Ryan school bus conductor Ashok Kumar was granted bail by a Gurgaon court on Tuesday and will, most likely on Wednesday, walk out of jail where he has been lodged since September 8 this year following the murder of Class 2 student Pradhyumn Thakur.
The CBI, which took over the investigation from the police on September 22, submitted before court that it had no evidence against Kumar (42). Additional sessions judge Rajni Yadav granted him bail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000, which residents of Ghamroj, the Gurgaon village where Kumar and his family live, have decided to pay from funds they have pooled for the man who they believe was wrongly arrested.
“Ever since Ashok got arrested, we have all been collecting money for him,” Rajinder, a Ghamroj resident, told TOI on Tuesday, hours after the bail order was pronounced. “Some villagers have given Rs 100 and Rs 500, some have given Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000. Till now, we have raised around Rs 2 lakh for Ashok. We will pay for his bail. We know he is innocent.”
Ashok’s mother, Kela Devi, said the last money that had come to Kumar’s account was a sum of Rs 7,000, his September salary.
No evidence against conductor, says court
The school has stopped giving him salary. For our ration, Ashok’s kids’ school fees and our daily spending, it’s the villagers who have helped us. Whenever we wanted money, they gave it to us,” Ashok’s mother, Kela Devi, told TOI.
The court order came on the third day of a protracted bail hearing, which started on November 16 and continued on November 20. Pradhyumn’s father Barun was sceptical about Kumar’s culpability and the police probe but still opposed bail to the school bus conductor, arguing the CBI was yet to complete its investigation.
In her 18-page order, the additional sessions judge observed that the CBI had detained another suspect and had no evidence against Kumar, and that in view of constitutional provision of right to liberty, the court would grant bail. The CBI has submitted its case dairy, reports from the Forensic Science Laboratory, CCTV footage and DNA report before the court as well as the 24-minute CCTV footage of September 8 of the school area near the ground floor toilet where the murder was committed.
Mohit Verma, counsel for Kumar, said two factors proved crucial — forensic tests and police witnesses giving inconsistent testimonies. “None of the forensic reports (including a DNA test) suggests any kind of involvement of Ashok. All these proved helpful in deciding the bail application,” said Verma. “Besides, most of the witnesses retracted from their statement (given before police) and claimed before CBI that they had not seen blood stains on Ashok’s clothes,” Verma added.
During custody of Kumar, police had also got a ‘confession’ from him, which Kumar had reiterated before news reporters outside the Gurgaon court. Kumar’s lawyer argued in court he had been beaten, tortured, and even drugged by police to extract the ‘confession’.