The Supreme Court Wednesday granted bail to four erstwhile Satyam Computers Services Ltd employees and an official of its statutory auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accused in one of India’s biggest corporate frauds.
Satyam Computers Services Ltd’s former senior manager V. Venkatapathy Raju, former assistant manager C.S. Srisailam, former vice president G. Ramakrishna, former head of its internal audit V.S. Prabhakar Gupta and PwC employee Subramani Gopalakrishnan were granted bail.
An apex court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Dipak Misra said they will be released upon the satisfaction of the trial court and they will deposit, if not done already, their passports to the trial court.
While granting bail, the court told the Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha appearing for the CBI “you have to be reasonable in your approach. You have a lot of rewsponsibility on you. You have to have some impartiality in your approach.”
The four former officials of Satyam Computers Services Ltd along with the firm’s erstwhile owner Ramalinga Raju and his brother are facing prosecution for fudging the company accounts and showing inflated profits which became one of the greatest corporate scams.
The surfacing of the scam and consequent collapse of the company left lakhs of shareholders and others duped.
Ordering the release of the Satyam Computers Services Ltd’s executives and the PwC auditor, the court noted the plea of the senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, Ashok Desai and Siddhartha Luthra that the legislative mandate was “bail and not jail” in the case of offences which attract the maximum punishments of seven years.
The court was told that in such cases court may not even record reasons for granting bail. The court was told that recording reasons for granting bail, was a requirement only in the cases where the accused was being tried for an offence attracting life imprisonment.
The court was told that all the five accused were in custody for two years and three months. Rohtagi told the court that after 226 witnesses have been examined and only eight investigating officers were left to be cross-examined and thus there was no justification for the continued incarceration of the accused.
Rohtagi wondered that CBI, which was opposing the bail plea, was apprehensive if its own investigating officers may not turn hostile.
Tankha opposed the bail plea saying that their release would hamper investigations into money laundering and other investments.
At this Justice Bhandari said, “we are concerned with the cases which are there and not with what you (CBI) are going to do in future.”
It may be recalled that the apex court by its order of Oct 26, 2010 had cancelled the bail of Ramalinga Raju, his brother Rama Raju and four others on an appeal by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Ramalinga Raju was granted bail by the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Aug 18, 2010. Five others including his brother Rama Raju were granted bail by the High court on July 20, 2010.
The apex court by its Oct 26, 2010 order had directed the trial court to complete trail by July 31, 2011.
It further said that in case trial was not completed by July 31, 2011 then Ramalinga Raju and other accused would be at liberty to approach the High Court for the grant of bail.