” added the court.
The SC bail order would be placed before the special CBI court, which will impose conditions on her, following which she will be released from the Byculla Prison, where she is currently lodged.
When asked what the CBI’s move was likely to be now that Indrani Mukerjea had been granted bail, an agency spokesperson said, “What can be done now that the SC has given bail?” CBI sources said they were awaiting a copy of the court’s order and would be able to comment only after having read it.
As per the prosecution’s case, Indrani Mukerjea allegedly conspired with her then husband, Peter Mukerjea, and ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna, to murder her daughter Sheena with the help of her former driver, Shyamvar Rai. Sheena was allegedly drugged and strangled in a car by Indrani and Khanna and her body disposed of in a suitcase in the Pen area of Raigad district in 2012.
Indrani was arrested in 2015 and charge-sheeted as accused for offences punishable under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 364 (kidnapping), 302 (murder) and 201 (destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.