The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Raj Kumar Pandian in connection with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
The decision to grant bail came almost four months after the apex court had sought the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI's) reply on a bail petition forwarded by the suspended and jailed Gujarat IPS officer.
In December last year, a bench of Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi noted that Pandian had been in judicial custody for around seven years and that the CBI should be asked to respond why he should not be released on bail now. It had then issued a notice to the CBI and posted the matter for hearing on January 13.
Earlier, pleading for Pandian's bail, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani had informed the apex court bench about the status of the trial.
"I am in jail for last nearly seven years and the records, running into over 3,000 pages, are yet to be received by the trial judge. I cannot be kept inside forever," Pandian had said then.
The Supreme Court bench had then agreed with him that incarceration for almost seven years during the pendency of a case required a consideration on bail.
According to a then Indian Express report, Pandian had moved the apex court after the Bombay High Court on November 20 rejected his bail application.
The CBI had opposed the bail application in the high court saying that the police officer is a key accused who had picked up the duo from Hyderabad before they were killed in the alleged fake encounter.
Pandian, along with IPS officer Abhay Chudasama, Rajasthan cadre IPS officer Dinesh M N and other low-rank policemen are lodged in Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai after the Supreme Court transferred the trial in the case to Mumbai from Ahmedabad.
The other accused IPS officer, D G Vanzara, was brought back to Ahmedabad in connection with the case of alleged encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others and remains lodged in Sabarmati Central Jail. Former minister of state for home and BJP leader Amit Shah, who is out on bail, is also an accused in the case.