The Calcutta High Court while granting bail to a woman facing trial in a multi-core financial scam has observed that human liberty is sacrosanct and that it is invaluable for a human being in any civilized society.

A Division Bench comprising Justice I.P. Mukerji and Justice Biswaroop Chowdhury held, “I think the greater the enormity of the crime, more cautious should the prosecution be to keep the witnesses and the evidence free from interference. In such a situation, more could be the propensity of the accused to interfere with the trial, would be a safe presumption for the court. It would be required to assess the reasonable likelihood of the accused trying to interfere with the potential witnesses or tamper with the evidence so as to save himself. … Human liberty is sacrosanct. … It is invaluable for a human being in any civilized society. … It is granted as a fundamental right under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, read with Article 14 thereof. … There is presumption of innocence of an accused unless proved guilty after a proper trial. … Bail is the rule and jail is the exception.”

The Bench said that the Court considering an application for bail is not to adjudicate upon the commission of the crimes and it is only required to assess the gravity of the offence from an assessment of the fact whether there are reasons to believe that the accused is guilty of the crime and the prima facie case against him, the magnitude of the offence on the charges levelled against him and the sentence he would undergo if those charges were proved.

Senior Advocate Ratnanko Banerjee appeared for the petitioner, Advocate Sandipan Ganguly appeared for the de facto complainant, while PP Saswata Gopal Mukherji appeared for the State.

Brief Facts -

An association of fraudulent persons was formed around 2007 which included the petitioner and her husband. The petitioner, a senior member of the society and belonging to a respectable business family represented the members of her society and also the public at large that if they invested money through Kankaria and the Surana group, they would receive large returns.

In this way, several crores of rupees were received from the public by Kankaria, and part of it was routed to the account of the petitioner. The de facto complainant lodged a complaint petition before the Chief Judicial Magistrate under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure which was treated as a First Inspection Report.

The High Court in the above context noted, “Human liberty is most valuable to every civilized human being. Liberty includes the right and opportunity to free movement without unreasonable restrictions, the freedom to talk, to be talked to, to write, to be written to, to express views, be influenced by expression of views, to work, eat, rest, play, recreate and do activities becoming of a civilized human being, without interference from anybody or unreasonable interference from any state authority.”

The Court further noted that the accusation against the petitioner is of an economic offence and that it relates to the alleged misappropriation of crores of money collected from the public from 2011 onwards.

“The person aggrieved by this alleged misappropriation did not file a complaint till 10 years later in 2020. By 2020 the petitioner would have destroyed whatever evidence it wanted to destroy to absolve her of the crime … Had the complaint been made contemporaneously, it would have carried much more weight than having been made”, said the Court.

The Court also observed that if for more than 12 years, the accused has not absconded, there is little reason to believe pending trial the accused would abscond.

“In any case, the prosecution has not even submitted that a supplementary charge sheet is being made ready. Just a mere submission that more investigation is required, is not enough unless some proof is laid before the court that there are some materials on which further charges can be framed and that the accused is in a position to tamper with that evidence or otherwise interfere with the trial”, held the Court.

Accordingly, the Court granted bail to the accused.

Cause Title- Prabha Sharma v. State of West Bengal

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