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Supreme Court Stresses Individual Roles in Bail Decisions, Dismisses Plea Based on Parity

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Published on: November 21, 2023 at 12:36 IST

The Supreme Court rejected a bail plea on the grounds of parity with co-accused individuals who had previously been granted bail in a money laundering case.

The Court emphasized that the principle of parity is not an absolute law but hinges on individual circumstances and roles within the alleged offense.

The Court stated, “It is axiomatic that the principle of parity is based on the guarantee of positive equality before law enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution. However, if any illegality or irregularity has been committed in favor of any individual or a wrong order has been passed by a judicial forum, others cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the higher court for repeating the same irregularity or illegality.”

A bench comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose and Bela Trivedi heard the appeal against the Delhi High Court’s decision that had denied bail to the petitioner. The petitioner faced charges under Section 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998, and under Section 120B read with sections 420, 465, 467, 468, and 471 of the IPC.

The appellant, a nephew of Sh. Kewal Krishan Kumar, one of the directors of M/s. Shakti Bhog Foods Ltd. (SBFL), had been arrested in connection with a money laundering case on June 22, 2022. The forensic audit conducted by BDO India LLP revealed financial irregularities causing a loss of Rs. 3269.42 crores to the consortium member banks. An FIR was registered by the CBI, Bank Securities and Fraud Cell, New Delhi, on December 31, 2020, against SBFL’s directors/guarantors. An Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) was recorded on January 31, 2021, for committing an offense under section 3 of the PMLA Act.

The Special Judge at the Rouse Avenue Court Complex, New Delhi, dismissed the bail application on December 23, 2022. The High Court of Delhi also rejected the appellant’s bail application on July 18, 2023.

In the appeal before the Supreme Court, the appellant argued for bail on the basis of the principle of parity, contending that other co-accused individuals in similar situations had been granted bail. However, the Supreme Court firmly rejected this argument, emphasizing that the application of the principle of parity requires a careful consideration of the specific role played by the accused under consideration.

The Court noted that the High Court had differentiated the appellant’s situation from that of another individual, Raman Bhuraria, who had been granted bail. While Bhuraria served as an internal auditor for a brief period, the appellant held the position of Vice President of Purchases, responsible for day-to-day operations.

The High Court observed that the appellant’s role was evident from financial records, indicating the diversion of loan funds to sister concerns where the appellant held a stake.

The Supreme Court, therefore, dismissed the appeal, underscoring the importance of evaluating individual roles rather than seeking bail solely on the basis of parity with co-accused individuals.

Case title: Tarun Kumar v. ED,