16 Jan 2010

Bail in economic offences only exceptional: High Court

Taking a serious note of the economic crimes taking place in the country and being firm in its resolve to send a stern message to the offenders, the Delhi High Court in a recent decision has opined against the grant of bail for such offenders. Making the rule of grant of bail in such cases as only an exception, the High Court took due note of the prevailing position in the country as regards these crimes and aptly cited various earlier decisions to this regard. The High Court observed as under;
6. The petitioner is alleged to have cheated a public sector bank of more than Rs.1 crore. Admittedly, nothing has been refunded by the petitioner to the bank despite his coming to know that the cheques, whereby money was transferred to the account of his company were forged documents and a huge sum of money, belonging to the bank, had come to the account of his company. The petitioner, therefore, continues to enjoy the fruits of the crime, alleged to have been committed by him. In State of Gujarat vs. Mohanlal Jitamalji Porwal and Anr. AIR 1987 SC 1321, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, while considering a request of the prosecution for adducing additional evidence, inter alia, observed as under:-
“The entire Community is aggrieved if the economic offenders who ruin the economy of the State are not brought to books. A murder may be committed in the heat of moment upon passions being aroused. An economic offence is committed with cool calculation and deliberate design with an eye on personal profit regardless of the consequence to the Community. A disregard for the interest of the Community can be manifested only at the cost of forfeiting the trust and faith of the Community in the system to administer justice in an even handed manner without fear of criticism from the quarters which view white collar crimes with a permissive eye unmindful of the damage done to the National Economy and National Interest.”
The above referred observations were quoted with approval in Ram Narain Popli vs. CBI, 2003 (3) SCC 641. The Hon’ble Court also observed as under: “Unfortunately in the last few years, the country has seen an alarming rise in white-collar crimes which has affected the fiber of the country’s economic structure. These cases are nothing but private gain at the cost of the public, and lead to economic disaster.” 
In Champakbhai Amirbhai Vasava vs. State of Gujarat, 2001 Crl.L.J. 4475, a judgment relied upon by the learned counsel for CBI, Gujarat High Court, while considering Bail Application in a case involving misappropriation of Rs.6 lakhs by a bank employee, inter alia, observed as under:-

“If the employee of the bank would commit such serious offence then, the customer whose amount has been lying in the bank will not be safe and the amount will not be secured. As per my view, such matters cannot be viewed lightly and, therefore, merely in view of the long detention or that there are no chance of his absconding or about tampering with the evidence are not the only criteria to be borne in mind while considering the bail application but there are other considerations while examining bail application to the effect that if the serious offence is committed by the petitioner which would be adversely affecting the public at large, society at large, discretion cannot be exercised. If such offences are viewed lightly, then, the confidence of the public in the Scheduled Banks will be shakned and, therefore, as per my view, this is not the fit case for exercising the powers under section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the bail application is therefore required to be rejected.”
7. In Lalit Goel vs. Commissioner of Central Excise, 2007 (3) JCC 2282, this Court, while dealing with bail application in a case of Customs Act, observed that the economic offences constitute a class apart and need to be visited with a different approach in the matter of bail. Noticing ever growing materialistic outlook setting unscrupulous elements on a prowl to maximise material gains by unlawful means, this Court even suggested appropriate legislative measure and judicial intervention to safeguard the interest of the State and public at large.

8. In Prem Kumar Parmar vs. State (CBI), 1989 RLR 131:, this Court observed that the offences such as cheating and forgery bring imbalance in the economy of the country, which has the effect of making the life of majority of people, particularly those belonging to economically weaker sections of the society miserable and that such economic offences are worse than murders.
9. It is true that the petitioner has been in custody for more than eight months and the chargesheet has already been filed, but considering the huge amount of public money, being retained by him, his having been in custody for eight months by itself would, in the facts and circumstances of this case, not entitle him to grant of bail at this stage. The economic offences having deep rooted conspiracies and involving huge loss of public funds whether of nationalized banks or of the State and its instrumentalities need to be viewed seriously and considered as grave offences affecting the economy of the country as a whole and thereby posing serious threat to the financial health of our country. Therefore, the persons involved in such offences, particularly those who continue to reap the benefit of the crime committed by them, do not deserve any indulgence and any sympathy to them would not only be entirely misplaced but also against the larger interest of the society. The Court cannot be oblivious to the fact that such offences are preceded by cool, calculated and deliberate design, with an eye on personal gains, and in fact, not all such offences come to the surface. If a person knows that even after misappropriating huge public funds, he can come out on bail after spending a few months in jail, and thereafter, he can continue to enjoy the ill-gotten wealth, obtained by illegal means, that would only encourage many others to commit similar crimes in the belief that even if they have to spend a few months in jail, they can lead a lavish and comfortable life thereafter, utilizing the public funds acquired by them. In fact, not everyone would mind luxurious living for him and his family, even if it comes at the cost of spending a few months in jail. A strong message therefore needs to be sent to these white collared criminals and those who are waiting in the wings, that in the long run, it does not pay to be on the wrong side of law. Unless it is done, we will not be able to check the growing tendency to adopt dubious and illegal means, to get rich overnight so as to be able to enjoy all those luxurious of life, which now are available in abundance, courtesy liberation and globalization of our economy. I do not wish to suggest that the time already spent in jail is not a relevant consideration in the matter of grant of bail or that the economic offenders should not at all be enlarged on bail. Of course, we cannot keep anyone in prison for an unreasonably long period. But, how much period spent in jail would by itself entitle an under trial prisoner to bail, would depend upon the facts of each case, including the amount of public funds involved, the quantum of public funds being retained by him, the circumstances in which the offence was committed and the nature of the defence, if any, taken by him. No hard and fast rule can be laid down in such matters and every case has to be examined in the light of its individual facts and circumstances.
Have a look at the decision.

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