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The Supreme Court Grants Interim Bail to the Petitioner Due to An Anomaly in the Documents Presented

Introduction

The case Sandeep Gupta v. Directorate of Enforcement[i] involves a scenario, marked by serious allegations of admissions fraud at the Himalayan Institute and Hospital Trust (‘HIHT’). After the High Court of Uttarakhand (‘HC’) denied bail due to the gravity of the charges, Sandeep Gupta (‘Petitioner’) appealed to the Hon’ble Supreme Court (‘SC’). The SC’s scrutiny revealed irregularities in the investigation, particularly concerning the filing of charge sheets by the enforcement directorate (‘ED’). Noting discrepancies in the documents, the SC granted interim bail to the Petitioner.

Brief Fact

  • The Petitioner had falsely claimed to be a personal assistant to the vice chancellor of the HIHT actively participating in admissions scams. He had generated significant funds through these criminal activities, which were considered proceeds of crime under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (‘PMLA’). Four FIRs had been filed against him and his co-accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’).

  • The Petitioner had been in judicial custody for offences under s. 3 read with s. 4 of the PMLA and had filed a bail application under s. 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘CrPC’) in the HC.

Findings by the HC.

  • The HC observed that the allegations against the Petitioner were serious and specific, with a defined role assigned to the Petitioner.

  • The bail application was rejected because the HC was of the view that twin conditions under s. 45 of the PMLA were not satisfied and there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the Petitioner was not guilty of such offence.

  • Aggrieved by the order of the HC, the Petitioner filed the current petition in the SC.

Observations of the SC

  • The Petitioner was being investigated for an offense under the PMLA, based on an enforcement case information report (‘ECIR’) from the year 2016 whereas a formal complaint was lodged against the Petitioner on 30.12.2020, in connection with the PMLA. Notably, despite being under investigation, the Petitioner was not arrested by the ED.

  • The Special Court handling the case issued a summons to the Petitioner to appear before it. The Petitioner did not appear as summoned, leading to the issuance of a warrant against him by the Special Court. Following the warrant, the Petitioner voluntarily surrendered and subsequently applied for bail.

  • The SC noted that the Petitioner could have sought cancellation of the warrant without surrendering by giving an undertaking to appear before the special court on the specified dates. It was also noted that the Petitioner had been incarcerated for a period of 1 year and 1 month. Considering these facts the SC grants interim bail to the Petitioner.

  • The SC reviewed the documents annexed to the counter affidavit. The documents, prima facie, created an impression that though a complaint under s. 44(1)(d) of the PMLA Act was filed, and a separate charge sheet was presented by the Assistant Director of the ED to the special public prosecutor, Mr. Goel. This charge sheet was ordered to be registered as a Criminal Miscellaneous Case.

  • The SC noted the need to verify whether cognizance was taken based on the charge sheet. Therefore, directed the registry to obtain the complete record of Criminal Case No. 2 of 2021 to verify if cognizance had been taken based on this charge sheet.

  • The SC granted interim bail to the Petitioner with the condition to appear promptly before the Special Court.

Conclusion

The SC’s directive to obtain the complete record of Criminal Case No. 2 of 2021 aims to ensure transparency and adherence to due process in the ongoing investigation and legal proceedings against the Petitioner. This scrutiny highlights the significance of accurate documentation and procedural integrity in matters involving serious criminal allegations.






End Note

[i] [2024] 162 taxmann.com 287 (SC) dated 26.04.2024.






Authored by Nitish Solanki, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute legal opinion.

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