The Delhi High Court recently refused to allow a woman, facing an investigation in a matter involving Rs. 738 crores in respect of four Indian Banks and two foreign banks, by the Serious Fraud Investigation Officer (SFIO) saying that there was a clear non-cooperation by the petitioner.

The bench of Justice Pratibha M. Singh however said that if the petitioner fully cooperates with the SFIO, the Court would be willing to reconsider the issue.

"As per the facts of this matter as also the statements made by the Petitioner to the authorities, it is clear that there is non-cooperation by the Petitioner. Under these circumstances, at this stage, the Court is not inclined to let the Petitioner travel abroad. However, over the next two months, if the Petitioner fully cooperates with the SFIO, the Court is willing to reconsider the issue." said the Court.

In this case, an application was filed by the petitioner wherein permission was sought to travel outside India to the UK for medical reasons. The petitioner has also sought for stay of operation of the Look Out Circular (LOC) issued by the SFIO on June 13, 2022. The petitioner has further sought direction to authorities for furnishing the reasons for denying permission to the petitioner to travel outside India.

Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal appeared for the petitioner.

CGSC Anil Soni appearing for the respondents submitted that matter involved investigation of sum of Rs. 738 Crores and the companies - Net4 India Ltd., Net4 Network Services Ltd., Pitetel Communications Pvt. Ltd. and Trak Online Net India Pvt. Ltd, which were being operated by the petitioner, her husband, who passed away in 2017 and her son, who is a resident of UK, whose whereabouts were refused from being disclosed by the petitioner.

The Court noted that by order dated November 28, 2022 status report was sought from the petitioner as well as the respondents regarding the compliance of the conditions imposed earlier. The Conditions imposed were-

  • That the petitioner should provide all details with respect to the bank account which would be maintained by her in India as well as in other jurisdiction.

The Court observed that there was a clear non-cooperation by the petitioner as she failed to provide the bank account statements beyond the 2 years period and said that "In today's day and age, it is unbelievable for the Court to accept that banks would not issue bank account statements unless the Petitioner visits the bank personally. Most banking now-a-days is conducted online and clearly there has been non-cooperation by the Petitioner as the bank account statements beyond the 2 years period are not being provided."

  • That an authorised representative should appear before the SFIO and attend summons issued in the course of investigation.

The Court observed that the representative appointed by the counsel for the petitioner had no knowledge about the dealings of the petitioner and her family in order to extend any cooperation to the SFIO in investigation. Therefore, the Court was not satisfied with the representative engaged and said that "The court clearly gets the impression that a novice has been simply engaged for showing compliance, which is merely lip service, considering the amount of public money obtained from the banks, that is alleged to have been siphoned off."

The Court also noted that though the petitioner had agreed to extend her cooperation in the investigation, she claimed to have no knowledge of the business of the aforementioned companies.

The Court further noted that "Her husband having passed away, the records and other details of the companies are obviously with the Petitioner and her son On being queried by the Court, the ld. Counsel for the Petitioner is unwilling to disclose the whereabouts of the Petitioner's son, where is he engaged currently and what kind of business he is involved in. Moreover, as per the statements on record, the Petitioner is refusing to provide bank account statements of her own bank accounts beyond the two year period."

Accordingly, the matter was listed on March 20, 2023.

Cause Title- Pawanjot Kaur Sawhney v. Bureau of Immigration & Anr.

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