S Sreesanth's friend Abhishek Shukla, arrested for allegedly removing the cricketer's money and articles from his hotel room, was on Thursday granted bail by a Delhi court which rejected the Delhi Police plea to send him to judicial custody.
Shukla, working as a manager in a private firm, was granted bail by the court on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 and a surety of a like amount. He was directed to surrender his passport, not to leave his residence in Mumbai and join the probe.
Chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) Lokesh Kumar Sharma rejected the prosecution's plea to remand him to judicial custody as it was of the view that police has failed to convince that Shukla was a part of the spot-fixing scandal.
Shukla's counsel Ankur Jain moved a bail plea, saying he was not a part of the conspiracy. He is the first person who has been granted bail in the spot-fixing case.
The Special Cell of Delhi Police had arrested Shukla on Wednesday. He is accused of removing money from Sreesanth's hotel room in Mumbai immediately after his arrest on behalf of co-accused Jiju Janardhan.
The court also asked the police to explain how Shukla was taken to Mumbai on Wednesday without its permission.
To this, the prosecutor said Shukla was taken out of Delhi as there were certain compelling circumstances and recoveries had to be made.
During the hearing, the police said Shukla used to pay bills of Sreesanth and accompanied him to stations where he played matches and Rs 5.5 lakh removed from Sreesanth's room has been recovered from him.
The court, however, said, "Paying bills on other person's behalf or accompanying them to stations is not a criminal act in the statute. No criminal liability can be fastened to him." The CMM also said at the most Shukla can be booked for removal or destruction of evidence.
The prosecution opposed Shukla's bail plea, saying in the light of his conduct of removing articles from Sreesanth's room after his arrest, he should not be granted bail.
The court, however, said, "Since the offence itself is bailable, the conspiracy to commit the offence would also be bailable."
The court also noted that it is on record that Shukla had joined the investigation for a day prior to his arrest and therefore, there was no use of sending him behind bars as he is ready to cooperate with the investigation.
During the arguments, public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said, "Shukla was the abettor and perpetrator of the main offence for which other accused have been booked i.e. section 420 (cheating), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC." The prosecutor said Shukla used to accompany Sreesanth and Jiju and pay the cricketer's hotel bills. He said Shukla had also joined the train of conspiracy when he was asked by Jiju to clear Sreesanth's room.
To this, the judge asked the police to show how his acts of accompanying them to various places and paying the bills points that Shukla was aware of the conspiracy.
The prosecutor replied that the police has also recorded Shukla's telephonic conversation in which he was asked to clean Sreesanth's room.
He said even if he was not aware of the conspiracy, he had joined the train of conspiracy and is equally liable to be prosecuted under sections 420, 120B of the IPC.
The court, however, was not impressed with the arguments of the prosecutor.
"From the facts present before this court, it becomes amply clear that the role assigned to accused was removal of cash and other articles from Sreesanth's room after his arrest at the instance of Jiju Janardhan, who had called him to Sreesanth's room and handed him several articles for purpose of their removal," the judge noted.
On Wednesday, the court had pulled up the police for its flip flop in the handling of case and hiding the arrest of Shukla and termed it as a "bad practice".
The police had not disclosed the arrest of Shukla and it was only revealed when the judge put some questions to them.
Shukla had joined the probe on the intervening night of May 27 and 28 but he was not arrested. However, after he was allowed to leave the police station at 7pm on May 28, the police arrested him at 11am on Wednesday.