New Delhi | A Delhi court has allowed Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez to leave the country without its prior permission, modifying the bail condition in a Rs 200-crore money laundering case lodged against her and alleged conman Sukesh Chandrashekar.
The court directed her to intimate to it as well as the Enforcement Directorate at least three days before leaving the country instead of taking prior permission.
Special Judge Shailendra Malik, who had granted bail to Fernandez on November 15 last year, observed that in order to grab professional opportunities, the actor requires to travel abroad at short notice and she has never misused the conditions of bail at any point in time.
The judge modified the condition in an order passed on August 10, noting that taking prior permission of the court before leaving the country "becomes cumbersome and may be a reason for losing livelihood." While granting bail to Fernandez, the judge had directed her “not to leave the country without prior permission of the court".
The court noted that while Fernandez was facing trial in the money laundering matter being probed by the ED, she was made a witness in a related case being investigated by the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of Delhi Police.
It was also undisputed that the accused never misused the conditions of bail at any point in time, the court observed.
The judge said that the purpose of putting conditions on the accused to take prior permission before leaving India was only to ensure that she must appear during the course of trial and there must be least possibility of her fleeing from the judicial process.
“In the present case, I find considering the fact that the accused being an actor in the Indian film industry and has to travel abroad frequently and in certain situations, in order to grab professional opportunities, she requires to leave the country with short notice.
"In such a situation, the condition of taking prior permission before leaving the country becomes cumbersome and may be a reason for losing livelihood,” the judge said.
The judge further noted that Fernandez was a citizen of Sri Lanka but was living in India since 2009 and had been regularly paying income tax since 2009.
There has never been any instance of the accused violating any condition of bail, the judge observed.
“In such a situation when apprehension of investigating agency can be removed by putting certain other conditions, I find that it would be just an equitable to modify conditions of bail regarding taking of prior permission before leaving the country. Accordingly, application of accused is being allowed,” the judge said.
In her application, Fernandez claimed that “being an actor of international acclaim, she frequently engaged in film shooting, appearance at events, participation in various award functions etc. being indispensable to her professional occupations and livelihood. In certain situations, it becomes time-consuming for the accused to take the court's approval for going abroad, which is mandatory under the terms of bail.” Due to that reason accused has faced certain situations wherein organisers, producers and other film industry professionals, on account of the time-consuming process of seeking court approval for leaving India, opted to engage other individuals resultantly potential financial loss and reputational implications to her, the application claimed.
The court had granted bail to Fernandez in the case on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety of like amount.
The court had on August 31, 2022, taken cognisance of a supplementary charge sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and asked Fernandez to appear before the court.
Fernandez, who was summoned by the ED several times in connection with the investigation, was named as an accused for the first time in the supplementary charge sheet.
The ED's earlier charge sheet and supplementary charge sheet did not mention her as an accused.
The documents, however, had mentioned the details of the statements recorded by Fernandez and fellow actor Nora Fatehi.