Bombay High Court: In a petition filed by Venugopal Dhoot, former Chairman and Managing Director of the Videocon Group of Companies, seeking quashing and setting aside the FIR filed under Sections 7, 13 (2) read with 13(1) & (d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, (PC Act), 420 & 120-B of Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) as well as declaring the arrest and remand to the custody of the Petitioner as arbitrary, illegal, without following due procedure of law and in gross violation of Sections 41 and 41A of CrPC and Article 14, 19 (1) (d) and 21 of the Constitution of India, a Division Bench of Revati Mohite Dere and Prithviraj K Chavan, J., granted interim bail as merely stating in the order that there is due compliance of Section 41 to 41A of Criminal Procedure Code is not sufficient because the non-compliance of the said provisions is apparent.
The Court noted that on 15-12-2022, Central Bureau of Investigation (‘respondent 1') had issued the first notice under Section 41A of CrPC to Venugopal Dhoot (Petitioner-accused) for questioning qua the subject FIR. A bare perusal of the notice reveals that it was not served on the proper address of Venugopal Dhoot, in the sense, it was not actually received by him but by a person namely, Rohit Das, who had put his endorsement in Hindi beneath the said copy.
The accused marked his presence with CBI whenever called and in case of his unavailability on a particular date, informed the Investigating Officer or gave reasons for his absence. Next, on 24-12-2022, CBI issued another notice under Section 41A of CrPC, but however, instead of serving the notice personally upon Mr Dhoot or by sending an e-mail which had already been furnished by him, pasted the same on the wall of his former office building in Mumbai.
The Court noted that prima facie, this seems to be nothing but a calculated move by the CBI to concoct non-attendance and non-cooperation by Mr Dhoot. As per one of the emails sent by Mr Dhoot to CBI mentioning reasons for his absence on the said date, clarifies that, from the language of the e-mail, it appears that Mr Dhoot had already handed over all the documents and had co-operated with the Investigating Agency by appearing in its office at New Delhi on several occasions despite his deteriorating health.
The Court further observed that one other notice was issued without mentioning that it was the last notice, and that the CBI intends to arrest the petitioner for non-compliance. A bare look at the grounds of arrest would indicate that the petitioner has been inconsistent in his statement before the Investigating Officer / CBI and has kept on changing his versions, as such, has not co-operated with the investigation in disclosing full and true facts of this case, however, the ground of arrest is sans any particulars as to how his statements are inconsistent before the Investigating Officer and how he had not co-operated with the Investigating Agency since he had already attended the office but could not be interrogated by the Investigating Agency for want of the presence of the other co-accused for confrontation.
The Court recorded that there is nothing on record demonstrating that the Officer had a “reason to believe” and “satisfaction for an arrest”. The observations of the Judge that there was due compliance with the mandate of the provisions of Sections 41 and 41A of the CrPC are casual and appear to be based on the ipse dixit of the Investigating Officer. It is apparent that the remanding Court had not recorded its satisfaction as to what persuaded him to authorize the detention of the petitioner after going through the case diary produced by Investigating Officer/CBI
The Court concluded that there is no satisfactory answer from the Investigating Agency as to why for a period of 3 years, the Investigating Agency has neither confronted all the accused before one another nor demonstrated the progress of the investigation by placing the case diary before the remanding Court and thus, held that non-compliance of Section 41 and 41A of the CrPC is, therefore, apparent.
The Court held as follows:
(i) The petitioner-accused be released on furnishing cash security in the sum of Rs.1,00,000/-, for a period of two weeks;
(ii) The petitioner-accused shall execute a P.R. bond in the sum of Rs.1,00,000/-, with one or more sureties in the like amount, to the satisfaction of the Special Judge, CBI on or before completion of two weeks as above;
(iii) The petitioner-accused shall co-operate in the investigation conducted by the CBI and shall attend the Office of CBI, as and when summoned;
(iv) The petitioner-accused shall not tamper with the evidence or attempt to influence or contact the complainant, witnesses or any person concerned with the case.
(v) The petitioner-accused shall not leave the Country without permission of the trial Court
[Venugopal Nandlal Dhoot v. Central Bureau of Investigation, 2023 SCC OnLine Bom 161, decided on 20-01-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Mr. Sandeep S. Ladda a/w Ishani Khanwilkar, Viral Babar, Adnan A. Ansari, Adesh Jadhav and Sarvesh Dixit, for the Petitioner.
Mr. Raja Thakare, Senior Advocate a/w Mr. Kuldeep Patil, Ms. Saili Dhuru, Akash Kavade and Siddharth Jagushte for the Respondent No.1-C.B.I.
Ms. P.P. Shinde, A.P.P, for Respondent No.2-State.
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.