New Delhi, Feb. 7: The Supreme Court today granted bail to two Chhattisgarh villagers accused of being Maoist conduits who had allegedly facilitated the extortion of money from an Essar group company.
Teacher Soni Sori, 33, and nephew Lingaram Kodopi, 24, had been arrested in September-October 2011 and granted interim bail in November 2012 by the apex court on condition that they would not enter Chhattisgarh. Today’s order granted them regular bail along with the right to visit their home state.
However, they must report to their local police station in Dantewada every Monday morning at 10.30, the court said, accepting the state counsel’s request for stringent bail conditions.
The bench of Justices S.S. Nijjar and A.K. Sikri said that Sori, in particular, deserved bail as she was ill, had lost her husband and needed to look after her young children. Besides, charges were yet to be framed against her.
As for Kodopi, the court noted that “the young manů claims to be genuinely attempting to establish himself as a good citizen”.
“There are certain circumstances, pleaded by the appellants, and if ultimately established, there may be a possibility of proving the innocence of the appellants,” the bench further observed.
According to the prosecution, Kodopi and B.K. Lala, a contractor with Essar Steel, were caught at Palnar Village in Dantewada in September 2011 with Rs 15 lakh. The police claim the cash was “protection money” that the company was allegedly paying the Maoists.
Officers say Sori, Kodopi’s maternal aunt, was with him at Palnar market but had slipped out. She was arrested in Delhi on October 4 that year.
Soon, following custody torture allegations, Sori was brought to Calcutta under Supreme Court orders for an independent medical examination.
Both Sori and Kodopi have claimed the police framed them. They had moved the apex court challenging Chhattisgarh High Court’s refusal to grant them bail.
The top court today said the duo must appear before the Chhattisgarh trial court on each date of hearing barring “reasons beyond their control, like illness”.
They must keep the court posted about their place of stay or residence and notify any change of address. They cannot leave the country without the trial court’s permission.