A special bench of the Bombay High Court on Saturday stayed the bail granted to former MD and CEO of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Financial Services Ltd (IFIN) Ramesh Bawa and former Vice Chairman Hari Sankaran, observing that they have been accused of offences punishable with more than 7 years, making them ineligible to be released on parole.
Justice AK Menon noted that the said case does not fall under the category of "extremely urgent matter" which is what the Chief Justice of the High Court has mandated special benches to hear during this lockdown period.
Both the applicants Bawa and Sankaran are accused under Section 447 of the Companies Act, which is cognizable and non-bailable, the offence attracts imprisonment upto 10 years and not less than 6 months.
Following the Supreme Court's directions on March 23, the State of Maharashtra constituted a High Powered Committee on March 24 chaired by the Chairman of the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority. In a meeting on March 25, guidelines for release of the prisoners were framed by the Committee. The Committee directed prisoners (both undertrial and convicts) who are accused of offences punishable with 7 years or less, shall be released on temporary bail or parole.
On Friday, a lockdown court granted temporary bail (75 days) to the applicants on health grounds, on a personal bond of 30,000 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Judge PR Sitre granted bail after perusing their medical records asking them to surrender once the bail term was over and to deposit their passport with the investigating officer.
Applicants were arrested by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in April 2019 in connection with IL&FS case for alleged irregularities.
While Bawa is 66 years old, Sankaran is 58 and both filed separate applications before a special court last week seeking bail on grounds of "ill-health and old age."
Judge Sitre had noted-
"On perusal of document on record, it appears that the applicants are suffering from various diseases and are also of old age. Considering the prevailing situations of COVID 19 in the country and the stage of investigation, temporary bail is allowed."
According to the Serious Fraud Investigations Office (SFIO), IFIN granted loans to external parties, many of whom defaulted. The IFIN management adopted "fraudulent practices" in order to prevent these loans from being classified as non-performing assets, violating RBI guidelines, SFIO's complaint states.