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Key suspect of PAN Masala scam and GST evasion got anticipatory bail from High Court

Anticipatory Bail (Bail in Advance)

High Court ordered that in the event of the petitioner's arrest or surrender before the police within a month of this order, the petitioner shall be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond of Rs. 10,00,000/- subject to other conditions.

The present application has been filed seeking anticipatory bail in the crime registered under section 132(1)(a)(i) of the GST Act.

Arguments by Petitioner

The petitioner began with the arguments that the only fault of the petitioner is that he is the landlord of the premises where his tenant, who runs a factory, allegedly evaded the tax by clandestine sale of Pan Masala. The petitioner is neither a Partner of his tenant M/s Vishnu Essence nor is concerned with it in any other way. But he has been portrayed as the only responsible person for the alleged crimes committed by his tenant, while no documents have been produced by the department to prove the same.

Arguments by Revenue

In reply, learned Additional Solicitor General submitted that the petitioner is the Director of a Media Company, which publishes a daily newspaper in the name and style of “Dabang Dunia”. Several vehicles incriminated in the clandestine removal/transportation of Pan Masala endorsed the Dabang Duniya press sticker and drivers of these vehicles were carrying Identity Cards of Dabang Dunia as provided to them by the transporter 'Ashoo RoadLines'. Dummy director of M/s Elora tobacco Co. Ltd Mr. Shayam Khemani also had Press ID card of Dabang Dunia. This shows that the petitioner was well involved in the alleged tax evasion. Apart from that, statements of the co-accused persons recorded under Section 70 of G.S.T. Act have also been referred by the learned ASG wherein the authors have disclosed that actually the petitioner is the sole Owner/Proprietor/In-charge of the entire business of M/s Vishnu Essence or Ellora Tobacco Co. Ltd or M/s. AAA Enterprises or M/s Namrata Impacts and so on. He is the kingpin of entire empire of business or trade of all these firms. He had effective control over their factory operations and is the ultimate financial beneficiary in this illicit Pan Masala trade. He is the mastermind or the key accused of the alleged tax evasion, which otherwise runs in crores of rupees. Therefore, he is not entitled for bail.

It is averred that the petitioner is not co-operating the investigation. He was called several times to co-operate, but he did not adhere to the summons issued by the department. Summons sent by speed post received back with a note that 'refused to accept'. Such non-cooperative attitude dis-entitles him for any sympathy of the Court.

Counter Arguments by Petitioner

To counter the argument in respect of statements recorded under Section 70 of the Act, the learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner pointed out that immediately after getting an opportunity, the co-accused persons have retracted their statements, which were otherwise recorded involuntarily under the threat and pressure of the officials of the department, therefore, they cannot be relied upon at this stage. Otherwise also, looking at the provisions of Section 136 of the Act itself, much weight can not be attached to such statements during the life time or availability of the author. 

Another counter arugment by petitioner is that the department has already completed custodial interrogation of Kishore Wadhwani, who is real uncle of the petitioner and is impleaded for the same charge on the basis of the same set of evidence, therefore, no further custodial interrogation of the petitioner as requested by the department is necessary. It is further submitted that the officials of the department have harassed the co-accused persons and have recorded their statements to suit their whims under threat, coercion and duress. The petitioner have all reasonable apprehension that in case of his arrest, he will be treated in the same fashion and may be forced to signed the statements against his wish under the threat and undue pressure of the officials.

It is also stated that when the officers came to petitioner's house, the petitioner or any other male member was not at home and the officials of the department were trying to enter the house forcibly without disclosing their identity. When they were asked to show the same, they misbehaved with the women of the house and hence faced rebuttal from the family. 

Held by High Court

I have carefully gone through the documents produced before the Court as well as the statements recorded under Section 70 of the G.S.T. Act. Elaborate discussion of all this evidence, which is otherwise confidential, would not be appropriate as it may affect the case of either party. But on careful consideration of the evidence on record, I am of the considered opinion that it would be appropriate to allow the petition, therefore, without commenting on merits of the case, the petition is allowed.

Accordingly, the bail application is allowed and it is directed that in the event of the petitioner's arrest or surrender before the police within a month of this order, the petitioner shall be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond of ₹ 10,00,000/- with one solvent surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of Station House Officer of the Police Station concerned. The petitioner would abide by the conditions mentioned in Section 438 (2) Cr.P.C. Further subject to following conditions:-

(i) Petitioner shall co-operate with the investigation and shall appear before the Investigating Officer/Department as and when required. In addition to that he shall appear in the first week of every calender month before the officials of the Department till the filing of the charge-sheet against him and shall co-operate with the investigation till the filing of the charge-sheet against him.

(ii) Petitioner shall submit his passport, if any, before the Trial Court and shall not leave India without prior permission of this Court.

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Aug 19, 2020


By: Sarafraj Solanki | Dt: Aug 21, 2020

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