The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted statutory bail to former National Stock Exchange CEO Chitra Ramkrishna and former Group Operating Officer Anand Subramanian in the co-location scam case lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation, on certain conditions.
A single judge bench of Justice Sudhir Kumar Jain allowed the applicants bail application on a personal bond of Rs. 5 Lakh with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of the concerned trial Court subject to certain conditions. The conditions are, “i. The applicant/accused shall not leave the country
without prior permission of the Court; ii. The applicant/accused shall surrender her passport before the concerned trial Court, if not surrendered yet, within 07 days of release from the custody, in pursuance of this order; iii. The applicant/accused shall co-operate and participate in the investigation as and when directed by the Investigating Officer; iv. The applicant/accused shall not temper with the evidence and shall not influence the witnesses; v. The applicant/accused shall provide her contact number to the concerned Investigating Officer and shall keep her mobile in operational mode so that the Investigating Officer as and when required can contact her,” the judgment states.
Ramkrishna and Subramanian had filed bail applications for grant of regular bail under Section 439 read with Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in a case registered under Sections120B (criminal conspiracy) and 204 (Destruction of document or electronic record to prevent its production as evidence) of Indian Penal Code, provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The CBI’s case pertains to charges of brokers being given preferential access to the NSE’s trading system in the form of a co-location facility through which they bought “rack space” for their servers. According to the agency, these traders obtained faster access to the Exchange’s data feed. It has been alleged by the CBI that Subramanian was illegally and arbitrarily appointed by Ramkrishna without taking approval for his appointment from the then MD Ravi Narain, even though his appointment was for the post of Chief Strategic Officer to the MD. It has also been alleged that the HR department had no documentation pertaining to the appointment of Subramanian.
The Court held that the charge sheet filed by the CBI “is a piece meal charge sheet and is not filed in respect all offences subject matter of the FIR” registered against the applicants. “The respondent/CBI is not legally permitted to pick one portion of investigation and to complete it and thereafter file piece meal charge sheet in respect of few offences subject matter of FIR and to left open investigation in respect of other offences and subsequent filing of charge sheet in respect of left over offences. This would be complete negation of section 167(2) of the Code.”
The Court held that the respondent agency cannot be permitted to fragment the FIR for the “purpose of different charge sheets and this will tantamount to negation of section 167(2)” and which is against the mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution. The court observed that this practice of filing such types of charge sheets to “seek extension of remand beyond the statutory period was deprecated by the Superior Courts in past”. The investigating agency is required to form opinions regarding all offences subject matter of FIR after completion of the entire investigation, the Court held.
“There is no force in the arguments advanced by the Special Public Prosecutor for the respondent/CBI that the right of the applicant/accused under section 167(2) of the Code has come to an end immediately after filing of charge sheet on 21.04.2022 and said right under section 167(2) cannot be revived due to reason that further investigation is pending within the meaning of sub-section 8 of Section 173 of the Code. As mentioned and discussed hereinabove that there is a distinction between completion of investigation and further investigation,” the Court held. Section 173 pertains to the Report of police officer on completion of investigation where sub section 8 states that nothing in this section shall be deemed to preclude further investigation in respect of an offence after a report under sub- section (2) has been forwarded to the Magistrate and, where upon such investigation, the officer in charge of the police station obtains further evidence, oral or documentary, he shall forward to the Magistrate a further report or reports regarding such evidence in the form prescribed; and the provisions of sub- sections (2) to (6) shall, as far as may be, apply in relation to such report or reports as they apply in relation to a report forwarded under sub- section (2).
The court held that the CBI had failed to complete investigation in respect of all the offences as mentioned in FIR and “to file a Final Report under section 173 of the Code within stipulated time i.e. sixty days from the date of the arrest of the applicant/accused and filed an incomplete/piece-meal charge sheet before the concerned court on 21.04.2022 i.e. 46th day from the date of arrest.” The Court observed that although the CBI has conducted and concluded part investigation pertaining to alleged illegalities committed by the applicants in initial appointment of Anand Subramanian and subsequent re-designation and other related issues but investigation pertaining to allegations made in FIR is still pending which cannot be termed as further investigation within ambit of section 173 (8) of the Code. This further investigation can be carried after the investigation is completed and a complete charge sheet is filed, the court held.