Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., addressed whether the magnitude of offence can be the only criterion for granting bail and further explained the object of bail.
“Object of bail is to secure the presence of the accused at the time of trial, object is this, 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.”
Petitioner sought regular bail in an FIR registered under Sections 406, 420, 409, 120B of the Penal Code, 1860.
An ex-servicemen filed a complaint stating, ‘Hello Taxi’ and its Directors/Officials and other unknown persons had committed cheating and fraud. The complainant had received a message and an email from the said company stating that if he invested his money, they would give him a 200% return within 1 year. The Directors called the complainant and invited him to a place where they explained to him about the Company and their plans to expand on the lines of Uber/Ola.
After much insistence, the complainant invested Rs 9,00,000. Further, even the complainant’s friends invested rs 15 to 20 lakhs. It is stated that on the 10th of every month, installment would be sent to the account of the investors, however, he did not receive any instalments and on calling the company a clip was shown to the complainant that the Company’s accounts had been frozen.
Stating that the Complainant and many others had been defrauded of their money, the complaint was filed on the basis of which the FIR was registered.
Analysis, Law and Decision
High Court on perusal of the charge sheet noted that both the petitioners were involved in the multi-person scam involving more than Rs 200 Crores from the inception of the same and that both were instrumental in misleading the public into investing in the scheme with no intention of returning the money.
It was also noted that more 900 complaints have been made till date pertaining to the scam and the investigation revealed that the petitioner played an integral role, right from inducing the public to siphoning off of the cheated money.
It was added that the gravity of the offences was such that if the petitioners were subsequently convicted, they would be liable to be sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life.
Gravity of the Offence: Can it be the sole ground?
The Bench stated that gravity of the offence cannot be the sole ground to deny bail to the petitioners. Supreme Court’s decision in Sanjay Chandra v. CBI, (2012) 1 SCC 40, was referred.
Therefore, the magnitude of the offence cannot be the only criterion for denial of bail.
Object of Bail
Bench opined that if there is no apprehension of interference in the 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.
High Court noted that the petitioners were in custody for over a year now and observed that,
“Charge sheet as well as supplementary chargesheet have been filed, and all the evidence available is documentary in nature and in custody of the investigation agency. Whether or not the cheated money was entrusted to the petitioners is a matter of trial and cannot be taken into consideration at this juncture.”
Therefore, Court concluded that continued custody of the petitioner was no longer required and enlarged them on bail.
Conditions laid down for bail
- Each petitioner shall furnish a personal bond in the sum of Rs 1,50,000 with two sureties of the like amount, one of them should be a relative of the petitioner, to the satisfaction of the trial court
- Petitioners are directed to reside at their respective address till further orders.
- Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday the petitioners are directed to report the Police Stations concerned
- Petitioners should provide their mobile numbers to the investigating officer and keep the same operational at all times.
- Petitioners shall not tamper with evidence or try to influence the witness
- In case it is established that the petitioners have tried to influence the witnesses or tamper with the evidence, the bail granted to the petitioners shall stood cancelled.
In view of the above bail applications were disposed of.[Sunder Singh Bhati v. State, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 134, decided on 17-1-2022]
Advocates before the Court:
For the Petitioner: Pradeep Singh Rana, Ankit Rana, Abhishek Rana, Nitish Pande, Advocates
For the Respondent: Amit Chadha, APP for the State with SI Shiv Dev, P S EOW