Case Law Details

Case Name : Gurvinder Singh Sohal Vs Central Bureau of Investigation (Punjab High Court)
Appeal Number : BA No. 1200 of 2020
Date of Judgement/Order : 09/09/2020
Related Assessment Year :

Gurvinder Singh Sohal Vs Central Bureau of Investigation (Special CBI Court, Panchkula)

As per the prima facie case of the prosecution, applicant- accused along with co-accused demanded bribe/undue advantage of Rs.9 lacs from the complainant on 06.08.2020 and accepted Rs.3 lacs as part payment of bribe on 06.08.2020 and further demanded and accepted remaining bribe amount of Rs.6 lacs from the complainant on 14.08.2020. It is also case of the prosecution that the relevant CCTV footage dated 06.08.2020 of the factory of the complainant also reflects that complainant had put the polythene containing part payment of bribe of Rs.3 lacs in the small hand bag and the said bag was kept by the complainant in the vehicle of applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal. Accused Kuldeep Hooda and present applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal are alleged to have demanded and accepted the remaining bribe amount of Rs.6 lacs on 14.08.2020 in moving Creta vehicle, but the accused after getting apprehensive, abandoned the vehicle and the bribe amount as well as the vehicle were recovered and taken in possession by the CBI in the presence of independent witnesses and applicant-accused is absconding since 14.08.2020. Applicant-accused along with co-accused demanded huge bribe amount from the complainant and there are also recorded conversations indicating prima facie active involvement of applicant-accused in the alleged offences and therefore custodial interrogation of applicant-accused is very much necessary in the interest of investigation. No public servant can be allowed to behave and act as an extortionist. The menace of corruption is eating into the vitals of our society and the same needs to be dealt with sternly. Keeping in view the entirety of the facts and circumstances and in the light of allegations against the applicant-accused, this Court of the considered opinion that it is not a fit case to exercise extra­ordinary power of granting anticipatory bail to the applicant-accused. Therefore, without commenting on the merits of the case, present bail application of applicant-accused, namely, Gurvinder Singh Sohal for grant of anticipatory bail, being devoid of merits, is hereby dismissed. Papers be attached with FIR/remand papers.

FULL TEXT OF THE HIGH COURT ORDER /JUDGEMENT

1. Applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal has sought anticipatory bail in case RC No. RC0052020A0013 dated 13.08.2020, under Sections 120 IPC and under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (as amended in 2018), Police Station CBI, ACB, Chandigarh.

2. Learned counsel for the applicant-accused vehemently argued that applicant is innocent and has been falsely implicated in this case at the instance of the complainant, as applicant had conducted search at the factory premises of the complainant and had found deficiencies in the goods and services tax paid by him and thus the complainant was nursing a grudge on account of the same. It is further contended that applicant along with three other officials was deputed to search the premises of the complainant and accordingly on 06.08.2020, the applicant along with three other officials went to the factory premises of the complainant and complainant had made the differential duty of 6% on 06.08.2020 and as per procedure, the officials of Commissioner, CGST have to put up the file for approval and closure of the investigation to the Commissioner, CGST for other directions and orders, if any and thus the applicant had nothing to do when the complaint had paid the diffrential amount and the applicant had no role to play after search had been concluded. It is further contended that there is no demand on the part of present applicant as per the complaint and the applicant was neither apprehended at the spot nor anything was recovered from him, which prima facie make out innocence of the applicant. It is contended that as per CBI case, co-accused Kuldeep Hooda was arrested from his house and the alleged bribe money was recovered from him and on 15.08.2020, the CBI raided the house of the applicant, but nothing incriminating was found there. It is also submitted that the entire case is based on documentary evidence, which is already in the possession of the CBI and the CCTV footage, conversations etc. allegedly recorded, are also in the possession of the CBI and nothing further is to be recovered from the applicant. It is further submitted that liberty of an individual is a sacred and fundamental right and the person should not be deprived of the same unless there are compelling reasons and it is not imperative to arrest the accused if an FIR has been registered. In order to substantiate his submissions, reliance has been place upon Joginder Singh Vs State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1994 SC 1349; Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetra Vs State of Maharashtra 2011 (1) SCC 694; Ashok Kumar Vs State of Haryana CRM-M-7096 of 2016 decided on 26.02.2016 by Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court. It is further submitted that applicant is ready and willing to associate with the investigation and fully cooperate with the investigating agency and since applicant is respectable person, so there is no likelihood of the applicant absconding the process of law and no useful purpose would be served by sending the applicant-accused behind the bars. Accordingly prayer has been made to grant anticipatory bail to the applicant-accused.

