India

Madras High Court grants bail to Kodanad Estate heist-cum-murder case accused

The Madras High Court on Tuesday granted bail to K.V. Sayan, the prime accused in the 2017 Kodanad Estate heist-cum-murder case after being informed that the trial in the case was at an advanced stage and it would have got completed but for restricted functioning of courts due to COVID-19.

Justice R. Subramanian granted bail to Sayan after taking into consideration that he was under continuous incarceration since March 1, 2019. Stating that the accused had been in prison for more than two years at a stretch, the judge did not find it necessary to keep him under duress any longer.

However when it was brought to the notice of the court that the accused hailed from Kerala and he might abscond, the judge ordered that he should stay in Udhagamandalam until the trial court pronounces a judgement in the 2017 case, in which only four more defence witnesses have to be examined. The case is being tried before the Nilgiris Principal District and Sessions Court in Udhagamandalam.

Justice Subramanian further directed Sayan to provide two sureties to the tune of ₹50,000 each and ordered that those sureties must be solvent residents of either Nilgiris or Coimbatore district. He was also ordered to report before the trial court every Monday apart from attending the regular hearings.

Kodanad Estate was owned jointly by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her close aide V.K. Sasikala. After Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5, 2016 and Sasikala’s incarceration in a disproportionate assets case on February 14, 2017, a heist was reported at the estate on the intervening night of April 23 and 24 of 2017.

An armed gang had reportedly trespassed into the estate and decamped with some valuables after murdering a security guard. Police investigation reportedly revealed that the crime was plotted by Jayalalithaa’s former car driver C. Kanagaraj but he got killed in a road accident at Attur in Salem on April 29, 2017. On the same day, Sayan too had met with a road accident in which he lost his wife and child near Palakkad in Kerala.

The Tamil Nadu police arrested him on June 6, 2017. However, a judicial magistrate granted him bail on September 11, 2017 since the prosecution had failed to file a charge sheet within 90 days of arrest.

After his release on bail, Sayan along with another accused Manoj alias Valayar Manoj gave a video interview to a New Delhi based journalist Mathew Samuel in January 2019 alleging that the entire crime took place at the behest of the then Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and that Kanagaraj had confided it to them.

Immediately after the interview, the trial court cancelled the bail granted to Sayan and Manoj after accepting the prosecution’s stand that they had tried to influence the trial proceedings by giving false interviews to the media. The High Court too confirmed the cancellation order while dismissing their revision petition and hence they were re-arrested in 2019.

On August 28, 2020, Justice Subramanian had dismissed bail petitions filed by them after their re-arrest. Then, the relief was denied on the ground that the interview given by them was aimed at misdirecting the trial and that there was no change of circumstance ever since the High Court had confirmed the cancellation of their bail order.


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