Ketan Kantilal Seth VERSUS State of Gujarat & Ors. - Supreme Court Case

Ketan Kantilal Seth VERSUS State of Gujarat & Ors. - Supreme Court Case

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


NON­REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
TRANSFER PETITION (CRIMINAL) Nos. 333­348/2021
Ketan Kantilal Seth …….Petitioner
VERSUS
State of Gujarat & Ors. ……. Respondent(s) 
With I.A. No. 134476 of 2021
O R D E R
1. With the consent of the parties, these transfer petitions
have been taken up for final hearing. The present petitions have
been filed by petitioner/accused for invoking the power under
Section 406 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter
referred   to   as   ‘CrPC’),   seeking   transfer   of   16   criminal   cases
pending against him in four different   States to one Court in
Mumbai, where 3  cases are already pending. Following are the
cases of which transfer are being sought – 
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i. Criminal Case No. 101878/2003 arising out of FIR No.
C.R.   No.   I­64/2002,   dated   30.07.2002   registered   at
Police Station Udhana, Surat, Gujarat, pending before
Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat;
ii. Criminal Case No. 9166/2002 arising out of FIR No.
I.C.R. No. 274/2002, dated 02.07.2002 registered at
Police   Station   Umra,   Surat,  Gujarat,  pending   before
Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat;
iii. Criminal Case No. 174/2003 arising out of FIR No. C.
R.   No.   I­226/2002,   dated   30.08.2002   registered   at
Police Station Rander, Surat, Gujarat, pending before
Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat;
iv. Criminal Case No. 100521/2003 arising out FIR No.
274/2002,   dated   06.08.2002   registered   at   Police
Station   Varachha,   Surat,   Gujarat,   pending   before
Additional   Chief   Judicial   Magistrate/Judicial
Magistrate First Class, Surat;
v. Criminal Case No. 2778/2004 arising out of   FIR/M.
Case No. 3/2002, dated 16.07.2002 registered at Police
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Station   Gandevi,   Navsari,   Gujarat,   pending   before
Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Gandevi;
vi. Criminal Case No. 6840/2002 arising out of FIR No. I93/2002, dated 18.08.2002 registered at Police Station
Navsai Town, Navsari, Gujarat, pending before Chief
Judicial Magistrate, Navsari;
vii. Criminal Case No. 2121/2002 arising out of FIR No. I119/2002,   dated   10.06.2002   registered   at   Police
Station Valsad City, Valsad, Gujarat, pending before
Chief Judicial Magistrate, Valsad;
viii. Criminal Case No. 1578/2006 arising out of FIR/M.
Case   No.   29/2002,   dated   13.06.2002   registered   at
Police Station Vidya Nagar, Anand, Gujarat, pending
before Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Anand;
ix. Criminal Case No. 244/2002 arising out   of FIR/M.
Case   No.   22/2002   (C.R.   No.   I­226/2002),   dated
07.06.2002 registered at Police Station Morbi, Gujarat,
pending before II Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate,
Morbi; 
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x. Criminal Case No. 40449/2016 arising out of  FIR No.
280/2002,   dated   04.05.2002   registered   at   Police
Station Connaught Place, New Delhi, pending before
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House
Court, New Delhi;
xi. Criminal Case No. 2034203/2016 arising out of   FIR
No. 242/2002, dated 17.06.2002 registered at Police
Station Sarojini Nagar, New Delhi, pending before Chief
Metropolitan Magistrate, Saket Court, New Delhi;
xii. Criminal Case No.  ____/2002 arising out of   FIR No.
298/2002,   dated   22.08.2002   registered   at   Police
Station  Jagatdal, 24 North  Paraganas,  West Bengal,
pending before Barrackpore Court, Kolkata;
xiii. Criminal Case No.  147/2002 arising out of F.I.R. No.
