Read Order: Mahender Kumar v. State of Haryana

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, February 21, 2022: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has denied the grant of bail to the accused-petitioner, who had been working as an Assistant Sales Manager of a company and was charged with the offence of embezzling Rs.1.33 crore by threatening distributors into transferring money in his account. 

 Among many factors, the Bench of Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj also considered the fact that the apprehension of the prosecution about the petitioner absconding from the process of law and about his involvement in the commission of the offence was reasonable, in view of the facts and circumstances of the case . 

To elaborate on the connotation of the term “reasonable”, the Court made reference to the decision of the Supreme Court in Union of India through Narcotics Control Bureau, Lucknow v. Md. Nawaz Khan, (2021) 10 SCC 100, wherein it was stated that the standard prescribed for the grant of bail is ‘reasonable ground to believe’ that the person is not guilty of the offence, and to interpret the terms “reasonable” and “reasonable ground to believe”, the Court referred to its earlier decision. The word “reasonable” was interpreted to have in law the prima facie meaning of reasonable in regard to those circumstances of which the actor, called on to act reasonably, knows or ought to know. 

Here, in this case, the petitioner was in custody since January, 2022 in relation to an FIR registered against him in 2017 for allegedly embezzling an amount of more than Rs. 1.33 crores along with other co-accused, by hacking the password of the system of the complainant Company and transferring the amounts in their own account. Apart from this, they also indulged in pressurizing/ threatening the distributors of the company into making illegal payments to them, failing which the distributorship in their favour was threatened to be cancelled. 

It was the case of the petitioner’s counsel that the petitioner was falsely arraigned as an accused for the reason that the petitioner discontinued his employment with the complainant-Company. He further argued that the allegations in the FIR were general in nature and that the transfer of money into his personal account did not translate into any prima facie involvement of the petitioner in the commission of any offence. Also, the counsel contended that the said amounts deposited in the account of the petitioner were friendly borrowings by the petitioner to construct his house and that no investigation into the same was conducted by the investigating agency even when the FIR was registered in 2017. Lastly, it was submitted that the co-accused was already granted the concession of anticipatory bail. 

The State counsel, on the other hand, argued that the petitioner, in connivance with other officials/employees of the Company, embezzled the amounts due to the Company by forcing the distributors of the Company to pay money. He also cited the statement of one of the distributors saying that a huge sum of money was transferred by him to the petitioner under the threat of cancellation of his distributorship. He also pointed out that other co-accused of the petitioner were absconding and the investigation was yet not complete. Thus, he expressed apprehension of the petitioner absconding after availing of bail.

At the outset, the Court made reference to the decision of the Supreme Court in Ranjit Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh and others, (2013) 16 SCC 797 , to refer to the guiding principles for grant of bail. 

Coming to the factual aspects of the case, the Court observed that the allegation of the petitioner threatening the distributors to make deposits was supported by the victim and that prima facie evidence existed to substantiate that various entries pertaining to large sums of money were reflected in the account of the petitioner. 

It was also observed that it was undisputed that the petitioner remained absconding and was eventually declared as a proclaimed person. Even though the same was in another case, the Court opined that the same did reflect upon the antecedents of the petitioner. Also, the fact that the investigation in the matter was not completed and other co-accused of the petitioner were evading arrest, weighed with the Court.

The Court also opined that being an Assistant Sales Manager, it was incumbent upon the petitioner to work in the best interest of the Company, however, the petitioner allegedly abused the authority vested in him and worked against the interest of the Company that employed him. 

Having considered the submissions and the petitioner’s conduct, the stage of the investigation, the reasonable apprehension of prosecution about the petitioner absconding from the process of law and interfering in the process of law, the brief custody period and the fact that other co-accused of the petitioner are evading arrest, the Court decided not to grant the concession of bail. 

Thus, the petition was dismissed. 

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