ALMOST A year after the owners of the Shalimar Mall were arrested by the police, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has granted bail to chief managing director Ram Kumar Aggarwal and his wife Kamlesh Aggarwal in the criminal case registered against them in 2015. The owners are accused of committing a fraud worth Rs 70 crore by duping over a hundred people who had booked showroom space in the Sector 5 mall, and have been under arrest since November 15 last year under sections 420 (cheating) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. The mall has remained closed since 2015 owing to a number of conflicts with the allottees and authorities.
“Considering overall facts and circumstances, it can safely be inferred that the dispute between the parties has surfaced on account of devaluation of the prices of the immovable property in the recent past,” Justice Ramendra Jain has said in the judgment passed on Wednesday. The High Court has observed the complainants in the case had purchased the shops or showrooms in the mall built by Shalimar Estates Private Limited with “the sole motive to earn profit which may be due to escalation in the prices of their properties in due course of time” but both the builder and the allottees started finding faults and levelling allegations against each other when the prices of the property “declined in the recent past”.
Observing that the trial in the case is at the evidence stage which may take “sufficient long time” to conclude, the High Court bench has said no useful purpose would be served by detaining the accused in jail. The counsel representing the two owners while praying for the bail had told the High Court that the dispute is completely civil in nature. The Chandigarh Administration and one of the complainants in the case had opposed the regular bail to the owners, alleging they had not even paid the statutory dues to the Haryana Urban Development Authority and other authorities. “The petitioners did not intentionally and deliberately execute the conveyance deed on account of which the complainant could not run his showroom, because of paucity of funds as he was not in a position to obtain loan from the bank to run his business,” the counsel opposing the bail had told the High Court.
The owners in the case were represented by a number of lawyers, including senior advocate Anmol Rattan Sidhu and advocates Vishal Aggarwal and Manhar S Saini. They told the High Court that though the project was complete, it could not come into operation on account of non-payment of common area maintenance charges (CAM) and due instalments in time by some of the purchasers of different sites or shops.
The Additional Sessions Judge, Chandigarh, last month had declined the bail to the owners after the UT’s Additional Public Prosecutor in the case had told the lower court that in case the two were released on bail, they would abscond and that two other cases of similar nature were also pending against them.
In a related case, the High Court has dismissed the owners’ plea seeking quashing of the order of attachment of their residential house passed by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in 2015. “It is not clear why petitioners have invoked the writ jurisdiction of this court despite remedy of statutory appeal available to them,” Justice Rajan Gupta said while dismissing their petition on the question of jurisdiction.