Central Bureau of Investigation VERSUS Santosh Karnani & Anr.

Central Bureau of Investigation VERSUS  Santosh Karnani & Anr. 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

[Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No. 295 of 2023]
Central Bureau of Investigation … Appellant
 Santosh Karnani & Anr. … Respondents
[Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No. 724 of 2023]
Rupesh Balwantbhai Brambhatt  … Appellant
Santosh Karnani & Ors.  …Respondents
Surya Kant, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. The Appellants in the two Criminal Appeals,
the   Central   Bureau   of   Investigation   &   Rupesh
Balwantbhai Brambhatt (hereinafter, “complainant”)
respectively, are aggrieved by the order dated 19th
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December,   2022   passed   by   the   High   Court   of
Gujarat at Ahmedabad allowing the anticipatory bail
application filed by Respondent No. 1 in connection
with FIR registered as C.R. No. RC0292022A0011 of
2022 before CBI/ACB/Gandhinagar Police Station,
District Gandhinagar for the offence under Section 7
of   the   Prevention   of   Corruption   Act,   1988   as
amended in 2018.
3. The complainant is a businessman engaged in
the construction business that goes by the name:
Safal   Construction   Pvt.   Ltd.   In   February   2019,
Respondent   No.   1,   an   IRS   Officer,   posted   as
Additional   Commissioner   of   Income   Tax,
Ahmedabad, conducted a survey for the financial
year 2018­19 under Section 133A of the Income Tax
Act,   1961   against   Safal   Construction   Pvt.   Ltd.
whereunder   the   group   disclosed   an   additional
income of Rs. 50 crores. 
4. Thereafter,   in   September   2021,   search   and
seizure   action   was   initiated   by   the   Investigation
Wing   of   Income   Tax   Department,   Ahmedabad
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against Safal Construction Pvt. Ltd.  Following these
searches, some papers related to the complainant’s
business   were   seized   and   the   Central   Circle,
Range­1 Division initiated the procedure for raising
a demand notice. It is the complainant’s case that
he found out that Respondent No. 1 was handling
his   case   and   would   be   preparing   the   appraisal
memo.   Subsequently,   the   complainant   and
Respondent No. 1 met frequently in connection with
the   case   and   it   is   alleged   that   during   these
interactions, Respondent No. 1 threatened to ruin
the   complainant’s   business   and   demanded   illegal
5. On 29th  September, 2022, Respondent No. 1
allegedly contacted the complainant and told him to
meet   him   on   3rd  October,   2022.   Accordingly,   the
complainant met Respondent No. 1 at the Income
Tax Office where Respondent No. 1 demanded illegal
gratification of Rs. 30 lakhs to help the complainant
with his case. This conversation was recorded by the
complainant on a Digital Voice Recorder which has
been handed over to the investigating authorities
and a transcript of the same has also been provided
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to   this   Court.   The   complainant   was   directed   to
deposit the amount in the account of one Vardhman
in the Dhara Angadia Firm. 
6. The complainant lodged a complaint the next
morning with ACB Police Station, Ahmedabad city at
07:15   hours   and   a   trap   was   then   laid.   The
complainant’s   employee   was   sent   to   the   Angadia
firm   with   the   bribe   money   amounting   to   Rs.   30
lakhs along with personnel from the ACB trap team.
Upon depositing Rs. 30 lakhs with Dhara Angadia
firm, the complainant contacted Respondent No. 1
through WhatsApp call which was recorded by the
ACB team wherein Respondent No. 1 acknowledged
payment of the amount. Immediately thereafter, one
ACB team went to detain and arrest Respondent
No.   1,   who   along   with   some   staff   members,   is
alleged to have physically assaulted the ACB team
and   escaped   from   the   office   due   to   the   ensuing
chaos. It is also claimed that Respondent No. 1,
while   escaping   from   the   office,   handed   over   his
mobile   phone   to   a   colleague.   Simultaneously,
another   ACB   team   recovered   the   bribe   amount
deposited with Dhara Angadia. 
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7. FIR No. 12/2022 was thus, registered against
Respondent No. 1 under Sections 7, 13(1) and 13(2)
of   the   Prevention   of   Corruption   Act,   1988   on
th October, 2022.
8. Owing   to   the   gravity   of   the   case,   on
12th October, 2022, the case was transferred to the
Central Bureau of Investigation (hereinafter, “CBI”)
and FIR No. 12/2022 was re­registered as C.R. No.
