EC bribery case: SC extends interim bail of middleman after he tests COVID positive

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New Delhi, Oct 29 (PTI) The Supreme Court Thursday extended interim bail of alleged middleman Sukesh Chandrashekar, arrested in the Election Commission bribery case allegedly involving AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, and others as he had not recovered from COVID-19.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee directed that Chandrashekar be placed in the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Chennai, until he is found fit to be discharged.

“We direct that the Commissioner of Police, Chennai shall make appropriate arrangements for the transportation of the petitioner from his residence in Chennai to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Chennai and for his admission at the Hospital,” the bench said.

It said the charges and expenses of the hospital be defrayed by the petitioner and arrangements be made by the Commissioner of Police, Chennai, for maintaining 24 hour and continuous security vigil during the time the petitioner is hospitalised, until his departure for Delhi.

“We accordingly order and direct that the interim bail which has been granted to the petitioner shall stand extended until November 17, 2020 or until he is certified fit to be able to travel to Delhi by the authorities at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, whichever is earlier,” it said. The top court said he shall return to Delhi and surrender to Tihar Jail where he was lodged prior to the interim bail.

“The petitioner shall deposit an amount of Rs 5 lakhs, over and above the amount which has already been deposited in terms of the previous order to meet the expenses of the accompanying team of police officers, which have been incurred in the meantime,” it said.

The top court said the Superintendent of the hospital shall constitute a medical team to verify the medical status of Chandrashekhar and furnish a medical report certifying the medical condition of the petitioner after carrying out periodic tests to determine whether he is or continues to be COVID positive. “The report shall be submitted in a sealed cover to the Registrar General of the Madras High Court for being forwarded to the Registrar (Judicial) of this Court,” it said.

It added that copy of the order be made available to the Registrar General of the Madras High Court so that necessary directions for compliance are communicated to the Commissioner of Police, Chennai.

It directed the Commissioner to issue directions for ensuring that proper medical treatment is also extended to police officer Satish Chandra of Delhi Police escorting the accused. “The expenses incurred for the treatment of the PSI shall be borne by the establishment of the Commissioner of Police, Chennai and will be reimbursed by the competent authority of Delhi Police,” it said, and posted the matter for further hearing on November 18. Chandrashekhar was granted interim bail for two weeks on the ground that his father is suffering from Leukemia and is in Stage-IV.

During his interim bail, Chandrashekhar was infected with COVID-19 after which the court had extended his interim bail period. Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for Delhi police said that it would be appropriate and proper if the accused is placed in the care of a government hospital where the medical status of the petitioner can be accurately assessed and verified. Chandrashekhar was arrested in 2017 by the police and in his appeal before the top court, he has challenged the March 5 order of the Delhi High Court by which his bail was rejected.

A charge sheet was filed by the police before the trial court in the case on July 14, 2017, alleging that Dhinakaran and Chandrashekar had conspired to bribe Election Commission (EC) officials to get the ‘two leaves’ symbol for their party.

The police have also included in the charge sheet allegations of forgery for the purpose of cheating, using forged documents as genuine, possessing a forged document, intending to use it as genuine and criminal conspiracy.

Chandrashekar was arrested for allegedly taking money from Dhinakaran to bribe EC officials to get the AIADMK ‘two leaves’ symbol for the Sasikala faction in a by-election to the R K Nagar Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu.

Dhinakaran, also chargesheeted by the police, was arrested here on April 25, 2018 after four days of questioning for allegedly attempting to bribe EC officials for the symbol.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa, who represented the assembly segment.

The EC had frozen the AIADMK’s symbol after the two factions-one led by Dhinakaran’s aunt Sasikala and the other by former chief minister O Panneerselvam-staked a claim to it. PTI MNL ABA SJK SA