CBI to continue probe as HC rejects plea against fir registered at FCIs complaint
SRINAGAR The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Thursday rejected a plea against registration of FIR by Central Bureau of Investigation regarding misappropriation of rice and wheat stocks at PEG (Private Entrepreneur Guarantee) Store, Baramulla worth Rs 14.72 Crores.
While rejecting the petition filed under section 561 Cr.PC, a bench of Justice M K Hanjura said that matter appears to be serious in nature and the mandate of law justifies that it should be investigated into its entirety without aborting it midway.
The petitioners had sought directions from the court in quashing the FIR (123/2017 A003 dated 26.09.2017), registered against them at Police Station CBI, ACB, Srinagar, lodged on a written complaint on 19 September last year by Sundeep Singh, Chief General Manager (Vigilance), Food Corporation of India (FCI), Zonal Office (North), Noida U.P.
It has been stated in the complaint that 130 Trucks were missing during the reconciliation from the records at the Lower Munda (Qazigund) which have been shown to have been acknowledged and also in the reconciliation statements.
On cross checking the genuineness of the stamp affixed on the challans of these 130 Trucks with the specimen copy of stamps obtained from Lower Munda (Qazigund), it was found that fake stamps were affixed on these challans. As per the FCIs complaint, it appears that stocks were misappropriated by the transport contractor M/s Gagan Traders and M/s Walia Goods & Transport, both from Punjab in connivance and collusion with the Food Corporation India Staff, the State Government officials and the owner of PEG Baramulla, between the dispatching depot of Bhogpur and Kartarpur, under FCI District Office Jalandhar and Lower Munda Check Post.
The complaint further stated that since various parties, FCI Employees as well as State Machinery appear to be involved in the Criminal Misappropriation of FCI Stocks and forgery of documents, therefore, it requested the CBI to take up the investigation of the matter and to proceed against the culprits under the appropriate provisions of criminal law. On the receipt of this complaint, a regular case was registered under Section 120 B, 420, 467, 468, 471 RPC and 5 (1) (C) r/w 5 (2) of J&K PC Act against the suspect persons and the investigation of the case was entrusted to Sheikh Firdous, Inspector of Police.
The petitioners had challenged the FIR, inter alia, on the grounds that they are proprietors of the sole proprietorship concern against whom the FIR has been registered by the CBI. The proprietorships concerns are not legal entities or juridical persons against whom prosecution can be launched, they said. The proprietorship is doli incapax (deemed incapable of forming the intent to commit a crime or tort) and thus can neither be prosecuted nor punished under any statute. The inference that can be drawn from the allegations contained in the FIR is that the alleged commission of the breach of trust and misappropriation has taken place beyond the territorial jurisdiction of State of Jammu and Kashmir, that is, in the State of Punjab. Such offences have no territorial nexus vis-à-vis the penal offences provided under Ranbir Penal Code and their prosecution cannot be countenanced within the State of J&K. Therefore, they said, neither the Central Bureau of Investigation has the jurisdiction to investigate the offences nor can these offences be tried within the territorial jurisdiction of the State of J&K. The CBI resisted and controverted the petition, inter alia, on the grounds that the case has been registered by the CBI based on the complaint received from Food Corporation of India, alleging that the investigation of the matter by a committee of FCIs Officers and the investigation report submitted indicates the misappropriation of 130 trucks of rice and wheat stocks weighing at least 26,047.00 quintals valued at over Rs. 14 Crores.
As per the complaint, the stocks of rice and wheat have been misappropriated by the transport contractors (M/s Gagan Traders and M/s Walia Goods), in connivance and collusion with the FCI Staff, the State Government Officials and PEG Baramulla, between the dispatching depot of Bhogpur and Kartarpur, under FCI District Office Jalandhar and Lower Munda Check Post. The CBI said that the matter needed to be thoroughly investigated, in order to unearth the larger conspiracy amongst the accused petitioner, FCI officials and others. The Food Corporation of India also filed its objections in which it is stated that the crime has been committed well within the jurisdiction of the State of J&K. The FCI audit committee while perusing the relevant records found that there were many discrepancies that came to their notice. The FCI committee in its final report found that the stocks to the tune of Rs. 14.74 Crores have been misappropriated. It stated it was settled law that the companies, corporations and firms do not enjoy the blanket immunity from prosecution for serious offences merely because the prosecution would ultimately entail a sentence of mandatory imprisonment. The food grains were allegedly loaded in Scooters, Tractors, HGV and Motor Cycles.
What comes to the fore from the perusal of the material on record is that a huge amount of money spreading over 14. 74 Crores has been misappropriated as a corollary to which the Food Corporation of India is said to have suffered loss in an equivalent amount of money, the court said, adding, The petitioners have challenged the vires of the FIR registered against them on various counts which can be decided and determined on the culmination of the investigation of the case also for who knows what will be the fate of the investigation of the case and in which direction it will land.
The allegations levelled against the petitioners and others including the officers, officials of the FCI, the court observed, appear to be serious in nature and the mandate of law justifies that the matter should be investigated into its entirety without aborting it midway. It is only after the conclusion of the investigation of the case that a definite opinion can be framed in light of the grounds agitated and urged by the petitioners in this petition. It will be too early in the day to comment as to which offence is and which is not made out in the case.
The court said that the investigation of the case cannot be scuttled, stalled and thwarted at initial stage of the probe. The FIR in a case like the present one cannot be quashed promptly without allowing the CBI to make an appropriate investigation of the case. The Supreme Court has in a catena of judicial pronouncements held that the FIR cannot be quashed at the threshold itself without allowing the investigation to proceed. The investigation will reveal as to who is/are the person/persons, who have embezzled such a huge amount of money thereby causing a huge loss to the national exchequer, the court said an rejected the plea.
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