RC0292022A0011 of 2022 under Section 7 of the
Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The FIR records
that Respondent No. 1 evaded arrest by the ACB
team   and   was   still   at   large   at   the   time   of
re­registration of the FIR. 
9. Thereafter, a notice under Section 41A, Code of
Criminal Procedure (hereinafter, “CrPC”) was issued
to Respondent No. 1 calling upon him to appear
before   the   CBI   but   Respondent   No.   1   failed   to
respond. On 17th October, 2022, Respondent No. 1
wrote a letter to the Investigating Officer that he had
suffered   severe   anxiety   &   depression   due   to   the
allegations levelled against him and had, thus, gone
to   his   home   state   of   Rajasthan   for   medical
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treatment. He sought four days’ time to  join  the
10. During investigation Smit Thakkar, owner of
Dhara Angadia firm, informed the authorities that
the illegal gratification was deposited in the account
of one Malav Ajitbhai Mehta. It is also claimed that
prior to the deposit of the amount, Malav Mehta
informed Smit Thakkar that Rs. 30 lakhs would be
deposited   in   the   account   and   would   have   to   be
transferred to another person on the same day. 
11. Another notice under Section 41A was issued
to Respondent No. 1 and again, he failed to appear
before the CBI. On 26th October, 2022, Respondent
No. 1 again sought one week’s time to appear before
the Investigating Officer vide a communication sent
from the email ID of Blue Heaven Hotel, Jaipur.
Subsequently, some more Section 41A notices were
issued to Respondent No. 1, to which he sought
more   time   to   join   the   investigation   on   various
grounds.   He   simultaneously   preferred   an
application for grant of anticipatory bail. 
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12. By an order dated 3rd November, 2022, the City
Civil   &   Sessions   Court   at   Ahmedabad   rejected
Respondent No. 1’s application for anticipatory bail.
The Special Judge ­ CBI Court No. 3 observed that
Respondent No. 1 instead of cooperating with the
investigating agency, had absconded and got himself
admitted in a hospital in Rajasthan to evade the
process of law. Some of the observations made by
the Special Judge, CBI Court, are to the following
“Thus, the ground of ill health pleaded by
the   Learned   Advocate   for   the   applicant
would hold no ground as this Court is of a
candid opinion that the applicant instead
of   cooperating   with   the   Investigating
Agency had absconded and had got himself
admitted   in   hospital   at   his   native   in
Rajasthan with a view to evade the process
of law.
…   … …
In   view   of   the   aforesaid   facts   and
circumstances, this Court is of a candid
opinion that custodial interrogation of the
present   applicant   is   a   must   to   reach   to
unearth   the   larger   conspiracy.   It   is
necessary   to   unveil   the  modus   operandi
adopted by the applicant in committing the
larger   conspiracy   and   without
interrogation,   it   would   be   impossible   to
collect the relevant evidence resulting into
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incomplete investigation. It is also crystal
clear that the applicant with a view to avoid
arrest has filed the present application and
therefore,   instead   of   cooperating   in   the
investigation have tried to thwart the ∙same
and thus, it can be said that the applicant
is not cooperating in the investigation.
…   … …
This Court also cannot lose sight of the fact
that   investigation   in   the   matter   is   still
under progress and releasing the applicant
at this premature stage would pave way for
the applicant to influence the investigation,
hamper   the   witnesses   and   tamper   the
13. The   Court   eventually   held   that   custodial
interrogation of Respondent No. 1 was necessary to
reach the root of the matter. 
14. Aggrieved by the order of the Special Judge,
CBI   Court,   Respondent   No.   1   applied   for
anticipatory bail before the High Court of Gujarat.
Meanwhile, on 22nd  November, 2022, the Court of
Special  CBI  Judge  issued a  non­bailable warrant
against Respondent No. 1.
15. The   High   Court,  vide  impugned   order  dated
19th  December, 2022, granted anticipatory bail to
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Respondent No. 1. The High Court observed that
there is a doubt regarding the acceptance of illegal
gratification, as it was deposited in the account of
Vardhman in Dhara Angadia firm and there is no
evidence with respect to acceptance of the amount
by Respondent No. 1. The reasons on the basis of
which   the   High   Court   proceeded   to   grant
anticipatory bail are recorded in paragraph 12 of its
order, which states as follows:  
“12.  This  Court  has  considered  following
  (i)   The   FIR   is   registered   on
12.10.2022 for the offence which is
alleged   to   have   taken   place   on
(ii) Learned APP under instructions
of IO is unable to bring on record
any   special   circumstances   against
the applicant. 
