STATING THAT the accused have “undergone varying periods of custody” and investigation against some of the accused was still pending, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday ordered the release of its former Registrar (Recruitment) Balwinder Kumar Sharma and three others on interim bail in the 2017 Haryana Civil Services (Judicial) paper leak case.
Sharma, candidates Sunita and Sushila and another accused Sunil Kumar alias Titu have been given interim bail on “the conditions that they will not hamper the investigation in any manner or try to influence witnesses” and they will not leave the country without prior permission of the High Court. Their pleas for regular bail will be heard on November 14 along with the main case in which the High Court is monitoring the probe. The four have also been asked to surrender their passports to the investigating officer within a week and cooperate with the investigation and ongoing proceedings in the trial court.
The full bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justices Rajesh Bindal, Rajan Gupta, Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia and Arun Palli in the order also directed Sharma not to get in touch with any staff of the High Court’s Recruitment cell.
“The investigating agency shall, however, be at liberty to apprise the court in case there is breach of condition(s) by any of the accused. In such an eventuality, this court shall consider whether interim bail needs to be extended further or not,” the order reads.
The paper leak was exposed by a Panchkula-based candidate, Suman, in July last year by moving the High Court for a CBI enquiry. The preliminary examination for 109 posts of lower court judges had been scrapped by the High Court subsequently after it was found that the paper had been allegedly leaked by Sharma to Sunita who further leaked it to Sushila.
The two candidates had topped the preliminary exam in the general and reserved categories. According to the investigation conducted by the Special Investigation Team of Chandigarh Police, Sunita had confessed about her relationship with Sharma and it has been corroborated with phone records showing the two had made over 1700 calls to each other.
Sunita, according to the SIT, had proposed to sell the paper at Rs 1.5 crore and asked Sushila to look for prospective buyers. Sushila contacted the complainant Suman, who ended up exposing the whole game plan.
Titu, arrested in May this year, was found to be in constant touch with Sunita and one Ayushi. Titu had provided them accommodation at a temple in Chandigarh and also arranged candidates who were to purchase the paper from Sunita.
Ayushi had involved both her father Subhash Chander Godara and uncle Sushil Bhadu in the purchase of the paper. According to police investigation, a candidate, Tejinder Bishnoi, ranked second in the general category after he was provided the paper by them. Similarly, an unspecified number of candidates is said to have received the paper for varying amounts.
While ordering interim bail for the four accused – Sharma, Sunita, Sushila and Titu – the full bench said, “We do not intend to express any opinion on merits lest our observations prejudice the case of either party i.e. prosecution or the accused. Undoubtedly, allegations levelled in the FIR are serious. However, the accused have undergone varying periods of custody and the investigating agency has already submitted three challans.”
Sharma was arrested last December, Sunita in November, Sushila this January and Titu in May. Some other accused have also been arrested in the past few months.