Granting bail to five corporate executives in the 2G spectrum scam case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the offences they have been charged with were serious because of the huge losses suffered by the exchequer but they could not be kept in jail indefinitely.
"We are conscious of the fact that the accused are charged with the economic offences of huge magnitude. We are conscious of the fact that the offences alleged, if proved, may jeopardise the economy of the country," said the bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice HL Dattu.
However, "it is not in the interest of justice that the accused should be in jail for an indefinite period," it added.
Noting that the CBI has already completed its investigation and filed the chargesheet, the court said: "Therefore, their presence in the custody may not be necessary for further investigation", and thus they are entitled to the "grant of bail pending trial on stringent conditions in order to ally the apprehensions expressed by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation)."
The five executives -- Sanjay Chandra of Unitech Wireless, Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom as well as Reliance Group's Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair -- are among the 14 individuals accused in the case, led by former telecom minister A Raja.
The five executives had challenged the earlier judgment and common order of the Delhi high court May 23, rejecting their bail pleas due to the magnitude of the offence and gravity of the accusations against them.
Pronouncing the verdict, Justice Dattu said: "No doubt, the offence alleged against the appellants is a serious one in terms of alleged huge loss to the state exchequer, that, by itself should not deter us from enlarging the appellants on bail when there is no serious contention of the respondent (CBI) that the accused, if released on bail, would interfere with the trial or tamper with the evidence."
"When the undertrial prisoners are detained in jail custody to an indefinite period, Article 21 of the constitution is violated," the court stressed.
"Every person, detained or arrested, is entitled to speedy trial, the question is whether the same is possible in the present case," asked the court, noting that were 17 (14 people and three companies) accused, the statement of witnesses runs into several hundred pages and the documents on which reliance was being placed by the prosecution was voluminous.
"The trial may take considerable time and it looks to us that the appellants, who are in jail, have to remain in jail longer than the period detention, had they been convicted," said the judgement.