3. On the other hand, anticipatory bail application has been resisted by the CBI by filing detailed reply thereto. Apart from mentioning facts of the case, it is submitted that active involvement of the applicant-accused in the crime is well made out and custodial interrogation of the applicant-accused is essential in the interest of investigation, inter alia, to recover the relevant file relating to the alleged raid conducted on the factory of the complainant on 06.08.2020 by the FIR named accused CGST officials; to recover part payment of bribe of Rs.3 lacs contained in polythene bag which was put by the complainant in the vehicle of accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal on 06.08.2020 evening; to ascertain the names of senior CGST officials amongst whom the said bribe money was to be shared by the accused; to confront the applicant-accused with the other co-accused of CGST officials. It is also submitted that applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal and co-accused Kuldeep Hooda came to collect the remaining bribe amount of Rs.6 lacs from the complainant on 14.08.2020 and after demanding and accepting bribe amount, accused got apprehensive and applicant-accused ultimately abandoned Creta vehicle in which they had accepted the bribe amount from the complainant and the bribe amount and the vehicle were recovered and taken in possession by the CBI in the presence of the independent witnesses and applicant-accused could not be traced and is still absconding. It is also submitted that the relevant file was not found available during search at the office of accused persons and the same also needs to be recovered at the instance of the accused. It is also submitted that relevant CCTV footage dated 06.08.2020 of the factory of the complainant clearly shows that the complainant had put polythene containing part payment of bribe of Rs.3 lacs in the small hand bag which was brought to the factory of the complainant by the accused CGST officials and subsequently the said hand bag containing part payment of bribe of Rs.3 lacs was kept by the complainant in the vehicle of applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal. It is also submitted that as per direction of applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal and co-accused Kuldeep Hooda, the complainant had met them near the entrance gate of HSIIDC Industrial Area, Rai, District Sonepat on 14.08.2020 evening for handing over the remaining demanded bribe of Rs.6 lacs. It is also submitted that the conversation, which took place between complainant Manoj Kalra, applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal and co-accused Kuldeep Singh Hooda at the time of transaction of remaining demanded bribe money of Rs.6 lacs, clearly indicates active participation of applicant-accused in the crime and further the same also reflects that fearing their apprehension, they wanted to throw out the said bribe money from the moving Creta vehicle but they were requested by the complainant not to throw out the same, which was finally thrown by accused Kuldeep Singh @ Kuldeep Hooda on the rear seat of the said Creta vehicle before alighting from the said vehicle. It is also submitted that fearing their apprehension, applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal first dropped accused Kuldeep Singh @ Kuldeep Hooda near Bahalgarh Flyover and thereafter applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal again tried to convince the complainant to get down from the Creta vehicle but the complainant did not accede to his request and finding no other option, applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal intentionally abandoned the Creta vehicle near Big Mama Confectionery shop on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway, Bahalgarh, leaving behind his mobile phone and wallet and ran away on foot. It is also submitted that before running away on foot, applicant-accused took out one red colour carry bag containing Rs.2 lacs from the said Creta vehicle and threw the same in the bushes nearby and the bribe amount of Rs.6 lacs was recovered from the Creta vehicle on 14.08.2020 and the red colour carry bag containing Rs.2 lacs was also recovered as per proceedings contained in the post trap memo dated 14/15.08.2020. It is also submitted that accused Kuldeep Hooda, who fled from the spot on 14.08.2020, was arrested on 15.08.2020 at 12:30 PM by CBI from his residence at Rohtak. It is also submitted that on 27.08.2020 , when the CBI team had reached at his residence in Delhi in search of him, his wife Smt. Jaswinder Kaur was available there, who assured the CBI team that she would bring her husband Gurvinder Singh Sohal to join investigation at CBI office, Chandigarh on 28.08.2020, but the accused did not turn up and is absconding since 14.08.2020. Finally, prayer has been made to dismiss the bail application.

