Bail under Economic offence-once the investigation is complete, final report/complaint filed and the triple test is satisfied then denial of bail must be the exception rather than the rule

The parameters to be considered while deciding the prayer for bail are well laid down by Apex Court in the case of ‘State through CBI v. Amaramani Tripathi, reported as 2005(8) SCC 21‘, holding that:-

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It is well settled that the matters to be considered in an application for bail are (i) whether there is any prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence; (ii) nature and gravity of the charge; (iii) severity of the punishment in the event of conviction; (iv) danger of accused absconding or fleeing if released on bail; (v) character, behaviour, means, position and standing of the accused; (vi) likelihood of the offence being repeated; (vii) reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being tampered with; and (viii) danger, of course, of justice being thwarted by grant of bail (see Prahlad Singh Bhati v. NCT, Delhi 2001 (4) SCC 280 and Gurcharan Singh v. State (Delhi Administration) AIR 1978 SC 179). While a vague allegation that accused may tamper with the evidence or witnesses may not be a ground to refuse bail, if the accused is of such character that his mere presence at large would intimidate the witnesses or if there is material to show that he will use his liberty to subvert justice or tamper with the evidence, then bail will be refused.”

Maninder Sharma v. State Tax Officer, State Tax, Mobile Wing, Jalandhar, Punjab’ decided on 31.08.2022.

Maninder Sharma’s case (supra) laid down the following tripode test while dealing with economic offences:-

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Further, while considering the grant of bail, the triple/tripod test would also be a relevant consideration. The three factors as set out in the said test are:- (i) Whether the accused is a flight risk; (ii) Whether the accused will tamper with the evidence, if granted bail & (iii) whether the accused could influence the witnesses, if granted bail.

8. Therefore, broadly speaking (subject to any statutory restrictions contained in Special Acts), in economic offences involving the IPC or Special Acts or cases triable by Magistrates once the investigation is complete, final report/complaint filed and the triple test is satisfied then denial of bail must be the exception rather than the rule. However, this would not prevent the Court from granting bail even prior to the completion of investigation if the facts so warrant.”

There is no denial to the fact that the economic offences constitute a separate class of their own, but trite it is that presumption of innocence is one of the bedrocks on which the criminal jurisprudence rests. Time and again, Apex Court has reiterated the need to integrate the right of investigating agencies to have effective interrogation of the accused with the right of liberty of the accused.

While dealing extensively with the rights of the accused in the economic offences, Apex Court in the case of Satender Kumar Antil v. Central Bureau of Investigation and another, reported as AIR 2022 (Supreme Court) 3386 held as under:-
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  1. What is left for us now to discuss are the economic offences. The question for consideration is whether it should be treated as a class of its own or otherwise. This issue has already been dealt with by this Court in the case of P. Chidambaram v. Directorate of Enforcement, (2020) 13 SCC 791, after taking note of the earlier decisions governing the field. The gravity of the offence, the object of the Special Act, and the attending circumstances are a few of the factors to be taken note of, along with the period of sentence. After all, an economic offence cannot be classified as such, as it may involve various activities and may differ from one case to another. Therefore, it is not advisable on the part of the court to categorise all the offences into one group and deny bail on that basis. Suffice it to state that law, as laid down in the following judgements, will govern the field:-
    P. Chidambaram v. Directorate of Enforcement, (2020) 13 SCC 791:
  2. Thus, from cumulative perusal of the judgments cited on either side including the one rendered by the Constitution Bench of this Court, it could be deduced that the basic jurisprudence relating to bail remains the same inasmuch as the grant of bail is the rule and refusal is the exception so as to ensure that the accused has the opportunity of securing fair trial. However, while considering the same the gravity of the offence is an aspect which is required to be kept in view by the Court. The gravity for the said purpose will have to be gathered from the facts and circumstances arising in each case. Keeping in view the consequences that would befall on the society in cases of financial irregularities, it has been held that even economic offences would fall under the category of “grave offence” and in such circumstance while considering the application for bail in such matters, the Court will have to deal with the same, being sensitive to the nature of allegation made against the accused. One of the circumstances to consider the gravity of the offence is also the term of sentence that is prescribed for the offence the accused is alleged to have committed. Such consideration with regard to the gravity of offence is a factor which is in addition to the triple test or the tripod test that would be normally applied. In that regard what is also to be kept in perspective is that even if the allegation is one of grave economic offence, it is not a rule that bail should be denied in every case since there is no such bar created in the relevant enactment passed by the legislature nor does the bail jurisprudence provide so. Therefore, the underlining conclusion is that irrespective of the nature and gravity of charge, the precedent of another case alone will not be the basis for either grant or refusal of bail though it may have a bearing on principle. But ultimately the consideration will have to be on case-to-case basis on the facts involved therein and securing the presence of the accused to stand trial.
    Sanjay Chandra v. CBI (2012) 1 SCC 40:
    “39. Coming back to the facts of the present case, both the courts have refused the request for grant of bail on two grounds: the primary ground is that the offence alleged against the accused persons is very serious involving deep-rooted planning in which, huge financial loss is caused to the State exchequer; the secondary ground is that of the possibility of the accused persons tampering with the witnesses. In the present case, the charge is that of cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property and forgery for the purpose of cheating using as genuine a forged document. The punishment for the offence is imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years. It is, no doubt, true that the nature of the charge may be relevant, but at the same time, the punishment to which the party may be liable, if convicted, also bears upon the issue. Therefore, in determining whether to grant bail, both the seriousness of the charge and the severity of the punishment should be taken into consideration.
  3. The grant or refusal to grant bail lies within the discretion of the court. The grant or denial is regulated, to a large extent, by the facts and circumstances of each particular case. But at the same time, right to bail is not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused. The primary purposes of bail in a criminal case are to relieve the accused of imprisonment, to relieve the State of the burden of keeping him, pending the trial, and at the same time, to keep the accused constructively in the custody of the court, whether before or after conviction, to assure that he will submit to the jurisdiction of the court and be in attendance thereon whenever his presence is required.
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  4. We are conscious of the fact that the accused are charged with economic offences of huge magnitude. We are also conscious of the fact that the offences alleged, if proved, may jeopardise the economy of the country. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the investigating agency has already completed investigation and the charge-sheet is already filed before the Special Judge, CBI, New Delhi. Therefore, their presence in the custody may not be necessary for further investigation. We are of the view that the appellants are entitled to the grant of bail pending trial on stringent conditions in order to ally the apprehension expressed by CBI.”

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