A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India Today set aside the Madras High Court Judgment which quashed multiple Criminal Proceedings against former DMK Rajya Sabha MP Vasanthi Stanley.
The allegation against Mrs. Vasanthi was that she along with her husband took loans from various Banks submitting forged documents. The Chennai police took FIR No. 579/06 on a Complaint from HDFC Bank. Another FIR came to be lodged on 3.8.2006 by Bank of India, from which the couple had availed a loan of Rs.25 lakhs for a Company Development (Medicrops and Medigel) on the grounds that the documents were forged. On 10.7.2006, Vijaya Bank, G.N. Chetty Road Branch filed a complaint that the husband of the accused had applied for a mortgage loan of Rs.18 lakhs with forged documents by depositing the title deed and the wife stood as a surety. The Syndicate Bank, Mylapore Branch filed another complaint with the Commissioner of Police, Chennai on 11.01.2007 to the effect that they had submitted an application for grant of home improvement loan for a sum of Rs.12 lakhs with forged documents and the wife was the guarantor and on that basis another FIR was registered and investigation took place. After due investigation, charge sheets were filed before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Egmore, Chennai and Metropolitan Magistrate, Saidepet, Chennai and the proceedings before the trial court were instituted.
At this stage the Accused moved Madras High Court to quash all the Criminal Proceedings pending before various Courts. During the pendency of the cases, the husband, accused No.1 breathed his last and thereafter before the High Court it was contended that she was not aware of any transaction done by her husband as she was working as a public servant and that apart she was not aware of the business activities carried on by her husband; that she had signed the documents as instructed by her husband without any intention or knowledge to cheat the banks; that after demise of her husband, she had come to know about the cases pending against her due to the alleged involvement of her husband and immediately she had taken necessary steps to settle the entire dues of the banks and, therefore, there was no justification for continuance of the criminal proceedings. The High Court adverted came to hold that as “No due certificate” had been issued by the respective banking institutions and further settlements had been arrived at under the scheme, continuance of the prosecution would be an exercise in futility and, therefore, quashing of the criminal proceedings was required to prevent the abuse of the process of law. Being of this view, the High Court has quashed all the proceedings against Mrs. Vasanti.
But the Supreme Court rejected the contention that she was following the command of her husband and signed the documents without being aware about the transactions entered into by the husband and nature of the business. Justice Dipak Mishra who wrote the Judgment has held as follows;
“The allegation in the chargesheet is that she has signed the pronotes. That apart, as further alleged, she is a co-applicant in two cases and guarantor in other two cases. She was an Assistant Commissioner of Commercial Taxes and after taking voluntary retirement she has joined the public life, and became a member of the ‘Rajya Sabha’. Emphasis is also laid that she is a lady and there is no warrant to continue the criminal proceeding when she has paid the dues of the banks, and if anything further is due that shall be made good. The assertions as regards the ignorance are a mere pretence and sans substance given the facts. Lack of awareness, knowledge or intent is neither to be considered nor accepted in economic offences. The submission assiduously presented on gender leaves us unimpressed. An offence under the criminal law is an offence and it does not depend upon the gender of an accused. True it is, there are certain provisions in CrPC relating to exercise of jurisdiction under Section 437, etc. therein but that altogether pertains to a different sphere. A person committing a murder or getting involved in a financial scam or forgery of documents, cannot claim discharge or acquittal on the ground of her gender as that is neither constitutionally nor statutorily a valid argument. The offence is gender neutral in this case
It is also held that
“A grave criminal offence or serious economic offence or for that matter the offence that has the potentiality to create a dent in the financial health of the institutions, is not to be quashed on the ground that there is delay in trial or the principle that when the matter has been settled it should be quashed to avoid the load on the system. That can never be an acceptable principle or parameter, for that would amount to destroying the stem cells of law and order in many a realm and further strengthen the marrows of the unscrupulous litigations”
Read the Judgment here.