Supreme Court: Court not obliged to grant bail on ground that Accused is women


LI Network

Published on: December 15, 2023 at 17:03 IST

The Supreme Court, while rejecting the bail plea of Saumya Chaurasia, former deputy secretary to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, in a money laundering case, clarified that courts are not obligated to grant bail solely based on the accused being a woman.

The court underscored that the first proviso to Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, which grants discretion to consider bail for women or individuals falling under specific categories, is not mandatory.

The bench, comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose and Bela Trivedi, emphasized the evolving roles of educated and well-placed women in society, participating in commercial ventures that might inadvertently involve them in illegal activities.

The court highlighted the importance of exercising discretion judiciously, taking into account factors such as the extent of involvement and the nature of evidence when considering bail applications for women.

The court examined the wording of the first proviso to Section 45, which states that a person under sixteen years, a woman, or an accused of money laundering a sum less than one crore rupees “may be released on bail, if the special court so directs.”

The use of the term ‘may be’ indicated the discretionary nature of the provision, allowing courts to evaluate each case individually.

While acknowledging the need for sensitivity toward vulnerable individuals, the court cautioned against interpreting the provision as obligatory, as it could be susceptible to misuse.

The court stated that exercising discretion requires prudence, considering the circumstances of each case, including the extent of the person’s involvement in alleged offenses and the evidence collected by the investigating agency.

In Saumya Chaurasia’s case, the court found ample evidence of her active participation in the money laundering offense defined in Section 3 of the PMLA.

The bench concluded that there was nothing on record to suggest that the appellant was not guilty of the offense, and thus, the special benefit outlined in the proviso to Section 45 should not be granted.

Case Details: Saumya Chaurasia v. Directorate of Enforcement | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 8847 of 2023

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