P. Chidambram is entitled to bail, says Supreme Court of India

Consideration of documents in sealed cover:

While the learned Judge was empowered to look at the materials produced in a sealed cover to satisfy his judicial conscience, the learned Judge ought not to have recorded finding based on the materials produced in a sealed cover. Further while deciding the same case of the appellant in Crl. Appeal No.1340 of 2019, after holding so, this Court had consciously refrained from opening the sealed cover and perusing the documents lest some observations are made thereon after perusal of the same, which would prejudice the accused pre-trial. In that circumstance though it is held that it would be open for the Court to peruse the documents, it would be against the concept of fair trial if in every case the prosecution presents documents in sealed cover and the findings on the same are recorded as if the offence is committed and the same is treated as having a bearing for denial or grant of bail.

Having said so, in present circumstance we were not very much inclined to open the sealed cover although the materials in sealed cover was received from the respondent. However, since the learned Single Judge of the High Court had perused the documents in sealed cover and arrived at certain conclusion and since that order is under challenge, it had become imperative for us to also open the sealed cover and peruse the contents so as to satisfy ourselves to that extent. On perusal we have taken note that the statements of persons concerned have been recorded and the details collected have been collated. The recording of statements and the collation of material is in the nature of allegation against one of the co-accused Karti Chidambaram- son of appellant of opening shell companies and also purchasing benami properties in the name of relatives at various places in different countries. Except for recording the same, we do not wish to advert to the documents any further since ultimately, these are allegations which would have to be established in the trial wherein the accused/co-accused would have the opportunity of putting forth their case, if any, and an ultimate conclusion would be reached. Hence in our opinion, the finding recorded by the learned Judge of the High Court based on the material in sealed cover is not justified.

Grant of Bail:

Continue reading “P. Chidambram is entitled to bail, says Supreme Court of India”

Terrorism is a crime against humanity.

Terrorism in India:

The country has been in the firm grip of spiralling terrorist violence and is caught between deadly pangs of disruptive activities. Apart from many skirmishes in various parts of the country, there were countless serious and horrendous events engulfing many cities with blood bath, firing, looting, mad killing even without sparing women and children and reducing those areas into a graveyard, which brutal atrocities have rocked and shocked the whole nation. Deplorably determined youth, lured by hard-core criminals and underground extremists and attracted by the ideology of terrorism are indulging in committing serious crimes against the humanity.

[Source: Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, (1994) 3 SCC 569]

Terrorism is an evil affecting the life and liberty of peace loving people. Terrorism has no barriers, it may strike anybody anytime, any amount of precautionary measures and security arrangements may prove futile to combat terrorism. Fundamental rights to individual liberty is certainly valuable. But when it is pitted against the life and liberty of the people at large, it becomes insignificant. Terrorism effects the growth of the nation. The resources of the nation have to be utilized to combat terrorism: it could be utilized in better ways for the betterment of the people. Offences against individuals are to be distinguished from offences affecting nation and people at large. Parameters to be adopted in the matter of considering the pleas of bail would also be different in these cases. A strict approach in the latter category of cases is justified. Sympathy has no rule in dealing with such cases. Continue reading “Terrorism is a crime against humanity.”

Ex Finance Minister Chidambram is not entitled to bail.

The background of P. Chidambram:

P.Chidambram is a Senior Advocate practicing in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India with 49 years of standing at the Bar, of which 35 years as a Senior Advocate. Currently, he is Member of Parliament (RS). He was formerly Union Minister of Finance (1996-1998, 2004-2008 and 2012-2014) and Union Minister of Home Affairs (2008-2012). He is a member of the Indian National Congress, which is the principal Opposition Party in Parliament, and has been in public life for over 40years. The Petitioner is also a senior Spokesperson of the Congress Party as well as a prominent and widely-read columnist.

The allegations against P. Chidmbram:

It is alleged that during the period from 15.11.2016 to 19.11.2016 huge cash to the tune of Rs. 31.75 crores was deposited in eight bank accounts in Kotak Mahindra Bank in the accounts of “group of companies”. The statements recorded during investigation have evidentiary value under Section 50 PMLA. Prima facie, the version given by them is in consonance with the prosecution case.

The stated activity allegedly indulged into by the accused named in the commission of predicate offence is replete with mens rea. In that, the concealment,possession, acquisition or use of the property by projecting or claiming it as untainted property and converting the same by bank drafts, would certainly come within the sweep of criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence. That would come within the meaning of Section 3 and punishable under Section 4 of the Act. Continue reading “Ex Finance Minister Chidambram is not entitled to bail.”

Anticipatory bail in allegations of money laundering by ex Minister, P. Chidambaram

Money-laundering is the process of concealing illicit sources of money and the launderer transforming the money proceeds derived from criminal activity into funds and moved to other institution or transformed into legitimate asset.

