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Even if there is substantial proof of a heinous socioeconomic offence, “gravity can only beget length of the penalty” imposed by law after the trial: Himachal Pradesh High Court

Even if there is substantial proof of a heinous socioeconomic offence, “gravity can only beget length of the penalty” imposed by law after the trial, The granting of bail in a case involving the theft of government scholarship funds, upheld by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh through the learned Judge JUSTICE JYOTSNA REWAL DUA,  in the case ofVikas Bansal v. Central Bureau of Investigation (Criminal Misc. Petition (Main) No. 856 Of 2022).

Brief facts of the case:

An FIR was filed under Sections 409, 419, 465, 466, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 13 (1) (c) and 13 (1) (d) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act for the alleged widespread misuse of government scholarship monies with the collusion of officials. His Majesty’s Higher Education Department in Shimla received a complaint that prompted the registration of the aforementioned FIR.

The matter in question was investigated by the CBI. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted raids on 22 private institutions that dispersed scholarships between May 13 and May 16 across the states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. The CBI found evidence of illegal syphoning through the private institutions.

The Court emphasised that the decision to release an accused person on bail requires a reasonable exercise of the court’s discretionary power, taking into account not only the seriousness of the charges, but also the severity of the punishments, the nature of the evidence, the fear of influencing witnesses or tampering with evidence, and the likelihood of the accused’s ability to stand trial, as well as the valuable right of liberty of an individual and the interest of society as a whole.

The Court commented that, despite the passage of 2 years and 10 months, CBI has not been able to indicate any schedule concerning the end of the enquiry, even while it is still investigating other private educational institutions.

The Court commented that, despite the passage of 2 years and 10 months, CBI has not been able to indicate any schedule concerning the end of the enquiry, even while it is still investigating other private educational institutions.

JUDGEMNET:

The Court cited the case State of Bihar & Anr v. Amit Kumar, in which it was determined that a defendant’s lengthy incarceration did not automatically warrant a grant of bail. The Court had previously determined that socioeconomic crimes are in a separate category and require a special bail policy. In addition, the case of Nimmajadda Prasad v. CBI held that the Court must consider the nature of the accusations, the nature of the evidence in support thereof, the severity of the punishment on conviction, the character of the accused, the circumstances peculiar to the accused, the reasonable possibility of securing the presence of the accused at trial, and the reasonable appraoch to justice when deciding whether to grant bail.

The Court in Rohit Tandon v. Directorate of Enforcement said, while elaborating on the paramount importance of Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, that economic offences need to be taken severely because of the pervasive conspiracies and massive public losses involved.

It was also explained that determining whether or not the accused possessed required mensrea is an essential step in the bail application process. There needs to be a middle ground between finding someone guilty or not guilty and releasing them on bond. It had been highlighted that at this juncture, the court’s role is not to methodically examine the evidence but rather to reach a conclusion based on broad probability.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY – HARILAKSHMI

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