Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Amit Mahajan, J. granted bail to a man accused of cheating and held that undertrial prisoners cannot be placed in custody for indefinite periods of time when the trial was likely to take a considerable time. Further, the Court held that the apprehension that the applicant would abscond was only a ‘bald assertion’.
The present application was filed under Section 439 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC), seeking regular bail in FIR registered under Sections 420, 120-B and 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and Section 66(D) of Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act). The FIR was registered by the complainant, who alleged that he had been dishonestly induced on the pretext of receiving the insurance policy bonus amount and the insurance gratuity value on the lapsed insurance policies from the year 2013 till date.
The complainant claimed that a group of people had called him from different mobile numbers claiming to be senior officials of insurance regulatory body and induced him by stating that the unclaimed insurance amount could be released to the complainant. On the allurement, the complainant deposited a sum of Rs. 80 lakhs during the years 2016 to 2018. In 2020, the complainant received calls that around Rs. 1.5 crores had been matured and the file was pending with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Income Tax Department. The complainant was again induced to deposit a sum of Rs. 39 lakhs in the bank account provided by the accused persons.
During the investigation, it was found that around Rs. 1.2 Crores had been transferred in various accounts by the complainant since 2015. It was claimed that the applicant had joined the other accused persons in fake insurance bonus scam and had cheated innocent victims/persons on the pretext of receiving huge insurance policy bonus and the applicant impersonated himself as the Senior Director of the Income Tax Department and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
Submissions on behalf of the Applicant
The applicant submitted that the other co-accused’s were already enlarged on bail and despite that, the applicant was languishing in jail and his application for grant of bail was dismissed by the Trial Court on an erroneous presumption that the applicant was likely to tinker with the ongoing investigation. Further, it was submitted that the trial was not likely to proceed and would take long period of time before it got over and the applicant was in custody for the last two years and had a family to look after, including a six-year-old daughter and an eleven-month-old son. Therefore, the applicant submitted that he was also entitled to bail on the grounds of parity.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court opined that even though it was alleged that the applicant would influence the witnesses or tamper with the evidence or would abscond or that he was a flight risk if released on bail but the same was only a ‘bald assertion’. Further, the Court held that the undertrial prisoners could not detained in custody for an indefinite period.
The Court noted that “the speedy trial in the present case did not seem a possibility and keeping the applicant in further incarceration would cause deprivation of his right to legal defence. The maximum punishment for offences alleged against the applicant was seven years, and the object of jail was to secure the accused person’s appearance during the trial. The object was neither punitive nor preventive, and the deprivation of liberty was considered a punishment. The applicant could not be made to spend the entire period of trial in custody especially when the trial was likely to take a considerable time”.
The Court also noted that the co-accused persons who had similar roles, had already been admitted on bail and the State had not challenged the orders granting Bail to those co-accused persons. Moreover, once most of the co-accused were out on bail, it could not be argued that only the applicant against whom there was apprehension would tamper with the evidence and influence the witnesses.
Therefore, the Court held that the applicant has made out a case for grant of the regular bail and was directed to be released on bail on furnishing a bail bond for a sum of Rs. 50,000 with one surety of the like amount.
[Tarun Dutt v. Govt. (NCT of Delhi), 2022 SCC OnLine Del 4564, decided on 26-12-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Applicant: Senior Advocate Viraj R. Datar;
Advocate Sudershan Joon;
Advocate Saurav Joon;
For the Respondent: APP Richa Dhawan.