4. Learned Senior PP for the CBI has made submission on the lines of averments made in the reply filed by the CBI and the same need not be repeated again here. Learned Senior PP has submitted that involvement of applicant-accused in the demand and acceptance of huge bribe amount from the complainant is writ large as detailed in the reply and that custodial interrogation of applicant-accused is very much necessary in the interest of investigation. It is argued that applicant-accused has been named specifically in the FIR and if such public servants, who indulge in corruption, are dealt with leniently, then the same will send wrong signals in society. It is also submitted that conduct of applicant-accused clearly reflects that he has no respect for rule of law and has been absconding since 14.08.2020 and therefore anticipatory bail application of applicant-accused deserves to be dismissed in view of allegations against him.

5. I have heard learned counsel for the applicant-accused and learned Senior Public Prosecutor for the CBI and have gone through the record very carefully.

6. As per the prosecution case, case FIR No.RC0052020A0013 dated 13.08.2020 was registered against applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent and other co-accused, namely, Kuldeep Hooda, Superintendent; Rohit Malik and Pardeep, both Inspectors, all from GST Department, Rohtak, under Section 120-B IPC and Section 7 of the P.C. Act, 1988 on the basis of written complaint dated 10.08.2020 of complainant Manoj Kalra and verification report dated 13.08.2020 of Inspector Naresh Kumar. As per complaint, on 06.08.2020 at about 11:00 am, the complainant received a phone call from one of his employees who informed him that a team from GST department, Rohtak had arrived at the factory premises to conduct search. The said employee of the complainant, made the complainant to talk to Rohit Malik, Inspector, GST Department Rohtak who told the complainant that he (Rohit Malik) was having search warrant of complainant’s factory and asked the complainant to reach at the factory premises without delay. It is further mentioned in the complaint that the complainant had reached at the factory premises and found Gurvinder Singh Sohal (accused/applicant), Kuldeep Hooda, both Superintendents, Rohit Malik and Pardeep, both Inspectors, all from GST Department, Rohtak sitting in his office room. Accused Kuldeep Hooda, Superintendent had told the complainant that he had deposited GST @ 12% whereas the rate fixed by the Govt. was 18% and that they would make a case against complainant’s company and impose a heavy penalty. The complainant had told Kuldeep Hooda, Superintendent that it was only due to confusion about the rate of GST and that they were going to make the payment of difference amount and showed the relevant documents to them. Accordingly, the complainant had got deposited the difference amount of GST and showed the acknowledgment to the said GST officials. Thereafter, Kuldeep Hooda, Superintendent, Rohit Malik and Pardeep, both Inspectors had started mounting pressure on the complainant as well as Shri Chander Mohan, Director by threatening that they would conduct raids on all the factories of complainant alleging that they had shown less stock of raw material on record whereas physically the stocks of raw material were much more. It is also alleged in the complaint that after mounting tremendous pressure on the complainant, Kuldeep Hooda, Superintendent had told the complainant that the matter could be settled there and then if complainant could pay them Rs.12 lakhs as bribe, which had shattered and shocked the complainant. That said Kuldeep Hooda, Rohit Malik, and Pardeep had allegedly further kept on threatening the complainant by saying that Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) was very strict officer and that if the complainant would not pay the demanded bribe amount of Rs.12 lakhs to them, Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) would initiate proceedings against them and that they would have to face legal action. It is further mentioned in the complaint that though the complainant did not want to pay any bribe to them, but due to the threatening and pressure mounted by them and keeping in mind their reputation in the industry, the complainant had talked to them and showed his inability to pay such a huge amount of Rs.12 lakhs. Thereafter, the accused had negotiated with the complainant and finally the bribe amount was settled at Rs.9 lakhs. Kuldeep Hooda, Superintendent conveyed the same to Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) who had directed the complainant to pay Rs.4 lakhs as part payment of bribe to them on 06.08.2020 itself and that the complainant should visit their office at Rohtak on 11.08.2020 for payment of remaining bribe of Rs.5 lakhs and also for collecting the clearance letter as well as the GST payment acknowledgement dated 06.08.2020 which was kept by them (said GST officials). They (GST officials) also exchanged their mobile numbers with the complainant. It is further mentioned in the complaint that though the complainant did not want to pay any bribe but under the above compelling circumstances, he had got withdrawn Rs.4 lakhs from his bank account through one of his employee, out of which the complainant had kept Rs.3 lakhs in a polythene for delivering the same to Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) and above named three GST officials. At the time of proceeding from the office of the complainant, Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) had directed the complainant to keep the polythene containing the part payment of bribe in a small hand bag which was brought by the GST officials, accordingly, the