New Delhi: In a huge relief to the second batch of accused in the 2G case, DMK MP Kanimozhi and four others were on Monday granted bail by the Delhi High Court, taking cue from the Supreme Court order last week.

Granting the bail, the court said it cannot do "hair splitting" of the Supreme Court verdict omitting the offence of criminal breach of trust against all the accused, which entails life imprisonment as the maximum punishment.

In its 39-page judgement, the court observed that Kanimozhi and the other four are on a "better footing" and deserved the benefit on the ground of "parity".

Relying on last week's Supreme Court verdict which said "bail is rule and jail is exception, the court treated Kanimozhi, who is in prison since May 20, on par with five corporate executives, granted bail on Thursday last.

"The High Court cannot while considering the bail applications of present accused do hair splitting of the order of the Supreme Court and make out a distinction when there is none so as to deny the benefit of said order to petitioners by saying that they are charged for offence of conspiracy read with offence of criminal breach of trust which carries the life imprisonment," Justice V K Shali said.

However, 43-year-old Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, and others will have to spend one more night in Tihar jail as their release warrants could not be issued by
Special CBI Judge O P Saini due to procedural delay.

The High Court applied the same principle of liberty to grant bail to Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar, filmmaker Karim Morani and Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd directors Rajiv Aggarwal and Asif Balwa. However, the court reserved its order on the bail plea of former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, who is in jail along with ex-Telecom Minister A Raja since February 2, after CBI refused to concede to him on the ground of parity.

"If despite the aforesaid facts, the Supreme Court has released the co-accused persons Sanjay Chandra's case on bail, the said benefit cannot be denied to the petitioner on the
grounds of parity," the court, in its 39-page order, said.

The court, in its judgement, said Kanimozhi's case was on better footing than that of corporate executives, who had been granted bail by the Supreme Court and moreover, she can also be extended the benefit for being a woman.

"Moreover, offences of which the petitioners in general have been charged carry a punishment of 5 years under the Prevention of Corruption Act or IPC in comparison to accused in Sanjay Chandra's case where it carried 7 years. So, in a way, the petitioners stand is on better footing, therefore, they ought not to be denied the benefit of bail," it said.

"So far as Kanimozhi's case is concerned, she is entitled to invocation of additional ground of being a woman as envisaged under section 437 of CrPC which lays down that in case, an accused who appears ... is a sick, infirm or a woman is entitled to bail notwithstanding the offence of which he or she is charged may carry life imprisonment," it said.

Referring to the Apex Court order, the court said the accused cannot be denied bail on mere apprehension that they, if released on bail, may misuse the liberty.

"The grant of bail ought not to be denied only on the perceived apprehension by the court that the petitioner, resorted to a liberty, he will tamper with the evidence.”

"There must be some prima facie evidence on record or reasonable and justifiable grounds to believe that in case the benefit of the bail is extended to the accused he is going to misuse or so as to create conditions which are not conducive to hold a fair trial," it said.

Karuna elated over Kani getting bail

An elated DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai expressed happiness over his daughter Kanimozhi getting bail in the 2G case and said the party would organise a big welcome for her, when she arrives here.

"I am happy that Kanimozhi has been granted bail. She spoke to me soon after the court gave her bail and both of us shared the happiness," Karunanidhi, who met his daughter thrice in Tihar Jail, where she was lodged after her arrest on May 20, told reporters here.

"I am not an autocrat. Party will decide on giving new position to Kanimozhi," he said when asked whether she would be given a new position in the party.

To a question on former Telecom Binister A Raja seeking bail, he said if Raja spoke to him, "I will discuss about his bail."

Chronology of events in 2G case

Following is the chronology of events in the 2G spectrum scam case in which DMK MP Kanimozhi and four others were on Monday granted bail.

May, 2007: A Raja takes over as Telecom Minister.

Aug, 2007: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) initiates process of allotment of 2G spectrum for telecom along with Universal Access Service (UAS) Licences.

Nov 2, 2007: The Prime Minister writes to Raja directing him to ensure allotment of 2G spectrum in a fair and transparent manner and to ensure that licence fee was properly
revised. Raja writes back to the Prime Minister rejecting many of his recommendations.

2009: CVC directs CBI to investigate the irregularities in allocation of 2G spectrum.

Oct 21, 2009: CBI registers a case and files an FIR against "unknown officers" of DoT and unknown private persons/companies under various provisions of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act.

May 6, 2010: Telephonic conversation between Raja and Niira Radia made public by the media.

Sept 13, 2010: SC asks government, Raja to reply within 10 days to three petitions filed by an NGO and others alleging there was a Rs 70,000 crore scam in the grant of telecom licences in 2008.

Nov 10, 2010: CAG submits report on 2G spectrum to government stating loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to exchequer.

Nov 14, 2010: Raja resigns as Telecom Minister

Nov 25, 2010: SC ticks off CBI for not questioning Raja.

Dec 1, 2010: SC directs original tapes containing conversation between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and others be handed over to it.

Dec 2, 2010: Government places recorded tapes in the SC.

Dec 8, 2010: SC asks Centre to consider setting up of a special court to try 2G spectrum scam case.

Feb 2, 2011: Raja, former Telecom Secretary Siddartha Behura and Raja's former Personal Secretary R K Chandolia arrested. They were remanded in CBI custody next day.

Feb 8, 2011: Shahid Usman Balwa, promoter of Swan Telecom, arrested by CBI.

Feb 17, 2011: Raja sent to Tihar Jail under judicial custody.

Feb 18, 2011: Balwa sent to judicial custody.

March 14, 2011: The Delhi High Court sets up special court to deal exclusively with 2G cases.

March 29, 2011: Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal arrested.

April 2, 2011:  CBI files its first charge sheet.

April 25, 2011: CBI files second charge sheet and court issues summons to Kanimozhi, Sharad Kumar and Karim Morani taking congizance of the chargesheet.

May 6, 2011: Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar files bail pleas while Morani sought exemption from appearance.    

May 20, 2011: Court rejects bail pleas of Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar, and orders their forthwith arrest.

June 20, 2011: SC rejects Kanimozhi's bail plea

July 25, 2011: Arguments on charge begins.

Oct 9, 2011: CBI files FIR against Dayanidhi Maran and his brother.

Oct 22, 2011: Court put on trial all 17 accused.

Nov 3, 2011: Trial court rejects bail plea of Kanimozhi and seven others.

Nov 5, 2011: Kanimozhi and others moves bail in Delhi High Court.

Nov 23, 2011: SC grants bail to five corporate honchos -- Sanjay Chandra, Vinod Goenka, Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.

Nov 28, 2011: Delhi High Court grants bail to Kanimozhi, Sharad Kumar, Karim Morani, Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal. Reserved bail plea of Siddharth Behura.

(JPN/Agencies)