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|October 20, 1997||
SC may set aside anticipatory bail of Tata Tea execs
The Supreme Court on Monday indicated it might consider setting aside orders of the Bombay high court granting anticipatory bail to three top Tata Tea executives allegedly involved in funding the banned United Liberation Front of Asom. It might also transfer their applications to the Guwahati high court for disposal.
The court indicated that, till further orders from the Guwahati high court where the parties were directed to appear on November 4, it would allow the anticipatory bail orders of the Bombay high court to continue.
The court said it would request the chief justice of the Guwahati high court to constitute a division bench to hear all matters related to the funding of militants in Assam.
The indication came from a division bench comprising Justice M K Mukherjee and Justice K T Thomas on the conclusion of arguments on three special leave petitions by the Assam government, challenging the impugned orders dated September 16 of the Bombay high court. The court said it would pronounce its verdict on the special leave petitions on October 24.
The three Tata Tea executives who have been granted anticipatory bail by the Bombay high court are R K Krishna Kumar, Brojen Gogoi and S Kidwai.
Earlier, the court took strong exception to the counsel from both sides speaking to the press and commenting on the merits of the case after the hearing on the special leave petitions last week. The matter is sub judice, the bench pointed out.
Santosh Hedge and K T S Tulsi, former additional solicitor generals appearing for the Assam govenrment, and senior counsel Ram Jethmanlani appearing for the Tata Tea company, apologised to the court.
Hegde and Tulsi contended before the court that the Bombay high court's orders were passed without giving notice to the Assam government and in contravention of three earlier rulings of the apex court on the issue for grant of anticipatory bail.
They submitted that the high court was not correct in drawing an inference on the activities of Tata Tea executives which were not borne out by the records of the case. The offences against them were serious since every rupee contributed by them to the ULFA was used to buy bullets and guns to kill army personnel and civilians. At least 600 people have been killed by ULFA militants.
Both the counsel contended that due to the anticipatory bail granted to Tata Tea executives by the Bombay high court, the Assam government could not conduct interrogations that could possibly reveal the hideouts of ULFA leaders and the locations of arms caches in the tea gardens.
Jethmalani submitted that neither the company nor its executives had committed any offence. He said that Gogoi was arrested by the state government despite being granted anticipatory bail.
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