The Bombay High Court recently granted bail to a 19-year-old man who was arrested for possession of counterfeit currency notes, saying that merely possessing counterfeit currency was not sufficient to prove commission of offence and the intention of knowingly using the notes as genuine was required to be proved to level charges under the Indian Penal Code.
A single-judge bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre passed the order while hearing the bail plea of Rahul Vachkal, filed through advocates Murtaza Nazmi and Dilip Shukla. The plea says that Vachkal was booked and chargesheeted with two others for possessing counterfeit currency under Section 489 B (using as genuine forged or counterfeit currency notes or bank notes) and that one of them had already been released on default bail.
The Anti Narcotics Cell, Pune in July last year, had received a tip-off that some persons were planning to circulate counterfeit notes. After intercepting a vehicle in which the suspects were travelling, a search was undertaken and counterfeit notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 denominations to the tune of Rs 5.64 lakh were found in the dashboard of the car.
The raiding party also found Vachkal in possession of three notes of Rs 2,000 denomination and one Rs 100 note. An amount of Rs 40,000 was seized from another accused who was driving the car. They were sealed and forwarded to ascertain whether they were fake notes. The interrogation revealed the name of a third person who was also arrested.
Advocate Nazmi submitted that the applicant is 19 years old and currency notes to the tune of Rs 6,100 were seized from him, and that he had no intention to use them as genuine and so, he should be released on bail.
After hearing submissions, the court observed, “Prima facie, the chargesheet does not contain any material to reflect the mens rea (an intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes crime) on the part of the applicant who possesses the said notes which are alleged to be counterfeit. In absence of mens rea, selling, buying or receiving from any other person, or using as genuine, forged or counterfeit currency notes or bank notes, is enough to constitute an offence.”
Granting bail to Vachkal, the court observed, “The applicant is merely found in possession of counterfeit currency notes. The chargesheet did not contain any material to show that he was proposing to traffic or use the said notes as genuine or that he had knowledge or reason to believe that the said notes were forged or counterfeit. The applicant does not have any criminal antecedents and considering his young age, pending trial, he cannot be incarcerated for long, particularly when on completion of investigation, the chargesheet has already been filed.”
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