(iii)   The   role   attributed   to   the
applicant­ accused; 
(iv) That the applicant is a Additional
Income   Tax   Commissioner   and   no
any   other   criminal   antecedents
against him; 
(v)   There   is   creating   serious   doubt
about demand and acceptance of the
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(vi) There is no discovery or recovery
from the applicant;”
16. The High Court further directed that despite
grant of anticipatory bail, CBI could apply for police
remand of Respondent No. 1 and that if the same
was   granted   by   the   competent   Magistrate,
Respondent   No.   1   would   be   set  free  immediately
upon completion of the police remand. The relevant
part of the impugned order to this effect reads as
“16. Despite this order, it would be open for
the   Investigating   Agency   to   apply   to   the
competent Magistrate, for police remand of
the applicant. The applicant shall remain
present  before   the   learned   Magistrate   on
the first date of hearing of such application
and on all subsequent occasions, as may
be directed by the learned Magistrate. This
would be sufficient to treat the accused in
the   judicial   custody   for   the   purpose   of
entertaining application of the prosecution
for police remand. This is, however, without
prejudice to the right of the accused to seek
stay   against   an   order   of   remand,   if,
ultimately, granted and the power of the
learned   Magistrate   to   consider   such   a
request   in   accordance   with   law.   It   is
clarified   that   the   applicant   even   if,
remanded   to   the   police   custody,   upon
completion of such period of police remand,
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shall   be   set   free   immediately,   subject   to
other   conditions   of   this   anticipatory   bail
order.  At the trial, the Trial Court shall not
be   influenced   by   the   prima   facie
observations   made   by   this   Court   while
enlarging  the applicant on bail.   Rule  is
made absolute. Direct service is permitted.”
17. Following   the   High   Court’s   directions,
Respondent   No.   1   joined   the   investigation   and
appeared on three days but is stated to have not
produced his mobile phone(s) though he was asked
to do so repeatedly. The CBI, then, applied for police
remand of Respondent No. 1 and, on 30th December,
2022, the Special Judge, CBI Court No. 3 partly
allowed   the   said   application.   The   Court,   upon
perusal   of   the   case   diary,   observed   that   the
allegations   against   Respondent   No.   1   seem   wellfounded   and   that   remand   is   necessary   for   the
purpose of investigation to collect the missing link of
evidence and to unearth the larger conspiracy. The
application was allowed in the following terms:
“The Accused Mr. Santosh Kumar Karnani
is directed to appear and surrender himself
to   the   custody   of   Investigating   Officer,
CBI /ACB/ Gandhinagar from 10.00 am to
7.00   pm   on   dated   31/12/2022,
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01/01/2023,   02/01/2023   and   on
03/01/2023,   in   connection   with   RC0292022A0011 GNR. It is further directed
that accused shall be set free at 7.00 pm
on respective dates. 
Further as per the direction of Honourable
Gujarat   High   Court,   upon   completion   of
aforesaid period of remand, the accused be
set free upon expiry of remand period and
report   be   submitted   to   this   Court   along
with copies of medical examination paper/
Certificate. The case diary be handed back
to the Investigating Officer. 
The accused is hereby directed to give full
cooperation to Investigating officer to carry
out proper investigation of this case.
The Investigating Officer is hereby directed
to   strictly   adhere   to   the   guidelines   laid
down   by   the   Hon’ble   Supreme   Court   of
India in case of  D.K.   Basu   vs.   State   of
W.B.  reported in  AIR   1997   SC   610  and
Honourable Gujarat High Court, while the
accused is in custody and refrain from any
custodial ill­treatment or torture”
18. CBI,   thereafter,   preferred   an   application   for
suspension of the aforesaid order before Special CBI
Court on the ground that they wish to challenge it
before the High Court of Gujarat. Hence, Special
Judge, CBI Court No. 3 stayed operation of its order
till 7th  January, 2023. This was later extended by
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the Court till the final disposal of the Special Leave
Petition (Crl.) No. 295 of 2023.
