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Punjab and Haryana High Court: H.S. Madaan, J., while hearing the instant petition seeking pre-arrest bail, expressed concern regarding plight of farmers, “If some middle man successfully usurps the price of crops and is allowed to go scot-free, that shall result in perversity of the justice and would amount to great injustice to the affected complainant/farmers.”

 In the instant case both the petitioners were husband and wife and stakeholders in the commission agency business. An FIR was lodged against them under Ss. 420, 120-B, 406 IPC, alleging that they purchased Kharif (rice crop) and in spite of receiving the amount from the Government, the same had not been paid to the  farmers concerned according to J forms. It was alleged in the complaint that the petitioner-accused had used the money for their own purposes and had paid only Rs. 28 lakhs out of total amount of Rs.70 lakhs, whereas remaining amount was misappropriated by the petitioner-accused by committing fraud of about 87 lakhs, which included payments for earlier crops as well as for Kharif crop. It was also alleged that the petitioner-accused own big properties which had been created with the money belonging to innocent farmers. Further, it was alleged that the petitioner-accused had also committed fraud at Khanna about 30 years ago and a criminal case was registered against him at that time.

Noticing grave and serious allegations against both the petitioner-accused of having misappropriated the money payable to the complainants, the Bench expressed that there was no plausible and satisfactory explanation as to why the petitioner-accused had not made payment to the complainants after receiving the price of crops sold by them to the Government through commission agency. The Bench exclaimed, “The Court cannot lose sight of the fact that hard earned money running into lakhs of rupees belonging to the complaint/farmers has been usurped by the petitioners, who are stated to have created huge properties by use of this money.” While relying on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the State v. Anil Sharma, (1997) 7 SCC 187,  the Bench said, “Custodial interrogation of the petitioners is definitely required to find the necessary details of the criminal acts committed by them and for the purpose of recovery of money. In case custodial interrogation of the petitioners is denied to the investigating agency that would leave many loose ends and gaps in the investigation affecting the investigation being carried out adversely.”

It was held that both the petitioner-accused were liable to pay dues of the farmers, as leniency and misplaced sympathy could not be shown to the petitioner-accused by granting concession of pre-arrest bail to them and ignoring the plight of the farmers, who had worked hard and had put in a lot of efforts in the agricultural operation hoping to get reward by having good crops and then to earn their livelihood by sale of such crops. Therefore, the petition was dismissed and request for pre-arrest bail was rejected. [Darshna Rani v. State of Punjab, 2021 SCC OnLine P&H 189, decided on 25-01-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together