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Kanimozhi: Will the bail come?

 | November 11, 2011

Two arguments have been advanced in the petition for her bail: She is a mother with a young son, and that she is a woman.

COMMENT

Once Kanimozhi was a journalist. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) member of parliament and daughter of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Karunanidhi, she was part of the The Hindu’s features team, modest and polite. As a colleague of hers for many years, I have never found her carrying on her sleeve the tag of being part of the state’s important political family.

Above all, she was – and still is – a distinguished Tamil poet.

But somewhere along the line, the attractions of a political career, the lure of public adulation, must have pushed her out of her home in Chennai’s CIT Colony and a quiet life with her young son, husband and parents.

Would she have bargained for the rough that came along with the glitter that went with being part of India’s higher echelons of political power?

Now, one of the accused in the country’s most infamous 2G spectrum scam – that has reportedly led to the exchequer losing US$39 billion – Kanimozhi has been in Delhi’s Tihar jail for over six months.

She is one of the thousands of undertrial prisoners in India.

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, there were 376,969 people incarcerated in Indian jails on Dec 31, 2009. Of these 66 percent were under trials, yet to be convicted.

A few days ago, Kanimozhi’s plea for bail, along with those of seven others, was dismissed by a special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Special judge OP Saini in a toughly worded statement said that the nature of charges levelled against the accused was “serious”.

“The facts of the case as well as the charges levelled against the accused are of a very serious nature having grave implications on the economy of the country,” the court ruled.

“And by no stretch of imagination can she be said to be suffering from any discrimination on the ground of being a woman,” Saini added.

Two arguments have been advanced in the petition for her bail: She is a mother with a young son, and that she is a woman.

Trial by media

Kanimozhi has been contending that her young son, living in Chennai, needed his mother, and her counsel has been pleading that his client, if freed on bail, could in no way hamper the investigation. He said the court could even grant a “conditional bail”, restricting her movement.

But Saini remained unmoved.

Kanimozhi has now moved the High Court, which will hear her case in December.

Even as the legal battle rages on, the media has begun its own trial. This has been a disturbing feature in the country. Kanimozhi has been pronounced guilty by a section of it, and not guilty by another. Some have said that the bail is a right and that she should be allowed that. Others oppose this point of view.

However, the nation of a billion-plus people is so disgusted with and livid over the enormity of corruption seen in recent times that it is in a mood to guillotine even those who have just been accused. India seems to have pronounced the guilty verdict.

In a recent editorial The Hindu commented: “It is an established principle of criminal jurisprudence that in the absence of specific countervailing factors, there is a general presumption in favour of bail. This rule is a natural extension of the very foundation of the modern legal system, which proceeds on the assumption that all persons are innocent until proven guilty. The enormous public anger against the scale of corruption and fraud, and the brazenness of the conspiracy, involved in the 2G spectrum scandal is understandable and must be commended. But the ‘grave magnitude’ of the case should not be allowed to detract from the basic legal principles underlying the grant of bail. But this is what seems to have happened in the CBI special court’s denial of bail to DMK MP Ms Kanimozhi and seven others in the 2G case. Given that charges have been framed and the case will go to trial in a few days, why should they remain in jail? The contention that they could tamper with evidence is unpersuasive — the gap between the time the 2G licences were issued and the probe was initiated would have given all accused enough time to destroy or conceal whatever they wanted to.”

Nothing can be truer.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.


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