The Supreme Court on Monday held that the filing of a chargesheet would amount to sufficient compliance with the provisions of Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and an accused cannot demand release on default bail under Section 167(2) on the ground that cognisance has not been taken before the expiry of 60 days [SFIO vs Rahul Modi].
A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai was considering a challenge by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office against a Delhi High Court order granting statutory bail to the partners of the Adarsh Group of Companies and LLP.
The question before the Court was : Whether an accused is entitled for statutory bail under Section 167(2), CrPC on the ground that cognizance has not been taken before the expiry of 60 days or 90 days, as the case may be, from the date of remand?
The Court held that as it is is clear from the judgment of the top court in Bhikamchand Jain, “filing of a chargesheet is sufficient compliance with the provisions of Section 167, CrPC, and that an accused cannot demand release on default bail under Section 167(2) on the ground that cognizance has not been taken before the expiry of 60 days.”
The Court ruled that accused continues to be in the custody of the Magistrate till such time cognisance is taken by the court trying the offence, which assumes custody of the accused for the purpose of remand after cognisance is taken.
“The conclusion of the High Court that the accused cannot be remanded beyond the period of 60 days under Section 167 and that further remand could only be at the post-cognizance stage, is not correct in view of the judgment of this Court in Bhikamchand Jain,” the top court held.
The Court thus held that the “indefeasible right of an accused to seek statutory bail under Section 167(2), CrPC arises only if the charge-sheet has not been filed before the expiry of the statutory period.”
A probe into the affairs of the Adarsh Group of Companies and LLPs by the SFIO led to the arrest of the two respondents. On April 5, 2019, both were remanded to 14 days judicial custody. The detention was extended till May 16, 2019 and thereafter till May 30.
Meanwhile, a criminal complaint under Section 439(2) read with Section 212(15) of the Companies Act, 2013, was filed before the Special Court, Gurugram, against both on May 18.
On May 20, when the two moved a lower court for statutory bail under Section 167 CrPC, applications were dismissed by the Gurugram Sessions Judge, on the ground that the complaint under Section 439(2) of the Companies Act was filed before the expiry of the 60-day period prescribed in proviso (a) to Section 167(2) of the CrPC.
The High Court on appeal granted the respondents statutory bail on the ground that the trial court had not taken cognisance of the complaint before the expiry of the 60-day period, which entitled the respondents to statutory bail, as a matter of an indefeasible right.