It is realised world around that money laundering poses a serious threat not only to the financial systems of the countries but also to their integrity and sovereignty. The Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 was enacted in pursuance of the Political Declaration adopted by the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in June 1998, calling upon the Member States to adopt national money-laundering legislation and programme, primarily with a view to meet out the serious threat posed by money laundering to the financial system of the countries and to their integrity and sovereignty.

The predicate offences are under Sections 120B IPC and 420 IPC, Section 8 and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act. Case is registered against the appellant and others under Sections 3 and 4 of PMLA. The main point falling for consideration is whether the appellant is entitled to the privilege of anticipatory bail.

Decision of Supreme Court:

Continue reading “Anticipatory bail in allegations of money laundering by ex Minister, P. Chidambaram”

Power of Court to release on personal bond.

Can an accused seek to be released on personal bail bond without an application to be released on bail?

Section 88 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is as under:

88. Power to take bond for appearance. When any person for whose appearance or arrest the officer presiding in any Court is empowered to issue a summons or warrant, is present in such Court, such officer may require such person to execute a bond, with or without sureties, for his appearance in such Court, or any other Court to which the case may be transferred for trial.

‘May’ if mandatory or confers discretion on the court?

Continue reading “Power of Court to release on personal bond.”

Restrictions on grant of bail under PMLA if valid

Section 45 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act is unconstitutional.

Section 45 of the 2002 Act, which was brought into force in 2005, originally read as follows:

“45. Offences to be cognizable and non- bailable.-

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974),-

(a) every offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable;

(b) no person accused of an offence punishable for a term of imprisonment of more than three years under Part A of the Schedule shall be released on bail or on his own bond unless-

(i) the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the application for such release; and

(ii) where the Public Prosecutor opposes the application, the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offence and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail:

Provided that a person, who, is under the age of sixteen years, or is a woman or is sick or infirm, may be released on bail, if the Special Court so directs:

Provided further that the Special Court shall not take cognizance of any offence punishable under section 4 except upon a complaint in writing made by- (i) the Director; or (ii) any officer of the Central Government or a State Government authorised in writing in this behalf by the Central Government by a general or special order made in this behalf by that Government.

(2) The limitation on granting of bail specified in clause (b) of sub-section (1) is in addition to the limitations under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or any other law for the time being in force on granting of bail.”

The change made by Section 45 is that, for the purpose of grant of bail, what was now to be looked at was offences that were punishable for a term of imprisonment of three years or more under Part A of the Schedule, and not offences under the 2002 Act itself. At this stage, Part A of the Schedule contained two paragraphs – Para 1 containing Sections 121 and 121A of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the Government of India, and conspiracy to commit such offences. Paragraph 2 dealt with offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Part B of the Schedule, as originally enacted, referred to certain offences of a heinous nature under the Indian Penal Code, which included murder, extortion, kidnapping, forgery and counterfeiting. Paragraphs 2 to 5 of Part B dealt with certain offences under the Arms Act 1959, Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. When the Act was originally enacted, it was, thus, clear that the twin conditions applicable under Section 45(1) would only be in cases involving waging of war against the Government of India and offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Even the most heinous offences under the Indian Penal Code were contained only in Part B, so that if bail were asked for such offences, the twin conditions imposed by Section 45(1) would not apply. Incidentally, one of the reasons for classifying offences in Part A and Part B of the Schedule was that offences specified under Part B would get attracted only if the total value involved in such offences was Rs.30 lakhs or more (under Section 2(y) of the Act as it read then). Thereafter, the Act has been amended several times. The amendment made in 2005 in Section 45(1) was innocuous and is not an amendment with which we are directly concerned. The 2009 Amendment further populated Parts A and B of the Schedule. In Part A, offences under Sections 489 A and B of the Indian Penal Code, relating to counterfeiting were added and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which dealt with terrorist activities, were added. In Part B, several other offences were added from the Indian Penal Code, as were offences under the Explosives Act 1884, Antiquities and Arts Treasures Act 1972, Securities and Exchange Board of India Act 1992, Customs Act 1962, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, Emigration Act 1983, Passports Act 1967, Foreigners Act 1946, Copyright Act 1957, Trademarks Act 1999, Information Technology Act 2000, Biological Diversity Act 2002, Protection of Plant and Farmers Rights Act 2001, Environmental Protection Act 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act) 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act) 1981 and Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms of Continental Shelf Act, 2002.

By the Amendment Act of 2012, which is Act 2 of 2013, a very important amendment was made to the Schedule by which the entire Part B offences were transplanted into Part A.

