Read Order: Asha and others v. State of Punjab and another

LE Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 11, 2022: While dealing with a bail plea wherein the accused (including the present petitioners) allegedly siphoned off a colossal amount from the State Exchequer by creating seven bogus firms, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has granted bail to three accused (petitioners) on the ground that the women petitioners fell within the ambit of Section 439 Cr.P.C. which recognizes that a lenient view may be taken in the matter of grant of bail to the ladies and infirm persons. 

This factor was coupled with the fact that the three petitioners spent eight months in jail for offences having the maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment. 

Before the Bench of Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill, the petitioners were seeking the grant of regular bail in proceedings initiated by Superintendent (Anti-Evasion) CGST, Commissionerate Ludhiana under Section 132 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (‘the Act’) read with Section 20 of the Integrated Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.

The allegations against the accused were to the effect that during the course of the investigation, it was found that Shri Sunil Kumar was running a network of bogus firms and he created seven firms in his own name or in the name of his family members, employees and their family members (including the three petitioners), not only for availing inadmissible input tax credit (ITC) on the strength of fake invoices but also for passing on of fraudulent ITC to buyers on the strength of invoices which were not accompanied with any goods. 

The counsel for the three petitioners argued that all the three petitioners were never aware of what was being done on their behalf and that their signatures were obtained on account of small allurements. Further, the Counsel added that in any case, there was nothing on record to show that the petitioners personally benefited out of the amounts alleged to have been received by them as input tax. 

Also, it was submitted that since the maximum sentence as could be imposed under provisions of Section 132 of the Act was 5 years and the petitioners who already underwent about 8 months of custody, deserved the concession of regular bail, particularly in view of the fact that they were females and Section 439 Cr.P.C. itself recognizes that a lenient view may be taken in the matter of grant of bail to the ladies and infirm persons. 

On the other hand, the counsel representing the second respondent opposed the petition on the ground that it was a case where a colossal amount of Rs. 31,48,04,523/- was siphoned off from the State exchequer by all the accused in connivance with each other and since the petitioners were also attributed a big chunk out of the same, they did not deserve the concession of regular bail. 

After considering the rival submissions, the Court opined, without commenting anything as regards the merits of the case, that keeping in view the fact that all the three petitioners were women and were behind the bars for a substantial period of about 8 months whereas the maximum sentence as may be imposed was 5 years, further detention of the petitioners would not be justified.

Accordingly, the petition, as such, was accepted and the petitioners were ordered to be released on regular bail on their furnishing bail bonds/surety bonds to the satisfaction of the Trial Court/Chief Judicial Magistrate/Duty Magistrate concerned.

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