NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to former media executive Indrani Mukerjea, who is facing trial for the murder of her 25-year-old daughter Sheena Bora in 2012. Indrani, who has been in Byculla jail since her arrest in August 2015, had approached the top court challenging the order of the Bombay high court on November 16, 2021 denying her bail. The 50-year-old told the top court that the trial would not end soon as 185 out of 253 witnesses in the case remain to be examined. Moreover, the trial judge hearing her case was on leave from June 7, 2021 till May 4, 2022 further delaying the trial.
She had also claimed that being a woman and having mental and other health issues, she deserved to be released on bail.
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A three-judge bench headed by justice L Nageswara Rao granted Indrani bail on the ground that she had been in custody for more than six years and there was no scope for the trial to end soon, considering the fact that out of 237 witnesses, only 68 witnesses were examined so far.
The prosecution, led by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), had opposed bail and informed the court that the trial will not take long as the prosecution will be giving up on 50% of the remaining witnesses.
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In response, the bench, also comprising justices BR Gavai and AS Bopanna, said, “Admittedly the petitioner is in custody for six and a half years… Even if 50% witnesses are given up, the trial will not be completed soon. We are of the view that the petitioner be released on bail subject to conditions fixed by the trial court.”
The fact that the other accused in the case, former television executive and Indrani’s ex-husband Peter Mukerjea, was already released on bail on February 6, 2020, also weighed with the court in granting her bail.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Indrani along with advocate Sandeep Singh told the court that while releasing Peter on bail, the trial judge directed him to deposit his passport (as he is a UK national) and intimate the special CBI court conducting the trial for travelling abroad.
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The other bail conditions on which he was released on bail required him to intimate CBI about change in address, and to not influence witnesses, not tamper with evidence, avoid contact with his children, and regularly attend trial.
The court directed that the conditions applicable to Peter shall also apply to Indrani, in addition to whatever conditions ordered by the trial court.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju, appearing for the CBI, opposed bail claiming that the charges were grave and the evidence directly pointed to Indrani’s guilt. He further informed the court that Indrani was accused of screening material and the evidence of Peter’s son Rahul Mukerjea (with whom Sheena Bora was in a live-in relationship) was still to be recorded.
In her bail petition, Indrani had even suggested that a jail inmate told her that Sheena was alive. The CBI denied this in its affidavit filed before the top court and said the suggestion that Sheena Bora is still alive is a “figment of imagination” of the petitioner.
The agency said, “The medical, DNA and scientific report clearly established that the recovered dead body is of Sheena Bora. DNA report clearly established that the recovered skull is of Sheena Bora.”
Responding to her bail plea, the CBI had said, “The petitioner has committed the heinous act of planning and killing her own daughter Sheena Bora. Such a gruesome act deserves no leniency from this court. The applicant committed very serious offence and the same cannot be treated like an ordinary case.”
Sheena was Indrani’s daughter from her first marriage to Siddhartha Das and was killed in April 2012. The case was initially probed by Mumbai Police but got transferred to CBI in September 2015. The central agency has claimed that Indrani hatched a conspiracy with her then-husband husband Peter and other accused, including her driver Shyamvar Rai, to eliminate her daughter as she objected to Sheena’s relationship with Peter’s son Rahul.
Even as Sheena had mysteriously disappeared, Indrani maintained that she was in the US. It was only after Indrani’s driver was arrested in another case that the police discovered the plot and the half-burnt body of Sheena was discovered by the police. The body was exhumed in August 2015 following which the identity of Sheena Bora was confirmed.