After languishing in jail for over 10 months, Hilal Rather gets bail from High Court

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Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court here on Tuesday granted bail to Hilal Rather, son of former Finance Minister of the erstwhile J&K State, A R Rather, who had been in jail for the last more than ten months in connection with an alleged Rs 177 crore J&K Bank loan scam.

Ordering his release on bail subject to his furnishing a personal bond of Rs five lakh along with two sureties of the like amount to the satisfaction of trial court, Justice Javed Iqbal Wani after hearing both the sides observed that “deprivation of liberty tantamount to punishment’’.

“Prison hell destroys the manifestation of feelings and sensibility of a person,’’ Justice Wani observed, adding that the petitioner has been languishing in jail for the last more than ten months by now and he cannot be hampered from preparing his defence which is of an essence in a criminal trial. The discretion for grant of bail has to be exercised on the well established propositions and principles laid down from time to time by the Apex Court, he said, adding “sentiments, strain, temper and passion do not have any role to play in exercising the discretion for grant of bail bestowed unto the courts’’.    

While granting bail, high court also ordered the petitioner to cooperate the investigating agency in the investigation as and when required, without any fail. He will face the trial before the trial court without any fail and will present himself before it as and when asked to do so, it added.

Justice Wani in his order also directed Hilal Rather to surrender his passport before the trial court (if not already surrendered) within three days, adding that he will not leave the territorial jurisdiction of this court without permission of the trial court. He shall also not try to influence or intimidate directly or indirectly the prosecution witnesses or temper with the prosecution evidence in any manner, mode or method, he added.

Hilal Rather was arrested by the Anti Corruption Bureau on charges of misappropriation of crores of rupees granted as loan by Jammu and Kashmir Bank for the construction of his ambitious Paradise Avenue township project at Narwal Bala in Jammu during 2012. The ACB chargesheet pointed out that the Paradise Avenue, a partnership concern headed by Hilal Rather, was sanctioned a term loan of Rs 74.27 crore in the first phase in relaxation to the bank’s credit policy which restricted loan to a partnership firm at Rs 40 crore.

Moreover, the loan was approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors despite the fact that Hilal Rather had already entered into a one-time settlement in respect to repayment of loan with the State Financial Corporation in the past. The remaining loans were granted by the Board despite the fact that he had not repaid the first loan.

The ACB had charged Hilal Ratherwith diverting the loan amount to huge properties within  India and abroad, besides holidaying abroad with family and friends. The bank had declared the entire loan amount as NPA.