To the cynics, Satyam founder B. Ramalinga Raju making bail, on two sureties of Rs.20 lakh each, would have come as no surprise. The surprise perhaps was that Raju was held as long as he was—a little more than 19 months without interruption, a part of the time in hospital purportedly for treatment of hepatitis C—before he won bail. His brother B. Rama Raju, who was managing director, chief financial officer Vadlamani Srinivas and three other suspects had been released on bail a month earlier and it looked to be just a matter of time before Raju’s own bail petition was accepted.
The Andhra Pradesh high court would no doubt have its reasons, and sound ones, for seeing it fit to grant bail to Raju, but even the cynics among us would feel at least a twinge of outrage at the seeming inevitability of it all. After all, the man had himself confessed publicly on 7 January 2009 to having defrauded the company he founded to the tune of Rs.7,136 crore over several years. Thousands of shareholders lost their savings in the stock meltdown that preceded and followed the confession (which he has since retracted by denying all charges brought against him) and Satyam had to be eventually put on sale to ensure its survival. The computer services firm is only now starting to recover after its purchase in auction by Tech Mahindra Ltd, but it isn’t likely to be free ever of the taint of the association with India’s biggest corporate scandal.
Raju and his co-suspects were facing serious charges—criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery and falsification of accounts—and additional solicitor general Harin P. Raval, who opposed bail being given to Raju, argued that the accused may attempt to influence witnesses. Appearing for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Raval also expressed doubts about reports from Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad on the health of Raju, who had been absent from court proceedings, citing medical reasons, since September.
In the backdrop of those arguments, Raju winning bail may cast at least a measure of doubt on CBI’s ability to successfully prosecute the case against the Satyam accused. But the prosecuting agency should put this setback quickly behind it and look forward to the job of bringing the guilty to book. “I am now prepared to subject myself to the laws of the land and face consequences thereof,” Raju, who turns 56 next month, said in the conclusion to his infamous confession/resignation letter. He must be held to his word.
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