complainant had kept the polythene containing the part payment of bribe in the said small hand bag and extended the same towards Kuldeep Hooda, Superintendent, who had asked the complainant to accompany them to their vehicles and to keep the said hand bag in one of their vehicles. Thereafter, the complainant had accompanied the GST officials to their vehicles and as per their directions, kept the said hand bag containing the part payment of bribe in the vehicle of Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) without telling them that the said polythene contained part payment of bribe amounting to Rs.3 lakhs and not Rs.4 lakhs. That it is further mentioned in the complaint that on 06.08.2020 at about 10:30 PM, the complainant had received a phone call on his mobile phone No.9812343290 from the mobile phone No.9711102979 of Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) and during the conversation of the said phone call, Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant), in a coded language, told the complainant that “wo smaan teen kilo hi nikla hai” (the material was found to be three Kg only), after which the complainant had informed him that he had put Rs.3 lakhs only and that he would meet him (Gurvinder Singh Sohal) on Tuesday (11.08.2020). The phone call was disconnected in midway of conversation, due to which the complainant, from his above mobile phone number, had made a phone call to Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) on his above mentioned mobile phone number, but Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent (accused/applicant) disconnected the phone call by saying “awaaj nahi aa rahi, savere gal karange”. The conversation of both the above phone calls was recorded in the mobile phone of the complainant. It is also alleged that the activities of all the above four GST officials were captured in the CCTV installed in the factory premises. That as the complainant did not want to pay the bribe but under threatening and pressure mounted by the above named GST officials, he had made the part payment of bribe of Rs.3 lakhs to accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal, Superintendent and above named three GST officials on 06.08.2020. As the complainant did not want to pay the remaining amount of bribe, he made written complaint dated 10.08.2020 to SP, CBI, Anti Corruption Branch, Sector 30-A, Chandigarh for taking legal action. The said complaint was marked to Shri Naresh Kumar, Inspector, CBI, ACB, Chandigarh for verification and report. Shri Naresh Kumar, Inspector after conducting verification, submitted his Verification Report dated 13.08.2020 in which he recommended for registration of a regular case against accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal, accused Kuldeep Hooda, both Superintendents, Rohit Malik and Pardeep, both Inspectors, all from GST Department, Rohtak under Section 120-B IPC and Section 7 of P.C.Act,1988 (As amended in the year 2018). It is also the case of the prosecution that during the conversation, which took place between accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal and complainant Manoj Kalra at the time of verification on 11.08.2020, complainant Manoj Kalra had requested accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal to decrease the bribe amount, but accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal refused to decrease the same by saying, “Nahi…. Jo fix ho gya so ho gya…. Upar tak jata hai, aise thodi hota hai”. During the said conversation, accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal also asked the complainant not to talk much over phone. Accordingly, the instant case was registered. That a trap was laid and accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal and accused Kuldeep Singh @ Kuldeep Hooda, both Superintendents of CGST Rohtak came to collect the remaining bribe of Rs.6 lakhs from the complainant on 14.08.2020. Accused had demanded and accepted the remaining bribe of Rs.6 lakhs from the complainant in the moving Creta vehicle bearing registration No.DL-1CU 4524 being driven by accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal. However, fearing their apprehension, accused Kuldeep Singh @ Kuldeep Hooda threw the said bribe money on the rear seat of the said Creta vehicle and got himself dropped from the moving vehicle. Accused/applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal abandoned the above Creta vehicle near Big Mama Confectionary shop on the Delhi-Chandigarh Highway, Bahalgarh and before running away on foot, he took out one red colour carry bag containing Rs.2 lakhs and threw the same in the bushes nearby. The bribe money of Rs.6 lakhs was recovered by Shri Ashok Kumar, independent witness from the Creta vehicle in the presence of Shri Prem Kumar, shadow witness and trap team members on 14.08.2020. The red colour carry bag containing Rs.2 lakhs cash was also recovered by Shri Ashok Kumar, independent witness in the presence of Shri Prem Kumar, shadow witness and trap team members as per proceedings contained in the Post Trap Memo dated 14/15.08.2020. It is also case of the prosecution that co-accused Kuldeep Hooda was traced at his residence in Rohtak and the accused and his family did not open the main gate for a long time and during said time they threw their ill gotten money to the tune of Rs.64,25,000/- and gold jewellery in bags at neighbour’s house, which was recovered and seized by the CBI team in the presence of independent witnesses and said accused Kuldeep Hooda was arrested on 15.08.2020 at 12:30 pm in the presence of independent witnesses and during the search proceedings said accused and his family members kept on threatening the CBI team of dire consequences.

