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2017 (2) TMI 287 - SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

2017 (2) TMI 287 - SUPREME COURT OF INDIA - TMI - Grant of bail - detention in custody of under-trial prisoners - “Chit Fund Scam” involving the Saradha Group of Companies - Held that:- Having regard to the materials available, we are of the opinion, mainly in the face of the disclosures in the latest status report, that presently further confinement of the appellant in judicial custody is not an indispensable necessity for the unhindered investigation, that is in progress. - In the above vi .....

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hout the written permission of the Trial Court and without informing the investigating agency. - 3) She would report before the Trial Court and the investigating officer once a month, till the investigation in the case is completed in full. - 4) She would not in any way hinder or try to influence the investigation in any manner whatsoever and would not endeavor to either tamper with any evidence or induce/influence/dissuade/intimidate any witness or deal with any record relevant to the c .....

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non compliance would be viewed very seriously and would visit the appellant with stringent adverse consequences as contemplated in law. The Trial Court as well as the Investigating Agency are directed to keep continuous vigil in the matter so as to, if need be, bring to the notice of this Court any conduct or action of the appellant warranting recall of this order. - Criminal Appeal No. 240 OF 2017, (Arising Out of S.L.P (Criminal) No.7899 of 2016 ) - Dated:- 6-2-2017 - ARUN MISHRA AND AMITAVA R .....

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g further investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (hereafter also referred as the CBI ) into the said Ponzi scheme. 3. We have heard Mr. A. Sharan, learned senior counsel for the appellant and Mr. K. Raghavacharyulu, Special Public Prosecutor for the respondent. 4. As the preface to this investigation had been laid by this Court in its verdict in Subroto Chattoraj vs. Union of India & Ors. (2014) 8 SCC 768, allusion thereto is indispensable. This Court therein was seized with th .....

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s and returns, which was never intended and thereby swindle the gullible members of the public belonging to the middle class, lower middle class and the poorer sections of the society. The interim report(s), taken note of by this Court, amongst others disclosed violation of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, The Companies Act, 1956, The Reserve Bank of India, 1934 and The Income Tax Act, 1961 and revealed as well fraudulent certification, non-compliance with accounting standar .....

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e Regulators like SEBI, Authorities under the Companies Act and the Reserve Bank of India. It was recorded that the scam had spread its roots in the States of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Odisha and had by then devoured ₹ 10,000 crores approximately from the public in general specially the weaker sections of the society, having fallen prey to the temptations of handsome returns, extended by the companies involved. That the collection of such huge amounts from the depositors was neither .....

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unearth the larger conspiracy angle and the money trail which had since remained unexplored. 5. Pursuant to the above decision, FIR in RC-04/S-2014-(SIT) Kolkata was registered by the CBI, Special Crime Branch, SIT, Kolkata. In course of the investigation that followed, charge-sheets have been submitted on 17.11.2014, 18.02.2015, 17.04.2015, 14.08.2015 and 3.12.2015 under Sections 120B, 420, 409 IPC and Sections 4 & 6 of the Prize Chits and Money Circulation (Banning) Act, 1978 against vario .....

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ant having complained of chest pain and attendant complications, and on medical advice was shifted to Government Hospital, S.S.K.M. Hospital, Kolkata and since then, for various ailments, as conveyed by her, she had remained in different hospitals from time to time as on date. 7. Eventually the 5th supplementary charge-sheet under the aforementioned Sections of law has also been laid against the appellant, Sudipta Sen and Santanu Gosh and M/s Global Automobiles Ltd. on 4.1.2016. As the forwardin .....

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id not pay to the tune of ₹ 569,26,28,095/- , thus defrauding them. 8. The charge-sheet so far as is relevant for the present adjudication disclose in substance that Sudipta Sen with a motive of expanding the illegal deposit collection business of Shardha Group acquired T.V. Channels and Newspapers and entered into several business deals in furtherance thereof. In the process, the appellant, who claims to be a Journalist and at the relevant time was not only associated with the Media but h .....

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M/s GNN India Limited to M/s Bengal Media Private Limited at a consideration of ₹ 50 crores, in return whereof , she was to be appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the latter company and further to be entitled to a remuneration of ₹ 15 lakhs per month. An agreement between the parties followed on 21.6.2010, substantially in the same lines with the elaboration that M/s GNN Indian Private Limited would issue fresh shares to M/s Bengal Media Private Limited valued at ₹ 30 c .....

