The Bombay High Court has refused bail to Ajay Ajit Kerkar, promoter of bankrupt travel firm Cox and Kings, in connection with a money laundering case being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

A single bench of Justice Prithviraj Chavan in its order of January 10 rejected Kerkar`s bail plea noting that the right to be released on bail after undergoing detention for a period exceeding half of the minimum period of imprisonment was not an absolute right.

In his plea, Kerkar had said that he had been incarcerated for two years and 340 days which is almost three years, the minimum sentence he can be awarded under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

ED`s advocate Hiten Venegaonkar had opposed the plea and said that one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment provided is yet to be completed. Hence, the accused can seek release only after this period is over, he had contended.

The bench in its order said no doubt, that the right of an undertrial prisoner to have a speedy trial is one of the facets of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, constituting a fundamental right.

However, the court may still deny the relief of bail on the grounds such as “delay of the trial was at the instance of the accused himself,” it said.

“It is to be noted that even the right to be enlarged on bail after undergoing detention for a period exceeding one half of the minimum period of imprisonment is not an absolute right,” HC said.

Also read: Bombay High Court grants bail to scam convict Congress leader Sunil Kedar

Kerkar had sought bail under section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which states that no person shall be detained for more than half of the maximum period of imprisonment he or she faces.

He claimed that charges had not been framed in the case and hence he was entitled to bail on the ground of inordinate delay in commencement of the trial.

Kerkar was arrested in November 2020 in an alleged bank fraud and financial misconduct case against Cox and King Group company which has been undergoing insolvency since 2019.

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