The High Court of Tripura granted bail to former Tripura PWD minister and MLA Badal Choudhury on Saturday, 87 days after he was arrested in connection with a graft case amounting to Rs. 638 crore.
Choudhury was arrested on October 21 last year in connection with the findings of a Vigilance investigation on PWD activities which had taken place in 2008-09, during the erstwhile Left regime. Choudhury was booked along with two others, former Engineer-in-Chief Sunil Bhowmik and former Chief Secretary Yashpal Singh, in an alleged graft of Rs. 638.40 crores. While the former two were arrested, Yashpal Singh is still at large.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Public Prosecutor Ratan Dutta said the authorities have completed investigating on Choudhury and Bhowmik, who was previously released on bail. However, the police haven’t filed the charge-sheet yet.
As per the law, the accused holds the right to get bail by default if the police are unable to submit chargesheet within 90 days of arrest. Since former Engineer-in-Chief Sunil Bhowmik was released on bail 87 days after the arrest, the Court headed by Justice Arindam Lodh ruled in favour of extending the same benefit and granting bail to the former minister.
“We seriously objected since three days are still to go before the 90 days deadline and the Investigating Officer may submit charge-sheet. The Court has decided to grant bail to the accused. However, certain stringent conditions were imposed on him. If he tries to influence the investigation process or witnesses or tries to tamper with evidence, we shall have the opportunity to request to cancel his bail. The accused would also need to submit Rs. 1 lakh bail bond along with one surety,” the public prosecutor informed.
He claimed investigation on Choudhry and Bhowmik has largely progressed. But he didn’t explain why chargesheet could not be submitted despite progress and said it was the forte of the Investigating Officer.
Opposition leader Manik Sarkar previously alleged that the case against Badal Choudhury was baseless and framed for ‘political conspiracy’. The Opposition walked out of the last Assembly session on January 17 on the issue alleging political bias of the ruling BJP-IPFT coalition.
Choudhury was untraced for six days after the FIR was registered on October 13, 2019. He was later found admitted to the ICU of a private hospital in Agartala.
His family alleged that he was dragged out of the ICU by Tripura Police personnel and was taken to a lock-up at West Agartala police station. The ex-minister shouted to media persons there and said he was beaten up and verbally abused by the police.
Choudhury was taken seriously ill in the lock-up, minutes before he was brought there, and was rushed to the ICU of State-run Gobinda Ballabh Pant (GBP) Hospital, triggering allegations of police excesses in handling an accused undergoing intensive hospital care.
Choudhury has had two bypass surgeries in the past and suffered mild brain stroke while in police custody at a hospital in October.
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