97/2002, dated 25.04.2002 and C.R. No. 101/2002,
dated   29.04.2002,   both   registered   at   Police   Station
Ganeshpeth,   Nagpur,   Maharashtra,   pending   before
155­II Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate First Class,
Nagpur;
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xiv. Criminal Case No.  847/2002 arising out of F.I.R. at
C.R.   No.   75/2002,   dated   15.05.2002   registered   at
Police   Station   City   Kotwali,   Amravati,   Maharashtra,
pending before Chief Judicial Magistrate, Amravati;
xv. Criminal Case No.  498/2002 arising out of F.I.R. at
C.R.   No.   102/2002,   dated   08.05.2002   registered   at
Police   Station   Pimpiri,   Pune,   Maharashtra,   pending
before Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pimpri, Pune;
xvi. Criminal Case No.  357/2002 arising out of F.I.R. at
C.R.   No.   65/2002,   dated   15.05.2002   registered   at
Police   Station   Vishrambaug,   Pune,   Maharashtra,
pending   before   III   Judicial   Magistrate   First   Class,
Shivaji Nagar, Pune. 
In fact, the basic object to file these transfer petitions is to get all
cases   transferred   at   one   place   and   may   be   directed   to   try
together. 
2. In a nutshell, the prosecution story in majority of the cases
revolves around one accused company namely M/s Home Trade
Limited, which is alleged to have engaged in the business of
5
Stock, Securities, Brokering and Trading. The allegations against
the petitioner herein and one Sanjay Hariram Agarwal are that
they were the authorized signatories of the accused company
and while acting in the capacity of Directors of the said accused
company, they entered into several transactions dealing with
government 
securities   and   further   sold   the   said   securities   without   any
authorization.   Further,   it   has   also   been   alleged   that   the
government securities were not delivered within time and the
money raised thereby has been misappropriated by the accused
persons including the petitioner herein.
3. During the pendency of the instant petitions, application
for intervention (bearing I.A. No. 134476 of 2021) has also been
filed on behalf of one applicant namely;   Omprakash Bhaurao
Kamdi, seeking permission to intervene on the grounds of being
a ‘necessary’ and ‘proper’ party as stated in the application. 
4. Before   adverting   to  merits   of   the   transfer   petitions,   the
application seeking intervention is being taken up for disposal.
The intervenor claims to be an agriculturist who is dependent on
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financial aid provided by Nagpur District Central Cooperative
Bank Limited (hereinafter referred as NDCCB) for his day­to­day
agricultural activities. It is said Chairman of NDCCB, who lodged
an FIR in 2002 against the petitioner and other accused persons
alleging non­delivery of the government securities worth Rs. 125
crores which NDCCB purchased through accused company in
which petitioner and other accused persons were directors. The
petitioner also sought transfer of concerned trial in the instant
transfer petitions.
5. It is a settled principle of law in criminal jurisprudence that
intervention   application   filed   by   a   third   party   should   not
ordinarily   be   allowed   in   criminal   cases   unless   the   Court   is
satisfied   that   on   the   grounds   on   which   the   person   seeking
intervention is directly or substantially related to the case and
question of law which may affect him adversely; or in the opinion
of Court, joining the intervenor in the case is expedient in public
interest. Having perused the contents of intervention application,
nothing   is   averred   in   the   application,   how   non­joining   of
applicant may cause prejudice or affect the public interest. The
7
applicant is neither a complainant in any of the cases of which
transfer is being sought, nor he has any direct involvement or
ground of  his joining in public interest. The intervenor has no
locus  to intervene in the present petition, therefore, I am of the
opinion that the grounds as mentioned by the intervenor are not
proper  to allow the application. It is to observe that prayer in
the present petition 
is confined to transfer the criminal trials pending before Trial
Courts  in different States for trial by one Court in one State and
in   such circumstances, the prayer for intervention  cannot be
allowed   for   reasons   mentioned   above.   Consequently,   I.A.   No.
134476 of 2021 seeking intervention stands dismissed.  
