Madurai, Sep 21 Eighteen Sri Lankan nationals, arrested in June in Kanyakumari district on the charge of embarking on an "illegal" voyage to Australia, were today granted interim bail by the Madras High Court bench here.
Granting the relief, Justice CT Selvam directed them to stay at the Special Refugee Camp in Tiruchirappalli.
The 18 were arrested on June 26 by the Q Branch police under various statutes, including the Foreigners Act, the Passport Act and IPC sections 370 (trafficking of persons), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating).
They were charged with attempting to flee to Australia with the help of some refugees, including one Balaji.
The petitioners, including Gopinath, had submitted that they had come to Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka as pilgrims and not refugees as alleged by the police. They had valid passports and visa.
But, the police arrested them alleging that they were refugees involved in human trafficking and produced them before a court which had remanded them to judicial custody.
Their bail applications were dismissed by the Sessions Court at Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district.
The petitioners had sought bail on the ground that they were sole the bread-winners of their respective families.