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SC grants bail to ex-ministers
- Ekka, Rai told to keep off state capital

New Delhi, Dec. 13: The Supreme Court today granted bail to former Jharkhand ministers Anosh Ekka and Hari Narayan Rai for four months, but asked them to stay away from Ranchi during trial in cases pending against them under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

A bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Desai directed release of the two, who have been in Birsa Munda Central Jail for over three years, after they furnished bonds for Rs 5 lakh each. The bench said the trial court would convert the provisional bail into a regular bail subject to their conduct during the four-month period.

The apex court granted bail to the accused considering they had been in jail for nearly 40 months (since August 17, 2009) while the maximum punishment they face if convicted is seven years.

The bench also directed the duo to attend the trial in Ranchi regularly, but restrained them from staying in the state capital. They should reach Ranchi just a day before the court hearing and leave the following day, the court said as per the assurance given by the counsel.

The apex court also noted that there was no sign of the trial concluding within three-four months. The number of witnesses proposed to be examined against Ekka was 173. After the chargesheet was framed, only three of the 173 witnesses were examined.

Against Rai, the number of witnesses proposed to be examined in the PCA case was nine of which only two had been examined. In the PMLA case against Ekka, 10 of 32 witnesses had been examined, while against Rai, five of 27 had been examined.

Additional solicitor-general P.P. Malhotra, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, told the bench that if the trial court gave short dates, the prosecution was willing to examine all witnesses within two months.

The two accused, through their counsel, assured the apex court that if released on bail they would not interfere with the prosecution or make any effort to influence witnesses or tamper with the case. The court recorded this assurance in the order.

Later, the bench adjourned the matter for further hearing to April 2013.

According to chargesheets filed by ED in January and March 2011, Ekka’s illegal wealth totalled Rs 13.88 crore while Rai had amassed illegal wealth to the tune of Rs 4.87 crore.

Ekka, a former rural development minister, had invested a staggering Rs 4.62 crore in Eco City Resort at Jalpaiguri in Bengal, Rs 2.24 crore in a residential house at Airport Road, Ranchi — in the name of his wife Menon Ekka — Rs 1.44 crore at Shubham Dairy near Irba, Ranchi, Rs 2.03 crore in Ekka Constructions and Rs 1.32 crore in Menon Constructions, both companies headed by his wife.

He had also invested an additional Rs 2.64 crore in the name of his wife and brother.

ED charged Rai of investing Rs 1.14 crore in a multi-storied commercial-residential complex at Harmu, Ranchi, Rs 23 lakh in a fish pond, Rs 53 lakh in a dairy and another Rs 50 lakh in a residential-commercial complex, all at Deoghar, along with Rs 35 lakh in the name of his wife Sushila Rai.