Read Order:Ashok Kumari @ Sadhana v. State of Punjab

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, May 06,2022:While dealing with a bail plea wherein the petitioner and her husband were in custody since July 27, 2021, for allegedly committing the offence of cheating and criminal misappropriation, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has granted the relief of bail to the petitioner on the strength of the provisions of Section 437(6) Cr.P.C., which provides that bail should be granted, where the trial is not concluded within a period of 60 days after the first date fixed for the prosecution evidence. 

The Bench of Justice Jasjit Singh Bedi held, “A perusal of the Zimni orders attached with the petition would show that the trial is not proceeding speedily. Even otherwise, in terms of the provisions of Section 437(6) Cr.P.C., bail ought to be granted, where the trial is not concluded within a period of 60 days after the first date fixed for the prosecution evidence.”

The Court also considered the fact that the petitioner, a lady, was a mother of two minor children who were residing with their maternal aunt ever since the arrest of their parents. 

The present petition was filed under Section 439 Cr.P.C. for the grant of regular bail to the petitioner in an FIR registered under Sections 420, 409, 120-B IPC. 

Essentially, in this case, the aforesaid FIR alleged that both Ashok Kumari @ Sadhana and her husband, were agents of the Post Office and after opening the RD, FDR of people, they used to deposit the money. The allegation against them was that they cheated the informants of the sum of Rs.12,53,000/-. During the investigation, it was found that the accused also cheated different persons to the tune of Rs.1,01,32,600/-. Thus, an offence was made out under Sections 420, 409 and 120-B IPC. 

The case of the petitioner’s counsel was that the challan in the present case was presented on October 25, 2021, and the charges under Sections 420, 409 and 120-B IPC were framed on December 13, 2021, and the first date fixed for the prosecution evidence was on December 22, 2021. It was further submitted that there were a total of 55 witnesses to be examined by the prosecution though only 05 witnesses have been examined so far.

Thus, in this light, the Counsel argued that as per the provisions of Section 437(6) Cr.P.C. if the trial in a case triable by the Court of a Magistrate was not concluded within a period of 60 days from the first date fixed for recording of prosecution evidence, then, the accused person who was in custody ought to be granted the concession of regular bail. 

Also, it was the case of the Counsel that it was unbelievable that the various account holders were for the last 4-5 years depositing the money with the accused but never chose to approach the Post Office in order to verify the fact of the deposit of the money on their behalf by the petitioner and the co-accused. It was further contended that no recovery was effected from either of the accused and thus, keeping in view the period of custody already undergone by the petitioner and the fact that she is a mother of two minor children, she deserved the concession of regular bail. 

On the other hand, the State counsel contended that during the investigation, it was found that the accused cheated a number of persons to the tune of Rs.1,01,32,600/- and the magnitude of the scam did not entitle the petitioner to the grant of regular bail. There was also a likelihood of the accused pressurizing the prosecution witnesses.

The Court observed at the very outset, from a perusal of the Zimni orders, that the trial was not proceeding speedily. Even otherwise, the Court added that in terms of the provisions of Section 437(6) Cr.P.C., bail ought to be granted, where the trial is not concluded within a period of 60 days after the first date fixed for the prosecution evidence. 

Additionally, the Court observed that the petitioner was a mother of two minor children one of the age of 11 years and the second of the age of 8 years and that the two minor children are residing with their maternal aunt as the petitioner and her husband were in custody since July 27, 2021. 

In view of the above, the present petition was allowed and the petitioner-Ashok Kumari @ Sadhana was ordered to be released on bail subject to her furnishing bail bonds and surety bonds to the satisfaction of CJM/Duty Magistrate, concerned. 

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