Unreasonable classification

The classification of three years or more of offences contained in Part A of the Schedule must have a reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved under the 2002 Act. Continue reading “Restrictions on grant of bail under PMLA if valid”

Bail under Prevention of Money Laundering Act

Conditions for bail under PMLA

Section 45 of PMLA is as under:

45. Offences to be cognizable and non­bailable.—(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), no person accused of an offence punishable for a term of imprisonment of more than three years under Part A of the Schedule shall be released on bail or on his own bond unless­

(i) the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the application for such release; and

(ii) where the Public Prosecutor opposes the application, the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offence and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail:

Provided that a person who is under the age of sixteen years or is a woman or is sick or infirm, may be released on bail, if the Special Court so directs:

Provided further that the Special Court shall not take cognizance of any offence punishable under section 4 except upon a complaint in writing made by—

(i) the Director; or

(ii) any officer of the Central Government or a State Government authorised in writing in this behalf by the Central Government by a general or a special order made in this behalf by that Government.

(1A) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), or any other provision of this Act, no police officer shall investigate into an offence under this Act unless specifically authorised, by the Central Government by a general or special order, and, subject to such conditions as may be prescribed.

(2) The limitation on granting of bail specified in sub­section (1) is in addition to the limitations under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or any other law for the time being in force on granting of bail.”

Provision if binding on High Court

Continue reading “Bail under Prevention of Money Laundering Act”

Grant of bail to an accused.

Liberty and community

Liberty of a citizen is undoubtedly important but this is to balance with the security of the community. A balance is required to be maintained between the personal liberty of the accused and the investigational rights of the agency. It must result in minimum interference with the personal liberty of the accused and the right of the agency to investigate the case.

Considerations for grant of bail

The law in regard to grant or refusal of bail is very well settled. The court granting bail should exercise its discretion in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course. Continue reading “Grant of bail to an accused.”

Bail in a Rape case

Rape case is generally presumed to be the case in which bail can not be granted at all. Matter gets worse when Courts make general observations about conditions and plight of women and proceed to refuse bail without referring to the facts of the case.

Conduct of complainant:

In one such case FIR was recorded in 2001, in which no allegation of rape was made and a case of misbehaviour u/s 506(2) was registered. No action was taken by complainant for a nearly a decade when she applied the court to add the charge of rape which was finally allowed in 2013.

Delay in addition of charge of rape:

Continue reading “Bail in a Rape case”

Negotiable instruments: Dishonour of cheque trial directions by Supreme Court

Dishonour of Cheques: directions for expeditious trial of cases.

Delay in cases for dishonour of cheques:

Background for direction:
An Association 174 banks/financial institutions as its members, which functions as think tank for banks in the matters of concern for the whole banking industry, raised issue of considerable national importance owing to the reason that in the era of globalization and rapid  technological developments, financial trust and commercial interest have to be restored. According to them the banking industry has been put to a considerable disadvantage due to the  delay in disposing of the cases relating to Negotiable Instruments Act. The Petitioner banks being custodian of public funds find it difficult to expeditiously recover huge amount of public fund which are blocked in cases pending under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. Petitioners submitted that, in spite of the fact, Chapter XIV has been introduced in the Negotiable Instruments Act by Section 4 of the Banking, Public Financial Institutions and Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act, 1988, to enhance the acceptability of cheques in settlement of liability by making the drawer liable for penalties 2014 in case of bouncing of cheques due to insufficiency of funds, the desired object of the Amendment Act has not been achieved.
Cheque, though acknowledged as a bill of exchange under the Negotiable Instruments Act and readily
accepted in lieu of payment of money and is negotiable, the fact remains that the cheque as a negotiable
instrument started losing its credibility by not being honoured on presentation.

Directions by Supreme Court about trial:

(1) Metropolitan Magistrate/Judicial Magistrate (MM/JM), on the day when the complaint under Section 138 of the Act is presented, shall scrutinize the complaint and, if the complaint is accompanied by the affidavit, and the affidavit and the documents, if any, are found to be in order, take cognizance and direct issuance of summons.

(2) MM/JM should adopt a pragmatic and realistic approach while issuing summons. Summons must be properly addressed and sent by post as well as by e-mail address got from the complainant. Court, in appropriate cases, may take the assistance of the police or the nearby Court to serve notice to the accused. For notice of appearance, a short date be fixed. If the summons is received back un-served, immediate follow up action be taken.

(3) Court may indicate in the summon that if the accused makes an application for compounding of offences at the first hearing of the case and, if such an application is made, Court may pass appropriate orders at the earliest.

(4) Court should direct the accused, when he appears to furnish a bail bond, to ensure his appearance during trial and ask him to take notice under Section 251Cr.P.C. to enable him to enter his plea of defence and fix the case for defence evidence, unless an application is made by the accused under Section 145(2) for re- calling a witness for cross-examination.

(5) The Court concerned must ensure that examination-in-chief, cross- examination and re-examination of the complainant must be conducted within three months of assigning the case. The Court has option of accepting affidavits of the witnesses, instead of examining them in Court. Witnesses to the complaint and accused must be available for
cross-examination as and when there is direction to this effect by the Court.

[Source: Indian Bank Association vs. Union of India (Supreme Court of India)]