6. Reverting to the merits of the transfer petitions, learned
counsel for petitioner has contended that multiple FIRs were
registered   against   petitioner   and   other   accused   persons   in
different States having similar set of allegations, which has led
into multiple trials being pending before various  Trial Courts in
different States for adjudication. Most of the accused persons in
all FIRs and witnesses thereof are   common. However, for the
8
purpose of trial, all the accused as well witnesses have to attend
hearing dates before various  Courts leading to delay and huge
expenses. Moreover, most of the transactions pertaining to the
alleged offence have taken place in Mumbai, Maharashtra and as
per   the   chart   supplied   by   the   petitioner,   majority   of   the
witnesses relevant for the purpose of trial are also from Mumbai.
However, the petitioner has prayed the transfer of all cases for
trial by one 
Court   primarily   on   the   grounds   of   convenience,   expeditious
disposal and no­prejudice may be caused to the defence of the
accused for fair trial and to secure ends of justice.
7. Per contra, the learned counsel for respondent has opposed
the transfer petitions primarily on the ground that the transfer
petitions have been filed belatedly. It has been contended that,
High Court of Bombay vide order dated 24.06.2021 passed in
Criminal Application No. 628/2014, directed the concerned Trial
Court to complete the trial in C.C. No. 147/2002 (i.e. one of the
cases of which transfer is being sought in the instant petitions)
by passing final judgment and order within a maximum period of
9
four months. The proceedings in the said case are already at the
final stage. Hence, the prayer of the petitioner seeking transfer of
cases as mentioned deserves to be dismissed.
8. After having heard both the sides, the primary issue for
consideration before this Court is ‘Whether the criminal cases
pending   before   different   Trial   Courts   in   four   States   can   be
transferred to one Trial Court in one State?; Whether transfer of
case of one of the criminal case which is at the final stage of trial
before   concerned   Court   in   Nagpur,   can   be   directed   to   be
transferred at such belated stage?’
9. To answer the aforesaid questions, first of all it is necessary
to know the underlying intention of Section 406 of CrPC. Section
406   deals   with   the  power   of  Supreme   Court  to   transfer   the
cases. The Court can exercise such power for fair trial and to
secure   the   ends   of   justice.   The   language   impliedly   left   the
transfer of the cases on the discretion of the Court. If the Court
is satisfied that it is imperative to transfer the cases in the
interest of justice or to secure ends of justice,  then it may do so.
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10. In the instant case, it is not in dispute that since 2002,
multiple FIRs across four States namely; Gujarat, Maharashtra,
New Delhi and West Bengal have been filed against petitioner
and   other   accused   persons   containing   broad   and   common
allegations   pertaining   to   act   done   in   collusion   by   accused
persons to defraud the complainants and misappropriate the
money   raised   thereby   while   dealing/trading   in   government
securities in the name of accused company M/s Home Trade
Limited. The State in its counter affidavit has stated that during
investigation, the accused 
Company was found not to be eligible to deal in transactions
relating to government securities, whereas, petitioner and other
accused person namely Sanjay Hariram Agarwal were acting as
Directors and authorized signatories of accused Company. From
a bare perusal of the facts and FIRs, it is seen that there is
commonality   of   facts   in   each   FIR   and   that   most   of   the
transactions have taken place in Mumbai. Further, the FIRs
mainly have petitioner and Sanjay Hariram Agarwal as common
accused persons. 
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11. As per the details provided by petitioner in a chart annexed
with petition, out of all the nineteen FIRs registered against
petitioner   and   other   accused   persons,   one   FIR   has   been
registered in Kolkata, West Bengal; two FIRs are registered in
Delhi; nine FIRs are registered in different districts of Gujarat
and   seven   FIRs   are   registered   in   different   districts   of
Maharashtra.   Furthermore,   as   stated   by   petitioner   and
unrefuted by respondent State, out of total 689 witnesses in all
nineteen   cases   pending   before   respective   Trial   Courts,   236
witnesses are from Mumbai. It is further not disputed that in
multiple cases, almost 20 years have lapsed and 
yet  majority  of  the  trials are  pending  at  the  initial   stage.  It
wouldn’t be out of place to mention that primary reason for such
delay   is   the   multiplicity   of   proceedings   alongwith   practical
difficulties for the Trial Court to secure the presence of witnesses
as well as accused for concluding the trial. 
