The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to Indrani Mukerjea, who is the chief accused in the murder case of her daughter Sheena Bora.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai, and A.S. Bopanna said: "Admittedly, the petitioner has been in custody for 6 years. We do not intend to comment on the merits of the case which might be detrimental to the interest of either the prosecution or the defence."
It added that taking into account the fact that the petitioner has been in custody for 6A years and even if 50 per cent of the remaining witnesses are given up by the prosecution, the trial will not complete soon. "We are of the considered view that the petitioner is entitled to be released on bail," the bench said.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Mukerjea, submitted that she has been in custody for the last 6 years, adding that she would be entitled for the benefit of special dispensation under Section 437 Cr.P.C and there are 237 witnesses cited by the prosecution, out of whom 68 have been examined.
Rohatgi said the presiding officer was on leave from June 7, 2021 till May 4, 2022, and the trial will not complete soon in view of the large number of witnesses yet to be examined.
Also, the co-accused and her husband, Peter Mukerjea was released on bail on February 6, 2020.
Additional Solicitor General Suryaprakash V. Raju, representing the CBI, opposed the grant of bail to the petitioner, submitting that there is clinching evidence showing the involvement of the petitioner which is clear from the evidence of Shyamwar Pinturam Roy.
Raju said that CDRs also show that she was involved in the crime and submitted that 50 per cent of the remaining witnesses would be given up by the prosecution, in which case, the trial would be completed early and there is no reason for grant of bail to the petitioner who is involved in a grave offence.
The top court imposed several conditions while releasing Mukerjea on bail, which included that she will surrender her passport to the CBI and would not leave India without its permission, and she will not influence the prosecution witnesses or tamper with the evidence.
"The petitioner shall regularly attend the trial and shall not seek any adjournment on whatsoever count. The petitioner in any case shall not meet or establish contact with the witnesses till recording of evidence is over. If there are two consecutive defaults in appearing before the trial court or breach of any of the above conditions, the prosecution will be at liberty to apply for cancellation of petitioner's bail," it added.
It also made it clear that it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case while granting bail to the petitioner.
In April 2012, a case was filed with the Mumbai Police alleging kidnapping and murder of Sheena Bora. In 2015, the CBI took up the investigation. Mukerjea was arrested and so was her husband. In December last year, she wrote a letter to the CBI stating that she would move the special court to record the statement of an inmate who had claimed to have met Bora in Kashmir.
The court has rejected her bail on several occasions. In November last year, the Bombay High Court rejected her bail plea, noting that material in the form of circumstantial evidence strongly supported her direct involvement in the murder.
(With inputs from IANS)