Refusing to grant bail to a former manager of the Solapur District Cooperative Bank, who is accused of misappropriating funds for his personal gains, the Bombay High Court recently observed that this was an offence against the state and the consumers of the bank — mostly farmers — and a liberal view taken in such cases would not act as a deterrent against white-collar crimes. The high court was hearing a bail plea by Ravikant Bagal, who was arrested in August 2015 after a case was registered at Tembhurni Police Station, Solapur.
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Bagal had worked in the Solapur District Central Cooperative Bank from 2010 to 2013. According to the prosecution, he fabricated documents, such as false vouchers, and transferred over Rs 10 crore from the account of the head office to his own savings account. He also transferred Rs 1 lakh to his personal account.
The bank later appointed a chartered accountant, whose report indicated that Bagal had committed fraud and submitted a false report to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Bagal’s lawyer, however, argued he had no intention to commit fraud, but was in need of funds and therefore transferred the money to his own account.
“It is pertinent to note that the applicant used public money for his own benefit. It appears from the submissions of his counsel that he had amassed a lot of properties, money and other valuables while in service with the bank,” observed the court. According to Bagal’s counsel, he was willing to deposit the amount misappropriated by him while in service.
“Criminal prosecution is not a recovery process. However, the prosecution has to be taken to its logical end as it is an offence against the state and the consumers of the bank, who had to face financial difficulties because of the conduct of the applicant. This aspect needs to be taken into consideration mainly for the purpose that the account-holders of a cooperative bank are mostly farmers and the amount is to be used for maintaining and enhancing the agrarian economy and also for the survival of the farmers. The report shows that the act of the applicant is alarming as he had opened seven accounts in his own name,” said Justice Sadhana Jadhav. Bagal allegedly also floated a firm and attracted farmers to be its consumers, later cheating them too.
While his counsel argued that the liberty of an individual is of paramount importance and right to liberty is a fundamental right, the court said: “It is true that the liberty of an individual needs to be considered. However, a liberal view taken in cases like the present one would not act as a deterrent to white collar crimes. Moreover, the liberty of an individual also needs to be tested and weighed against the interest of the society. It is in view of this that this court is not inclined to grant bail.”