Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha was released amid high drama after 28 days in central prison following the granting of bail by the Madras High Court yesterday.
Justice V Rengaswamy ordered her release on executing a personal bond for Rs 50,000 with two sureties for a similar sum before the principal sessions court. Jayalalitha, looking tired, emerged from judicial custody after completing necessary formalities seven hours after Justice Rengaswamy upheld her bail prayer. Jayalalitha has been asked not to leave Chennai, not to tamper with evidence or interfere in any manner, directly or indirectly, with judicial administration.
If she had to be interrogated by the police, she should be given prior intimation about the date of questioning, the court ordered.
As she stepped out of the prison, Jayalalitha was mobbed by her former ministerial colleagues and leaders of her party, who surged towards the prison gate at the end of hours of wait.
As she proceeded to board the car, the filmstar-turned-politician waved to her cheering supporters, kept at bay by a large police contingent, and excused herself from talking to waiting mediapersons on the spot saying that she was tired.
Earlier, Justice Rengaswamy said that she was unlikely to tamper with evidence and hinder further investigation into the coal import deal of 1993 and her alleged acquisition of assets disproportionate to her income, the two remaining cases in which she was still in judicial custody, and granted her bail.
Jayalalitha was first arrested on December 7 in the case relating to an alleged scandal in the purchase of colour TV sets. After searches at her residence here and in Hyderabad yielded evidence of property and jewellery valued at over Rs 50 crore, she was arrested formally in judicial custody on December 16 in the disproportionate wealth case.
While she was granted bail in the colour TV case by the high court, she surrendered before the principal sessions court in respect of three other cases - the coal deal, Pleasant Stay Hotel case and Meena Advertisers case - in which she has been charged with abusing her public office for gaining pecuniary advantage.
Thereafter, she was given bail by the sessions court in two of the cases and denied bail only in respect of the coal deal and the wealth case. In the high court, the prosecution informed the judge that she had been interrogated in custody in all the cases, virtually conceding that it no more wanted her to be in judicial custody. Taking note of this position, Justice Rengaswamy said that the representation of the senior prosecution counsel N Natarajan made him conclude that there was no necessity for her further detention. Meanwhile, even before the high court passed its order, Jayalalitha was produced for extension of remand before principal sessions judge A Ramamurthy in two cases.
In a common order, he granted bail to Jayalalitha in both cases and former power minister, S Kannappan, second accused in the coal case.