Delhi High Court: In an application filed seeking bail on behalf of the applicants being involved in the alleged fraud allegedly resulting in misappropriation of the public money to the tune of Rs. 5,435/- crores, Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav, J., denied bail to the applicant-accused as it was found that the constitutional right of the applicants for speedy trial is not getting infringed by denying bail and on the contrary no reasonable grounds found to believe that the applicants are not guilty of the offences alleged against them.
The application states that on 03-05-2016, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, in exercise of its powers conferred under Section 212(l)(c) of Companies Act, 2013, assigned the investigation into the affairs of Bhushan Power and Steel Ltd. and its 10 group companies to Serious Fraud Investigation Office.
Counsel for applicants submitted that the custody of the applicants was illegal between 31-05-2022 to 06-08-2022, inasmuch as, there was no judicial order of remand but a mere endorsement on the warrant was made, which does not fulfill the legal requirement of a valid remand order. It was further submitted that notwithstanding filing of the complaint in the instant case on 19-05-2022, the custody of the applicants still is in the hands of the Magistrate and is to be governed by Section 167 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and, therefore, the Magistrate cannot breach the maximum time limit for remand i.e., 15 days; and he must pass a reasoned order for each remand, the same being absent in the present case.
The Court observed that the complaint in the present case has been filed within a period of 60 days. The complaint in this case was filed on 19-05-2022 i.e., before 31-05-2022. It was thus seen that on 31-05-2022 when production was directed beyond 15 days the complaint was already filed. A reading of the provisions under Section 167 CrPC nowhere carves out the principle to indicate that the accused would be entitled to bail for any reason whatsoever apart from any other reason than stipulated under Section 167 CrPC.
The Court noted that post filing of complaint/chargesheet, endorsement on production warrant by the competent court is sufficient compliance of Section 167 CrPC. The accused, if at all he has any grievance with respect to any illegality or irregularity with respect to the passing of the order of remand post filing of the complaint/chargesheet or if he feels that any of his legal right are infringed, he can certainly raise his grievance in accordance with law but the same would not entitle him for his release on bail under Section 167 CrPC.
The Court opined that it is settled principle that if the words of a statute are clear and free from any vagueness and are, therefore reasonably susceptible to only one meaning, it must be construed by giving effect to that meaning irrespective of consequences. Any other interpretation of Section 167 CrPC would lead to the creation of another mode for grant of bail which is not envisaged under Criminal Procedure Code and, therefore, the same is not acceptable. The 15 days’ time limit and reasoned order are the requirements to be followed under Section 167 only during pendency of investigation.
On the grounds of merits also, the Court noted that the applicants were taken into custody on 21-03-2022. The Status Report indicates that the investigation with respect to other accused persons is not complete in all respects. An apprehension has been raised by the prosecuting agency based on the role of the respective applicants that the applicants being closely associated with various individuals and have considerable influence over most of the witnesses who were working under the applicants.
The Court considering the above observations held that the present case pertains to post filing of the complaint, and a reading of provisions under Section 167 of CrPC does not indicate a requirement of passing reasoned order or to confine the remand only up to maximum 15 days in one go. Thus, the applicants are not entitled to a grant of bail on account of breach of 15 days’ time limit, post filing of complaint or on account of not passing a reasoned order and the applicants are not entitled for grant of bail even on merits.
[Amarjeet Sharma v. Serious Fraud Investigation Office, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 3633, decided on 03-11-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Mr. Ujjawal Jain, Mr. Vineet Wadhwa & Ms. Shambhavi Kashyap, Advocates for Petitioner;
Mr. Anurag Ahluwalia, CGSC alongwith Mr. Kritagya Kumar Kait, Mr. Shriram Tiwary & Mr. Mohd. Salman Kazi, Advocates for Respondent.
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this.