Augusta Westland: Special Judge Grants Bail to Ratul Puri
Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar has granted bail to Kamal Nath's nephew Ratul Puri in the Augusta Westland case.
The court has observed that Puri does not pose any likelihood of flight risk or tampering with the evidence, as the same is documentary in nature and is already in custody of the agency.
The court also acknowledged the fact that Puri has been in custody for over 90 days, and that he has children and old parents to tender to, while granting him bail under section 439 of Criminal Procedure Code.
Arguing in favour of bail, Puri had submitted that he was named as an accused only in the sixth supplementary complaint of the ED. Moreover, all other persons mentioned as accused are either out on bail or have not yet been arrested.
He also argued that he has always joined investigation, whenever called, and that he has given exhaustive statements running into 1200 pages. He said he never evaded any questions and fully cooperated with the interrogation conducted by the agency.
Further, it was also submitted that the agency cannot rely on the statements given by Puri under section 50 of PMLA to argue for the denial of bail. Moreover, the agency can also not rely on the statements of co-accused Rajiv Saxena as it has itself filed an application seeking cancellation of bail granted to Saxena on the ground that he did not provide truthful or correct statements.
Puri also cited his academic and professional background, as well as his clean track record, to argue that he doesn't pose a flight risk, or possibility of tampering with evidence or influencing the witnesses.
Lastly, it was submitted that the twin conditions of section 45 of PMLA would not apply in the present case as the same were read down as 'unconstitutional' by the Supreme Court in Nikesh Tarachand case. Moreover, the fact that the offences under section 3 and 4 of PMLA are punishable with imprisonment up to 7 years, the same cannot be regarded as 'serious offences' as per the rule laid down in Arnesh Kumar case.
Arguing for the denial of bail, ED had submitted that Puri had used the guise of shell companies, registered in the names of others, to accumulate the proceeds of crime. Moreover, there's a money trail linking the accused with proceeds of crime received from other co-accused Christian Michel and Carlo Gerosa.
The agency also argued that the accused has been influencing the witnesses, pressurizing them to not to give statements against him. Further, since there are more witnesses that need to be examined, both in India and abroad, the likelihood of the accused influencing the witnesses is quite high.
While dealing with the issue of twin conditions laid down in section 45 of PMLA, the court noted that as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court and the various High Courts, the said twin conditions will not apply in the present case and the same has to be decided as per section 439 of CrPC.
The court also appreciated the fact that Puri is not named in the CBI case, and that other co-accused in the ED case are either out in bail or have not been arrested as of yet.
Therefore, the court granted him regular bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rupees 5 lacs and two sureties of the like amount. The court also imposed the conditions of not leaving the country without its prior permission and also of submitting his mobile number and Email ID to the investigative agency.