19. Assailing   the   impugned   order   granting
anticipatory bail to Respondent No. 1, Mr. Tushar
Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India on behalf
of the CBI made the following submissions:
i. Considering the gravity and seriousness of
the   offence   and   the   position   held   by
Respondent No. 1, the High Court erred in
exercising   its   discretionary   jurisdiction
under Section 438 of the CrPC;
ii. The   High   Court   did   not   appreciate   the
material collected against Respondent No. 1
which   establishes   a   clear   demand   &
acceptance of bribe by him in view of his
voice recordings seeking an amount of Rs.
30   lakhs   from   the   complainant   and
acknowledging   payment   thereof.   The
relevant   voice   recordings   have   been
analysed and the voices have been identified
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to be those of Respondent No. 1 and the
iii. The High Court grossly erred in observing
that the FIR was registered after a long delay
on 12th October, 2022. On that day, the CBI
had   only   re­registered   FIR   No.   12/2022
which was initially registered by ACB Police
Station on 4th October, 2022. 
iv. Respondent No. 1’s name was included in
the   ‘Agreed   List’   in   respect   of   Group   A
officers of the Income Tax Department for
the year 2015 and thus, his service record is
not clean;
v. Respondent No. 1 evaded arrest when the
ACB   team   raided   his   office   after   he   had
acknowledged   the   payment   of   the   bribe
money   over   a   WhatsApp   call.   Respondent
No. 1 & his colleagues used criminal force to
deter the ACB team from effecting arrest and
collecting material evidence. While doing so,
Respondent No. 1 handed over his mobile
phone, which is a crucial piece of evidence,
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to his colleague to ensure that the same was
not seized by the investigating agency. This
has been recorded in the CCTV cameras of
the office;
vi. The audio recordings and video footage have
been   examined   by   the   Directorate   of
Forensic   Science,   Gujarat   certifying   their
genuineness.   The   report   concludes   that
there are no signs of alteration in the same;
vii. Respondent   No.  1  falsely  pleaded   that   he
had taken casual leave from the competent
authority   and   misled   the   investigating
agency   by   sending   a   reply   to   the   notice
issued under Section 41A, CrPC through the
email ID of Blue Heaven Hotel, Jaipur. Upon
investigation, it was found that Respondent
No. 1 had never stayed at that hotel; 
viii. During investigation, reliable evidence has
come on record to show that other Income
Tax   officials   were   hands   in   glove   with
Respondent   No.   1,   which   is   also   evident
from the active role played by some officials
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in helping Respondent No.1 to avoid arrest
by the ACB on 4th October, 2022. Custodial
interrogation   is   highly   necessary   to
ascertain   the   deeper   plot   at   play   and   to
examine   the   involvement   of   other   Income
Tax officials;
ix. Respondent No. 1 appeared before the CBI
after   the   protection   granted   by   the   High
Court   but   did   not   handover   his   mobile
handsets   which   are   a   crucial   piece   of
evidence and is, thus, not cooperating with
the investigation. Custodial interrogation is
necessary   in   this   case   to   take   the
investigation to its logical conclusion;
x. Reliance has been placed on the judgment of
this Court in  State   Rep.   By   The   CBI   v.
Anil   Sharma1
  to   argue   that   “custodial
interrogation   is   qualitatively   more
elicitation­oriented   than   questioning   a
suspect   who   is   well   ensconced   with   a
favourable order under Section 438 of the
1 (1997) 7 SCC 187.
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Code.   In   a   case   like   this,   effective
interrogation   of   a   suspected   person   is   of
tremendous advantage in disinterring many
useful information and also materials which
would have been concealed. Success in such
interrogation would elude if the suspected
person knows that he is well protected and
insulated by a pre­arrest bail order during
the   time   he   is   interrogated.   Very   often
interrogation   in   such   a   condition   would
reduce to a mere ritual.”;
xi. Reliance   has   also   been   placed   on   the
decisions   in  Prem   Shankar   Prasad   v.
State   of   Bihar2
,  State   of   Madhya
Pradesh v. Pradeep Sharma3
 and Lavesh
v.   State   (NCT   of   Delhi)4
  to   urge   that
anticipatory bail should not be granted to an
xii. The High Court passed an unusual order
directing that the investigating agency would
2 2021 SCC OnLine SC 955.
3 (2014) 2 SCC 171.
4 (2012) 8 SCC 730.
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be   at   liberty   to   apply   to   the   competent
Magistrate for police remand of Respondent
No. 1 and in the  same breath, prevented
custodial interrogation of the main suspect.
