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Not Necessary To Refuse Bail In Every Case Of Economic Offence: Bombay High Court On Granting Relief To Vipul Chitalia In PNB Scam Case

Amisha Shrivastava
18 Aug 2022 1:33 PM GMT
Not Necessary To Refuse Bail In Every Case Of Economic Offence: Bombay High Court On Granting Relief To Vipul Chitalia In PNB Scam Case

The Bombay High Court has made it clear that bail cannot be refused to an accused merely because the offence is in nature of economic offence.

" is not imperative that in every case of economic offences, bail should invariably be refused", the court observed.

Justice Bharati Dangre on August 11 granted bail to Vipul Chitalia, former vice president (banking operations) of Gitanjali Group of Companies and an accused in the multi crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam involving Mehul Choksi, owner of the group.

The court observed, "while considering the Bail Applications, it is not only the gravity of the charges which deserve a consideration, but punishment that could be imposed after trial and continuation is also an important aspect. It contemplate recaliberating the scales of justice".

It added,

"Incarceration of the accused cannot be treated as synonymous with a punishment and assuming that the accused is prima facie guilty for a grave offence, bail cannot be refused in an indirect process of punishing the accused, before he is convicted of the charge framed against him."

Advocate Vijay Aggarwal for the applicant argued that Chitalia deserved to be released on bail in the wake of his long incarceration as there is no end to the investigation in sight. Co-accused Shivraman Nair is already released on bail in the year 2018, and the role attributed to him in the charge-sheet is identical to that of the applicant. Further, the prosecuting agency has not expressed apprehension of the applicant being a flight risk.

Advocate Hiten Venegaonkar for CBI pointed out the seriousness of the accusations against Chitalia and stated that the investigation will be completed soon. Further, Chitalia had fled the country prior to registration of the case. He is also attributed a role of being instrumental in shifting documents and influencing the witnesses.

The court relied on the decision in Sanjay Chandra vs. CBI, involving an economic offence, where the Apex Court held that deprivation of liberty must be considered a punishment.

Observing that Venegaonkar was unable to point out how the role of Vipul Chitalia was distinct from that of co-accused Nair who is already out on bail, the court stated, "I am convinced with the arguments advanced on behalf of the learned counsel for the applicant that the applicant deserve a similar treatment."

The court also relied on several Apex Court judgements including Sanjay Chandra v. CBI, which was related to 2G Spectrum case and emphasised the concept of liberty, speedy trial, presumption of innocence etc. The court in its order stated that it would be improper for any court to refuse bail and keep the accused in custody in definitely considering the long period of incarceration and the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven.

The court noted that the accused had been incarcerated for more than 4 years and deserve to set at liberty, pending the trial for the accusations faced by him.

"...he deserve his release on bail and merely because he is to face a trial in an economic offence, he cannot be robed of his liberty", the court stated.

Case no. - BA/3810/2021

Case title – Vipul Chitalia v. CBI and Anr.

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 296

Coram – Justice Bharati Dangre

Click Here To Read/Download Order

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