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August 29, 2000
Emissary Gopal may not proceed ahead
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
The third leg of journalist-emissary R R Gopal's mission to secure the release of Kannada film star Dr Rajakumar, kidnapped by forest brigand Veerappan, may get delayed indefinitely with the Supreme Court staying bail for 51 detainees in a Mysore prison in Karnataka.
Gopal, said to be camping at the periphery of the Sathyamangalam reserves, waiting for word from the Karnataka government, may not proceed, until he has heard the last of the bail applications.
The Nakheeran office in Madras had indicated on Monday that Gopal may not proceed till he had documentary evidence on the actual release of the 56 inmates in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu prisons. Veerappan is on videotape as having told Gopal to come with evidence that the 56 have been freed. "Burn all those government orders on cases against the 56 and bring me photographic evidence of it. Then only will I release Rajakumar," Veerappan had said.
As if anticipating such a deadlock, the Karnataka government had withdrawn cases against the 51, including 12 women, and also against 70 others who have been out on bail for over two years. This would have absolved them of the need to obtain bail.
Legal sources said that the Supreme Court could not be expected to be influenced by the predicament of the Rajakumar kidnapping or any other development. It would be seized only of the legal position. Even looking at 'public interest', the larger public interest going beyond freedom for Rajakumar may indicate that it may have to lay down a law in such cases, and also enforce laws that exist. This makes its position sensitive and tentative.
At one level, it can handle the bail and case withdrawal issue pertaining to the trial court alone and cease to interfere with proceedings. At the same time, it would be seen as absolving itself of responsibility, appellate jurisdiction and powers. That will be a ticklish situation for the court to handle, but could not have escaped it, under the circumstances.
For the present, freedom for Rajakumar may be delayed. The situation may be compounded if the Supreme Court decides to proceed with regular hearing on the petition filed by Abdul Karim, father of slain Karnataka police official Shakeel Ahmed, or refer it to a larger bench, to decide on questions of law or constitutional importance.
Simultaneously, the question of freedom for five detainees in Tamil Nadu prisons has to be ensured. The state government has withdrawn the TADA and National Security Act detention orders against them, but bail has yet to be sought.
The detainees want the state government and the Centre, where the latter is the complainant against bombing a television station, to withdraw the cases.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has stated that he had the Centre's permission to withdraw the detention orders. However, it is not clear whether the Centre, in charge of the Central Bureau of Investigation and other prosecuting agencies handling sensitive criminal cases on wide-ranging issues, has approved withdrawal of the criminal cases against them. Or even granting bail to them.
Such matters may require a policy decision, which would have to take into account the situation in Jammu and Kashmir too.
For all this, there is also no guarantee that Veerappan would release Rajakumar and the other three hostages, once the 56 are freed. He had a list of 13 demands, of which the state governments are focusing only on two: freedom for 56 detainees and compensation for Special Task Force victims in Veerappan territory. And there is no indication that Veerappan will be satisfied with these demands alone - whenever - and would not go back to his original set of demands.
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