Orissa High Court: S. K. Sahoo, J. rejected bail being devoid of merits.

The facts of the case are such that one Roop Lal Meena, Deputy General Manager, Union Bank of India, Bhubaneswar lodged a written complaint before the Superintendent of Police, CBI, Bhubaneswar stating therein that the accused bank officials of Union Bank of India, entered into a criminal conspiracy with three private builders, seven borrowers of housing loan and some unknown bank officials in the year 2017 and by abusing their respective official positions, housing loans were sanctioned in favour of the borrowers on the basis of false/ fictitious documents by violating the guidelines of the Bank. The petitioner along with other accused Bank officials without obtaining approved plan released the entire loan amounts which were allegedly diverted by the accused builders for other purposes which caused undue wrongful loss to the Bank. On receipt of the written complaint and prima facie finding the petitioner was charged for offences punishable under Sections 120-B, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC  and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 i.e. PCA. In course of investigation, the investigating officer recorded the statements and arrested the petitioner for the commission of offences under Sections 409, 420 and 471 read with section 120-B IPC Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) PCA. The instant petition was filed under Section 439 of Criminal Procedure Code i.e. CrPC for grant of bail.

Counsel for the petitioners Mr. Devashis Panda submitted that the petitioner is in judicial custody since December 2020 and he being the then Assistant Marketing Manager of the Bank has never misused the public money in any manner.

Counsel for the respondents Mr. Sarthak Nayak vehemently opposed the prayer for bail and argued that the petitioner had sourced, processed and recommended the housing loan accounts in the names of ten borrowers on the basis of fake documents being in conspiracy with other co-accused persons.

The Court relied on judgment Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy v. C.B.I., (2013) 7 SCC 439 wherein it was held

“34. Economic offences constitute a class apart and need to be visited with a different approach in the matter of bail. The economic offence having deeprooted conspiracies and involving huge loss of public funds need to be viewed seriously and considered as grave offences affecting the economy of the country as a whole and thereby posing serious threat to the financial health of the country.

  1. While granting bail, the Court has to keep in mind the nature of accusations, the nature of evidence in support thereof, the severity of the punishment which conviction will entail, the character of the accused, circumstances which are peculiar to the accused, reasonable possibility of securing the presence of the accused at the trial, reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being tampered with, the larger interests of public/State and other similar considerations.”

The Court observed that the accusation against the petitioner relates to commission of economic offences which are considered to be grave offences and are to be viewed seriously. Such offences affect the economy of the country as a whole and it involves deep-rooted conspiracy and huge loss of public fund. It was further observed that in such type of offences, while granting bail, the Court has to keep in mind, inter alia, the larger interest of public and State.

The Court relied on judgment Sanjay Chandra v. CBI, (2012) 1 SCC 40 wherein it was held that

“25………It is, no doubt, true that the nature of the charge may be relevant, but at the same time, the punishment to which the party may be liable, if convicted, also bears upon the issue. Therefore, in determining whether to grant bail, both the seriousness of the charge and the severity of the punishment should be taken into consideration. The grant or refusal to grant bail lies within the discretion of the Court. The grant or denial is regulated, to a large extent, by the facts and circumstances of each particular case. But at the same time, right to bail is not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused. The primary purposes of bail in a criminal case are to relieve the accused of imprisonment, to relieve the State of the burden of keeping him, pending the trial, and at the same time, to keep the accused constructively in the custody of the Court, whether before or after conviction, to assure that he will submit to the jurisdiction of the Court and be in attendance thereon whenever his presence is required”.

The Court observed that it appears that the crime was committed in a cool, calculated and organized manner causing wrongful loss of crores to the Bank. There are prima facie materials showing involvement of the petitioner in the deep-rooted conspiracy with other co-accused persons to cause such a huge loss to the Bank.

The Court thus held “granting bail to the petitioner in economic offences of this nature would be against the larger interest of public and State as it involves criminal misappropriation and cheating of huge amount of public money and there is also reasonable apprehension of tampering with the witnesses.”

 In view of the above, bail was rejected and petition was dismissed.[Ashwini Kumar Patra v. Republic of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Ori 438, decided on 26-04-2021]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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