The Supreme Court on Thursday granted bail to Price Waterhouse auditor T Srinivas, an accused in multi-crore Satyam scam, on the ground that the bulky chargesheet running over 55,000 pages could lead to a long-drawn trial in the case and the accused was lodged in jail for over a year.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said since the case was based on documents, all of which has already been seized by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), it would be of no use to keep the accused in jail, where he had been lodged since his arrest in January 24 last year.
Srinivas was lodged along with key accused Ramalinga Raju, Rama Raju and V Srinivas in Chnchalguda central prison in Hyderabad in connection with the scam. The court, however, asked Srinivas, who as partner of Price Waterhouse was the statutory auditor of Satyam Computer Services and allegedly played ball by certifying the accounts as correct, allegedly overlooking a whopping illusory fattening of it by over Rs 7,100 crore, to report to furnish a bail bond of Rs 20 lakhs and two sureties of like amount.
The court also directed Srinivas to appear before the police in the first week of every second month and not to tamper with the evidence or influence witnesses in the case. The apex court while granting first bail in the case also expressed serious concern over the manner in which the scam was allowed to happen affecting the country's economy.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, on behalf of Srinivas, said, CBI has produced an over 55,000-page chargesheet in the case which has nothing substantial against the auditor. He dared CBIs counsel and additional solicitor general Harin Raval to show a single document relating to role of his client in the conspiracy seeking bail.
Raval, on the other hand, made a strong attempt to defer consideration of the bail plea saying the brain mapping of Reddys and V Srinivas was yet to be done.
He said let the case be adjourned for three months by which time CBI would also know the status of the letters sent to US, UK, Belgium, Singapore, Mauritius and British Virgin Island seeking assistance of the authorities there for information on Satyam related activities there.
ASG strongly opposing bail plea said, it would pave the way for other accused to walk out of the jail. The court, however, turned it down.
"You (CBI) have seized all documents relating to this company along with audit reports. What else do you want? We will direct him to make himself available for interrogation in future and if he does not then his bail would be cancelled", remarked court.
Raval said that apart from inflating the accounts, the news of Satyam scam had broken the back of small investors in the stock markets.
"Even LIC, a public sector company, had lost Rs 950 crore as the stock market tumbled," he said, adding it was not only about cheating but deeply wounding the country.
Reflecting on the lack of regulations and strict adherence of rules relating to corporate governance, the court said, "There is no doubt about it. Its an offence which affected the economy of the country. We will not take this as innocent accounting mistakes. But, we while considering bail cannot go into the merits of the case as it could prejudice the accused during the trial."
Andhra Pradesh high court had rejected the bail applications of T Srinivas and another Price Waterhouse auditor S Gopalakrishnan, the accused in the case. As a natural corollary, Srinivas had came to the apex court seeking bail.