–Report by Hans Rathi
The High Court of Delhi recently held in the case of TARUN DUTT versus GOVERNMENT OF NCT, DELHI that undertrial prisoners cannot be detained in custody for an indefinite period. It stated that an undertrial accused cannot be made to spend the entire period of trial in custody especially when the trial is likely to take considerable time. The court reasoned that once the majority of the co-accused are out on Bail it cannot be argued that it is only the accused person against whom there is an apprehension that he will tamper with the evidence and influence the witnesses. The Hon’ble Mr Justice Amit Mahajan presided over the case.
An FIR was registered on a complaint of Shri Matadeen Gora, who alleged to have been dishonestly induced on the pretext of receiving the insurance policy bonus amount and the insurance gratuity value on the lapsed insurance policies from the year 2013 till date. He claimed that a group of people had called him from different mobile numbers claiming to be senior officials from the insurance regulatory body. They induced him by stating that the unclaimed insurance amount can be released to the complainant. On the allurement, he deposited a sum of ₹ 80 lakhs and another sum of ₹ 39 lakhs at different times. The chargesheet has already been filed in the present case. It was found that most of the money was transferred to the accounts of accused persons including one main accused herein. In a disclosure statement made by one of the accused, the present applicant was arrested on 14.01.2021. The applicant had joined the other accused persons – Arvind and Sunil, as partners in a fake insurance bonus scam and has cheated innocent victims/persons on the pretext of receiving a huge insurance policy bonus. The applicant is alleged to be the main caller who induced the complainant and impersonated himself as Senior Director of Income Tax and MCA. The co-accused Sunil was admitted on bail by an order dated 30.05.2022 passed by the learned ASJ and the co-accused Arvind was granted bail by this Court by order dated 28.02.2022, whereas one co-accused person Ratnesh Chauhan is stated to be released on interim bail granted by the learned ASJ by order dated 28.04.2022. The present appeal is filed by the main accused still in custody under Section 439, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (“Cr.P.C.”), seeking regular bail in FIR No. 0012/2021 dated 08.01.2021 registered at Vasant Kunj.
Learned senior counsel for the applicant argued that the applicant was in the employment of the main accused and has been falsely implicated in the case. 13. He further submits that all the other four co-accused have been already enlarged on bail and despite that the applicant is languishing in jail and his application for grant of bail was dismissed by the Trial Court on an erroneous presumption that the applicant is likely to tinker with the ongoing investigation. In the present case, even though the FIR was registered way back in January 2021 and the chargesheet was filed long back, still even as per the prosecution there is a major part of the investigation which is still in progress. Therefore, the trial is not likely to proceed and will take a long period of time before it gets over. The Applicant is in custody for almost 2 years and has a family to look after, including a six-year-old daughter and an eleven months old son. 15. He further submits that when all the main accused persons have already been enlarged on bail, no purpose would be served by keeping the applicant in further incarceration and he is also entitled to bail on the ground of parity.
Learned Assistant Public Prosecutor for the State opposes the bail application and submits that the gravity of the offense and the manner in which the accused persons are found to have cheated the complainant, disentitles the Applicant of any discretion.
The court in the present case held that undertrial prisoners cannot be detained in custody for an indefinite period. The speedy trial in the present case does not seem a possibility. Keeping the applicant in further incarceration would cause deprivation of his right to legal defence. It further reasoned that once the majority of the co-accused are out on Bail it cannot be argued that it is only the applicant against whom there is an apprehension that he will tamper with the evidence and influence the witnesses. Therefore, the court directed the appellant to be released on bail on furnishing a bail bond for a sum of ₹50,000 with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of the learned Trial Court / Duty Metropolitan Magistrate, subject to some terms and conditions.