The Bombay High Court emphasized the gravity of arrest, stating that it cannot be executed routinely based solely on allegations of an offense.

Petitioner’s ordeal began when he appeared before the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) office in connection with a 2021 case against his company for alleged CGST Act violations. He was detained overnight at the office before being formally arrested next day.

A Division Bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere and Justice Manjusha Deshpande granted interim bail to the petitioner who was arrested in March by tax officers after being detained overnight. The Court said, “We deprecate the practice of keeping a person overnight under the guise of recording of his statement, irrespective of whether the person volunteered or not. Arrest is a serious matter and cannot be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence, inasmuch as, an arrest can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self esteem of a person.”

The Court expressed disapproval of the practice of detaining individuals overnight under the pretext of recording their statement, regardless of whether the individual volunteered or not. It stressed that arrest is a serious matter and can significantly harm an individual's reputation and self-esteem.

Senior Advocate Abad Ponda appeared for the petitioner and Additional Solicitor General Devang Vyas appeared for the Respondents.

Petitioner’s counsel argued that there was an unjustified delay in producing petitioner before a magistrate, which the CGST officer failed to explain.

In response, the tax authorities explained that some of the delay was due to the time taken to print copies of relevant GST returns related to the case, which took around four hours.

The Court found no valid reason for the tax authorities to detain petitioner overnight, especially if they did not have the necessary documents to question him. It suggested that if the officers lacked the documents, they could have rescheduled petitioner's questioning for another day instead of detaining him overnight. The Court said, “The time span mentioned by the respondent Nos. 1 to 3 for generating the GST returns and getting the Dowment Identification Number (DIN), prima facie appears to be an eye wash and appears to have been done to show, that the petitioner was produced within 24 hours. As admitted in the affidavit, the process of generating the relevant GST returns took around 3 to 4 hours, process of verification took 3 to 4 hours and the generation of arrest memo along with DIN took another 4 hours. Prima facie, we do not find, in the facts, that there was any reason for the respondent No. 2 to keep the petitioner overnight, when he came on 13th March 2023, more particularly, if the respondent No. 2 did not have documents to question the petitioner.”

Consequently, the Court granted interim bail for six weeks upon payment of ₹25,000 and scheduled further hearing of the petition for June 24, 2024.

Cause Title: Mahesh Gala v. Union of India & Ors., [2024:BHC-AS:21963]


Petitioner: Senior Advocate Abad Ponda with Advocates Hrishikesh Mundargi, Komal Joshi, Pushkraj Deshpande, Piyush Pandhare and Rohan Marathe i/b ALMT Legal

Respondents: ASG Devang Vyas, with Advocates Jitendra B. Mishra, Shilong Shah, Satyaprakash Sharma, Ashutosh Mishra and Rupesh Dubey for the Respondent Nos.1 to 3 Advocate P. P. Shinde, A.P.P for the Respondent No. 4

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