12. The contention of the State that prejudice will be caused if
the transfer is allowed at such a belated stage when one of the
criminal proceedings is at the final stage is bereft of merit. At
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this juncture, it is apt to refer order dated 24.06.2021 passed by
High Court of Judicature at Bombay in Criminal Application No.
628/2021   filed   by   accused   Sanjay   Hariram   Agarwal   seeking
transfer of criminal cases pending against him. The same is
reproduced for ready reference as thus:
“……(ii)  We direct that the trial in said C.C. No.
147/2002   (Crime   No.   101/2002   registered   with
Ganesh Peth Police Station, Nagpur) be completed
by   passing   final   judgment   and   order   within
maximum   period   of   four   months   from   today.   We
make it clear that we are granting maximum four
months’ time in view of Covid­19 restrictions……..
(iii) We make it clear that after completion of trial in
said   C.C.   No.   147/2002  (Crime   No.   101/2002
registered with Ganesh Peth Police Station, Nagpur)
against other accused except the Applicant, the trial
against Applicant be commenced by conducting the
same   expeditiously   and   preferably   on   day­to­day
basis and the same be completed within a period of
four   months   after   commencement   of   trial   against
present Applicant.”
As is evident from the aforesaid order, the High Court directed
completion   of   trial   in   C.C.   No.   147/2002   in   a   time   bound
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manner against other accused persons except the applicant i.e.,
Sanjay Hariram Agarwal (accused no. 3 in C.C. No. 147/2002).
The High Court further directed that once the trial against other
accused persons is completed, then only trial against applicant
therein shall commence. The High Court effectively split the trial
of other accused persons from trial of Sanjay Hariram Agarwal
and caused serious prejudice. As is gathered from the records
and   also   stated   above,   accused   Sanjay   Hariram   Agarwal
alongwith petitioner herein were acting in the capacity of the
Directors of accused company. The person who could have put
the best defence (oral as well as documentary) before Trial Court
where   evidence   led   by   prosecution   was   common   and   mostly
related   to   same   transaction,   was   effectively   excluded   by   the
order of High Court. In my considered view, such an approach
taken   by   High   Court   is   prima­facie   amounts   to   differential
treatment, causing serious prejudice to the right of fair trial of
other accused persons including the petitioner herein.
13. In   view   of   the   foregoing   discussion,   considering   the
common nature of allegations raised against the petitioner in all
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FIRs and criminal proceedings emanating therefrom which are
yet pending before respective Trial Courts in four States, I am of
the opinion that to meet the ends of justice and fair trial, the
transfer petitions deserve to be allowed. Therefore, the instant
transfer petitions are  disposed­off with the following directions:–
a) The criminal cases, as specified in para 1 (clause (i) to
(xvi)) of this order shall be transferred from the courts,
where those are pending, to the court of Principal Judge,
Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court, Fort, Mumbai –
400032, Maharashtra;
b) the Principal Judge is at liberty to assign the cases to
any of the Court   situated in his jurisdiction to try all
those cases.  He is also at liberty to assign some of the
cases to any other courts also, if necessary;
c) it   is   further   directed   that   the   transferor   courts   shall
immediately transmit the record of concerned cases to
the   Principal   Judge,   Bombay   City   Civil   and   Sessions
Court, Fort, Mumbai – 400032, which should reach on
or before 31.10.2022; 
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d) all   the   accused   in   the   concerned   cases   shall   appear
before   the   Principal   Judge,   Bombay   City   Civil   and
Sessions Court, Fort, Mumbai  on 14.11.2022;
e) on assignment of those cases to the concerned Court(s),
as directed hereinabove, the said Court(s) shall frame the
charges within a period of two months from the date of
appearance, or on   securing presence of the accused
persons, if absent; and thereafter the trial be concluded
as expeditiously as possible, not later than two years. It
is   needless   to   observe   that   the   examination   of   the
witnesses in all cases will be recorded by the Court(s)
separately, thereby it should not cause any prejudice  to
any accused.
      .….………………………J.
                                                (J.K. MAHESHWARI)
New Delhi;
September 9, 2022.
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