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Interim bail for Shilpa’s father

Ahmedabad, June 3: The Gujarat High Court today granted interim bail to actress Shilpa Shetty’s father Surendra, who is alleged to have tried extorting money from the owner of Prafful Sarees.

Granting him bail, the court directed Surendra to surrender his passport to investigating officers by Thursday. He has been told to co-operate with police and not tamper with evidence.

Justice A.H. Mehta restrained police from arresting Surendra till June 17 — the date fixed for the final hearing in the case. Shilpa’s father has been stopped from leaving the country and asked to appear before the police within 24 hours of being required to do so.

The judge asked the prosecution to file an affidavit by June 13 explaining why Surendra should not be given bail if it opposed his application.

Surendra has been on the run ever since Surat police issued an arrest warrant against him for allegedly turning to underworld don Fazlur Rehman to extort Rs 80 lakh from Pankaj Agarwal, the owner of Prafful Sarees. He is believed to have demanded the money for an advertisement campaign Shilpa did for the sari brand in 1997.

Surendra argued that the advertisement, for which Shilpa was paid Rs 4 lakh, was to run for a year. Instead, it was aired until last year, and the arrears, Surendra said, amounted to Rs 80 lakh. Agarwal disputed this and said he would not pay.

Agarwal filed an FIR at Surat’s Umra police station and a case was registered against Surendra and Shilpa’s mother, Sunanda. Surat police claim they have taped phone conversations between Agarwal and Surendra, Agarwal and Sunanda and the sari firm owner and Dinesh Shetty, Rehman’s henchman in Surat. In the recordings, Agarwal is repeatedly told to pay up and assured that all threats will stop once he does so.

The Surat district and sessions court agreed that a prima facie extortion case existed against Surendra and rejected his anticipatory bail plea last Friday. A police team reached Mumbai on May 31 to nab the actress’ father, but Surendra could not be traced either at his Versova residence or Ambarnath factory. However, he approached the high court while in hiding.

Surendra did not appear before the high court today.

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