Sunday, May 13, 2001,  Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

2 Hinduja brothers allowed to go abroad
SC imposes stringent conditions
Our Legal Correspondent & PTI

New Delhi, May 12
The Supreme Court today, by an interim order, permitted the two British nationality-based Hinduja brothers, Mr S.P. Hinduja and Mr G.P. Hinduja, to go abroad on stringent conditions, including remaining of the third Swiss-based brother in the country on pain of cancellation of bail, while admitting their special petition against a Delhi High Court judgment rejecting their plea to leave the country pending trial in the Rs 64-crore Bofors pay-offs case.

The Swiss national, Mr P.P. Hinduja, has been directed to remain in the country, to ensure the return of the other two accused brothers on the specific submission to that effect by Senior Counsel, Kapil Sibal, appearing for them.

In the significant interim order operative till August 20, a Division Bench comprising Mr Justice M.B. Shah and Mr Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, directed in the jampacked courtroom that the two brothers permitted to go abroad would execute bonds of Rs 15 crore each with a bank guarantee in like amounts to the satisfaction of Special Judge trying the Bofors pay-offs case.

Ordering that as and when required by the special judge, the accused brothers would remain present in the court; the Supreme Court judges directed the special judge to proceed with the trial uninfluenced by the observations either of the apex court or the high court.

The court further ordered that even during the absence of the two brothers, their counsel would be present during the trial. The counsel would be prohibited from seeking adjournments on the ground that his clients were away from the country, the court added.

“On violation of any of the conditions in force, it would be open to the special judge to cancel bail of Mr P.P. Hinduja and take follow-up action in the matter”, Mr Justice Shah dictating the court order, stated.

The judges noted in their order that the three Hinduja brothers had been chargesheeted for offences punishable under Sections 120 B and 420 of the Indian Panel Code read with certain Provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Appearing with Senior Counsel P.P. Rao, Mr Kapil Sibal contended that Fundamental Rights of his clients under Article 21 of the Constitution were involved in the matter as even foreign nationals under that provision enjoyed such liberty upon which only reasonable restrictions could be imposed by the court.

CBI counsel N. Natrajan reading out his affidavit reiterated the apprehension maintained throughout in court proceedings that based on the past conduct of Hinduja brothers, if they were allowed to leave the country it would not be possible to bring them back for trial.

“As to the number of witnesses in the trial, it is stated that the witnesses are about 91, out of whom only II witnesses are foreign nationals and the remaining witnesses are Indians. It is stated that every effort will be made by the prosecution to complete the examination of the witnesses within the time frame granted by the high court, i.e. six months. If the petitioner accused cooperate with the court and the prosecution in this regard”, the affidavit pointed out.

The court fixed August 7 for directions regarding hearing of the appeals against the April 27 judgment of the high court. The Hinduja brothers were present in the court during the proceedings.

The Hindujas had appealed against the April 27 order of the Delhi High Court, which had made several observations against them while refusing them permission to go abroad.

The high court had also directed the CBI to move the trial court for splitting the trial for speedy completion of the proceedings.

The Hindujas submitted today that they had an investment of Rs 10,000 crore in India in addition to having roots in the country.

“Where would they run away,” Mr Sibal wondered saying they are now also bidding for Air India and have a power plant in the south.

The apex court had yesterday stated that Bofors pay-off case trial may take years to be completed and had asked the CBI to tell by today the conditions that needed to be imposed on the Hindujas if they were to be allowed to go abroad.

The brothers, who were present in the court, said through their counsel Kapil Sibal that they were ready to abide by any condition the CBI wanted to impose on them for being allowed to go abroad to attend to their global business.

The Bench had asked, “Is it practical that the trial will be over by six months? You (CBI) have got 95 witnesses to be examined. Many of them are foreign based. So it appears that the trial will take years.”

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