The Meghalaya High Court dismissed the bail application of the Director of a coke plant who was allegedly involved in illegal mining activity in the state’s West Khasi Hills District.

The Bench of Justice W. Diengdoh observed that given the gravity of the alleged offence, “the custody of the accused person in question is justified for which the IO should be given ample opportunity to complete his investigation, albeit within the mandatory period as prescribed by law since enlarging of the accused person at this point of time may cause hindrances to the process of investigation”.

While observing so, the Bench relied upon the decision of Sunil Bharti Mittal v. Central Bureau of Investigation [(2015) 4 SCC 609, paras 42, 43 and 44] where the Supreme Court had held that an individual who perpetrated the commission of an offence on behalf of a company could be accused, along with the company if there was sufficient evidence of his active role coupled with criminal intent and stated that, “At this point of time, only prima facie evidence is required to allow the IO to take necessary steps, even to the point of the arrest of the alleged offender and as such, it would be a matter of evidence at the trial to prove this aspect of the matter”, added the Bench.

Senior Advocate K.T.S. Tulsi appeared for the Petitioner, whereas AAG N.D. Chullai appeared for the Respondent.

The brief facts of the case were that the accused was arrested in an FIR lodged under Sections 188 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) read with Section 3(1)/21(1) Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957(MMDR Act) read with Section 15 Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (Environment Act), Section 3 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 (Explosive Substantive Act) and Section 53(1) of the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2016 (Benami Act), after the IO was satisfied that accused had not fulfilled the conditions of notice under Section 41-A Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC). The accused contended that he had cooperated with the IO when summoned under Section 41A CrPC and in any case, he was entitled to bail since all offences alleged against him were bailable. Further, the accused had also filed a cross FIR against certain individuals involved in the coke plant's operation. However, the application was vehemently opposed by the State counsel citing the seriousness of the offences and the chance of evidence tampering.

After considering the submission, the Bench pointed out that the offence under Section 3 of the Explosive Substances Act, was punishable with a life sentence or rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years, and hence, not all offences alleged against the accused were bailable.

The Bench further stated that it was too early in the day to come to any conclusion that there were cross-cases related to the same subject matter involving the accused.

It would however depend on the investigation by the I/O to come to any findings or conclusion on this aspect but to say that such assertion is a ground for grant of bail cannot be fathom by this Court”, concluded the Bench while dismissing the petition.

Cause Title: Pawan Bhama v. State of Meghalaya

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