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Magnitude of the offence cannot be the only criterion for denial of bail: High Court of Delhi

The object of bail is to secure the presence of the accused at the time of trial. A person who has never been convicted should only be kept in custody if there are reasons to believe that he might flee from justice or tamper with the evidence or threaten the witnesses. If there is no apprehension of interference in administration of justice then the Court should be circumspect while considering depriving the accused of their personal liberty. Mere vague belief that the accused may thwart the investigation cannot be a ground to prolong the incarceration of the accused. These were stated by High Court of Delhi, consisting Justice Subramonium Prasad in the case of Sunder Singh Bhati vs. The State [BAIL APPLN. 3750/2021] on 17.01.2022.

Facts of the case are that the Complainant had received a message and an email from the Company (SMP IMPEX Pvt. Ltd.) stating that if he invested his money, they would give him a 200% return within 1 year. The Directors, Dr. Saroj Mahapatra and Rajesh Mahto called the Complainant and told him about the Company explaining their plans to expand it on the lines of Uber/Ola. They told the Complainant that the Company was registered with RBI and SEBI. It is stated that after much insistence, the Complainant invested Rs. 9,00,000. Further, the Complainant’s friends, namely Rajesh Kumar, Rajender Singh, Yogender Singh, Umed Singh, Ajay, Sunil also invested Rs. 15 to 20 lakhs. It was stated that on the 10th of every month they would receive instalment, however, after the first two months, no instalment was made. The Complainant was informed that he would get the third instalment by 15th of the month, i.e. 15th March, however, the third instalment was not made. On calling the Company, a clip was showed to Complainant from social media showcasing that the Company’s accounts have been frozen. The Complainant and many others were defrauded of their money so a complaint was filed on the basis of which the instant FIR was registered. The Petitioner in BAIL APPLN. was declared absconder/proclaimed offender and was arrested. Anticipatory bail application was dismissed under Section 437 Cr.P.C. as infructuous.

The learned Counsel for Petitioner submitted that the Petitioner was languishing in jail since 09.12.2020. He submitted that no recovery was made from the Petitioner or at the instance of the Petitioner, and that, therefore, there is no link tying the Petitioner to the alleged scam. The Petitioner is neither an authorized signatory nor a director of the accused Company, and that there is nothing to suggest that the Petitioner was associated with the accused Company. He stated that several of the alleged victims received up to 40- 50% of their invested amount within a month which buttressed the fact that early investors had received significant returns from the accused Company. He argued that it is not rational to assume that Petitioner would induce his own relatives to invest in a scheme if he possessed the intention to scam people. It was submitted that the essential ingredient for invoking both Sections 406 and 409 IPC is entrustment and there is no evidence which suggests that the Petitioner had ever been entrusted with any money or property. He further submitted that there is hardly any complaint which ascribes a distinct role to the Petitioner, therefore, the Petitioner is liable to be granted regular bail.

The learned Counsel for respondent submitted that the instant case involves the cheating of a large-scale of money with total investors surpassing 900 and the amount cheated being Rs. 14 crores. She vehemently opposes the instant bail application, stating that the Petitioner in BAIL.  It was further submitted that the Petitioner was a direct recipient of the cheated amount through his relatives and that Rs. 1.59 crores approximately and had previously been declared PO and never joined investigation despite several notices being issued to him. She submitted that there are many statements of witnesses/complainants under Section 161 Cr.P.C. that specifically name the Petitioner and state that he took active part in the meetings/representations for inducement. She submitted that there is no evidence to indicate that the Petitioner had induced the investors and concocted lies about RBI authorization. Further, the Counsel submitted that the Petitioner was merely a non-executive director and that he only received Rs. 11 lakhs, which was his remuneration, out of the alleged cheated amount of Rs. 250 crores. The Petitioner was the beneficiary of the cheated amount, and that a perusal of the bank replies indicates that he was also the authorized signatory of the bank accounts of the accused Company and took active part in the dayto-day affairs of the accused Company.

The High Court of Delhi held that the magnitude of the offence cannot be the only criterion for denial of bail. The object of bail is to secure the presence of the accused at the time of trial and this object is neither punitive nor preventative, and a person who has not been convicted should only be kept in custody if there are reasons to believe that they might flee from justice or tamper with the evidence or threaten the witnesses. If there is no apprehension of interference in administration of justice in a criminal trial by an accused then the Court should be circumspect while considering depriving the accused of their personal liberty. Mere vague belief that the accused may thwart the investigation cannot be a ground to prolong the incarceration of the accused. The Court, therefore, held that continued custody of the Petitioners is no longer required. Accordingly, both the bail applications were disposed of.

Judgment reviewed by Shristi Suman. Read Judgment

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