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int of time M/s Bengal was a loss making company and was thus not in a position to discharge such heavy monetary financial liability and thus the whole transaction was a dubious and counterfeit deal only to launder the ill-gotten deposits with ulterior motive. 9. That during 2009-2010, M/s GNN India (P) Limited had almost no business activity and that it had been recording loss during the financial year 2010-2013, was also noted. The charge-sheet further discloses that the balance sheet of M/s. .....

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by the emails exchanged by her. The charge-sheet further divulges that the liasion between Sudipta Sen and the appellant was with a view to use the latter's connection to negotiate the enquiry contemplated against illegal deposit business and also to utilise her influence in the media to counter any negative publicity against the illegal business activity of Saradha Group and that the appellant actively associated herself in such activities and criminally misappropriated the ill-gotten fund .....

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ed as well in the charge-sheet. This, the CBI has in specific terms recorded on the basis of the investigation that Santanu Ghosh had indulged in such transactions being fully aware of the illegal deposit collection business of the Saradha Group. The supplementary charge-sheet mentions, to reiterate that further investigation is continuing as per Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, hereinafter to be referred to as Code ) in respect of influential accused persons, r .....

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l backdrop, however, in the interregnum, Sudipta Sen had been granted bail as the CBI had failed to file charge-sheet within 90 days of his arrest. Subsequent thereto, several other persons arrested have also been released on bail. The High Court has also granted bail to Santanu Ghosh, who was also arrested on 07.10.2015, in connection with the above case. 12. It has been insistently urged on behalf of the appellant that as she is in judicial custody for over 15 months and is suffering from vari .....

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n the face of innumerable witnesses cited, her further detention would be travesty of justice. Mr. Sharan has urged that MOU dated 9.6.2010 and the agreement dated 21.06.2010, referred to in the charge-sheet demonstrate transactions which are purely of civil nature and in no way furnish the ingredients of any criminal offence whatsoever. According to the learned senior counsel for the appellant, not only the evidence collected in course of the investigation does not make out any offence as alleg .....

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rs, release of the appellant at this stage would be inexpedient. In controversion, it has been asserted that the MOU and the agreement mentioned in the charge-sheet, in the facts of the case are only a front to indulge in criminal activities as divulged in the investigation. While emphasizing that the appellant since her arrest has managed to remain housed in hospitals, by feigning ailments, without suffering any incarceration in the real sense, it has been asserted that lastly, she has also giv .....

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a consideration of all relevant aspects. 14. We have closely analyzed the competing contentions and have perused as well the pleadings and documents presently available on records. In course of the arguments, having noticed the emphasis on the ongoing investigation as a factor against grant of bail, we had required the learned counsel for the CBI to furnish a status report with regard thereto disclosing the updates, for a fair decision. 15. Accordingly, a status report had been laid before us in .....

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ose, in our comprehension, too general in nature. For obvious reasons, we refrain from dilating further on the contents of the said report. 16. The recorded facts demonstrate admittedly that the appellant is continuously in judicial custody since 07.10.2015 and that the supplementary charge-sheet against her along with others as mentioned therein, had been filed on 04.01.2016 incorporating the evidence collected against those incriminated. Having regard to the magnitude and canvass of the invest .....

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earned counsel for the respondent. Though it is the plea of the respondent that the appellant at times adopts a disposition to avoid interrogation by the CBI, no convincing material has been brought on record to demonstrate any misuse of her liberty qua the investigation while in the hospitals since her arrest. As per the medical records, her ailments range from ischemic heart disease to asthma, unstable angina, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, constant nausea and lower back pain. 17. This Court .....

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duly tried and found guilty. It was underlined that the object of bail is neither punitive nor preventive. This Court sounded a caveat that any imprisonment before conviction has a substantial punitive content and it would be improper for any court to refuse bail as a mark of disapproval of a conduct whether an accused has been convicted for it or not or to refuse bail to an unconvicted person for the purpose of giving him a taste of imprisonment as a lesson. It was enunciated that since the ju .....

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ed to a large extent by the facts and circumstances of each particular case. That detention in custody of under-trial prisoners for an indefinite period would amount to violation of Article 21 of the Constitution was highlighted. 18. In the above factual premise and on an in-depth balancing of all relevant aspects and chiefly the competitive imperatives of investigation and the right to liberty, we are disposed, for the present to grant bail to the appellant, subject to the conditions, as enumer .....

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