7. Thus, as per the prima facie case of the prosecution, applicant- accused along with co-accused demanded bribe/undue advantage of Rs.9 lacs from the complainant on 06.08.2020 and accepted Rs.3 lacs as part payment of bribe on 06.08.2020 and further demanded and accepted remaining bribe amount of Rs.6 lacs from the complainant on 14.08.2020. It is also case of the prosecution that the relevant CCTV footage dated 06.08.2020 of the factory of the complainant also reflects that complainant had put the polythene containing part payment of bribe of Rs.3 lacs in the small hand bag and the said bag was kept by the complainant in the vehicle of applicant-accused Gurvinder Singh Sohal. Accused Kuldeep Hooda and present applicant Gurvinder Singh Sohal are alleged to have demanded and accepted the remaining bribe amount of Rs.6 lacs on 14.08.2020 in moving Creta vehicle, but the accused after getting apprehensive, abandoned the vehicle and the bribe amount as well as the vehicle were recovered and taken in possession by the CBI in the presence of independent witnesses and applicant-accused is absconding since 14.08.2020. Applicant-accused along with co-accused demanded huge bribe amount from the complainant and there are also recorded conversations indicating prima facie active involvement of applicant-accused in the alleged offences and therefore custodial interrogation of applicant-accused is very much necessary in the interest of investigation. No public servant can be allowed to behave and act as an extortionist. The menace of corruption is eating into the vitals of our society and the same needs to be dealt with sternly. Keeping in view the entirety of the facts and circumstances and in the light of allegations against the applicant-accused, this Court of the considered opinion that it is not a fit case to exercise extra­ordinary power of granting anticipatory bail to the applicant-accused. Therefore, without commenting on the merits of the case, present bail application of applicant-accused, namely, Gurvinder Singh Sohal for grant of anticipatory bail, being devoid of merits, is hereby dismissed. Papers be attached with FIR/remand papers.

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