The Supreme Court has questioned the practice of some subordinate courts remanding the accused to custody when they appear before them (trial court) on being summoned.
Pointing to the practice being taken recourse to by the subordinate courts in some parts of the county, a bench of Justice V Ramasubramanian, and Justice Pankaj Mithal said: “…in some parts of the country, there seems to be a practice followed by Courts to remand the accused to custody, the moment they appear in response to the summoning order.”
Having flagged the practice, the bench said that the “correctness of such a practice” has to be tested in an appropriate case. The judgment was pronounced by Justice Ramasubramanian on March 20, 2023.
The Supreme court said this while allowing appeal by four accused in an alleged fraud case seeking anticipatory bail as they apprehend arrest when they appear before a special CBI Court in pursuance to a summoning order. All the four accused had approached the Supreme court against Allahabad High Court order rejecting their plea for anticipatory bail. The complainant in the case was Corporation Bank.
Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Ramasubramanian said: “We are of the considered view that the appellants are entitled to be released on bail, in the event of the Court choosing to remand them to custody, when they appear in response to the summoning order.”
Directing the release of the four accused in the event of their arrest, the court said that their release would be subject to the such terms and conditions as may be imposed by the special CBI court, including the condition for the surrender of the passport, if any.
The apex court in its judgment noted that an FIR was registered in June 2019 at the instance of the Corporation Bank for various offences, including cheating and criminal conspiracy.
But none of the four accused was ever taken into custody by CBI and it appeared that they had joined the probe and cooperated with the agency.
The CBI filed the final report in the case in December 2021, after which the special court issued a summons to the accused to appear before it on March 7 last year.
Fearing arrest, the appellants moved bail applications in the special court and later in the high court but they did not get relief, the apex court said.
The Supreme Court said that though the CBI counsel has vehemently opposed the bail pleas, there are at least three factors that tilt the balance in favour of the appellants.
One of the factors, the bench said, was the CBI, admittedly, did not require their custodial interrogation during the period of the investigation, that is between the filing of the FIR and the filing of the final report, and therefore it is difficult to accept the contention at this stage that the custody of the appellants may be required.
According to the FIR, a company had secured credit facilities from a consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India, but the account of the firm started showing signs of sickness and was classified as NPA in November 2012 with an outstanding book balance of over Rs 92 crore.
It was alleged the account was classified by the bank as fraudulent in February 2015. And one of the properties mortgaged to the bank, by third-party guarantors, was later found to be involved in litigation and another property was found to have been grossly overvalued.