20. Supporting the above submissions on behalf of
the   CBI,   Mr.   Maninder   Singh,   learned   Senior
Counsel   appearing   for   the   complainant,   made
following additions: 
i. The High Court ignored the observations &
findings   of   the   learned   Sessions   Court
recorded while rejecting Respondent No. 1’s
application   for   anticipatory   bail.   The   said
Court   had   gone   through   the   material   on
record, including the case papers, and then
only   observed   that   custodial   interrogation
was   necessary   to   enable   the   investigation
agency to reach the core of the matter. 
ii. The   High   Court   failed   to   appreciate   the
unequivocal demand of Rs. 30 lakhs made
by Respondent No. 1, which was recorded by
the complainant on a Digital Voice Recorder
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and acceptance of that bribe money through
Dhara Angadia Firm.
21. On the other hand, Mr. Mukul Rohatgi and Mr.
Shyam   Divan,   learned   Senior   Counsels   strongly
refuted the insinuations made against Respondent
No. 1 and defended the High Court order granting
pre­arrest bail with the following submissions:
i. The allegations levelled against Respondent
No. 1 are false and concocted. Respondent
No.   1   never   raised   any   demand   for
gratification as alleged by the complainant.
Respondent No. 1 had no connection with
the search and seizure action taken against
the   complainant’s   company   in   September
2021   or   with   the   preparation   of   the
appraisal report. Respondent No. 1 is not
the Assessing Officer of the complainant’s
case and the matter is entrusted to some
other officer;
ii. There   is   no   evidence   of   demand   or
acceptance of bribe which are sine qua non
for establishing the offence. In trap cases
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under Section 7 of Prevention of Corruption
Act,   the  conversation   of   demand   is  to   be
recorded by the complainant in the presence
of independent panchas and the trap laying
Officer   has   to   ensure   that   there   is   no
possibility of any tampering. In the present
case,   the   voice   recording   of   the   alleged
demand has been done without any police
involvement and thus, holds no evidentiary
value.   The   alleged   deposit   of   the   amount
was   made   in   an   Angadia   firm   which   is
unknown to Respondent No. 1 and cannot
be   termed   as   acceptance   of   bribe.
Respondent No. 1 has no connection with
Malav Ajitbhai Mehta, who is stated to be
the   owner   of   the   account   wherein   the
amount was deposited and Respondent No.
1 was not present at the site of the Angadia
iii. The   complainant   has   animosity   with
Respondent No. 1 due to the past survey
action taken for the financial year 2018­19
against his company which led to disclosure
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of additional income of Rs. 50 crores. This
fact has not been disclosed in the FIR. The
complainant   has   falsely   implicated
Respondent No. 1 due to his apprehensions
that Respondent No. 1 will impose huge tax
liability on him & his company;
iv. A perusal of FIR No. 12/2022 shows that it
was registered on 4th October, 2022 at 9:30
pm while the acts of the alleged demand,
laying down of the trap, deposit of money at
Dhara Angadia and the raid at Respondent
No. 1’s office occurred on 3rd October, 2022
and   during   the   daytime   on   4th  October,
2022. Additionally, there is no record of the
complainant meeting police officials prior to
the   registration   of   FIR.   The   delay   in
registration of FIR which is more than 24
hours   after   the   alleged   demand   of   illegal
gratification, has not been explained;
v. Only   Respondent   No.   1   is   sought   to   be
arrested by the CBI. The owner or employees
of   Dhara   Angadia   firm   have   not   been
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arrested and the High Court order granting
anticipatory   bail   to   Malav   Mehta   has   not
been   challenged   by   the   CBI   before   this
vi. CBI has misused the provisions of Section
41A of the CrPC to arrest Respondent No. 1.
A   bare   perusal   of   the   provision   and   the
guidelines   laid   down   by   this   Court   in
Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar5
that a notice under Section 41A would be
issued only when the investigating agency
does not require the custody of a person. In
the present case, notices under Section 41A
were issued post the raid conducted by ACB
team at Respondent No. 1’s office by which
time they had decided to arrest him;
vii. As per settled law of this Court, Respondent
No. 1 cannot be termed as an absconder as
he was availing his legal remedies. However,
despite   this,   the   investigating   agency
published notices in the media and pasted
5 (2014) 8 SCC 273.
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‘Wanted’   posters   with   Respondent   No.   1’s
name,   photo   and   designation   at   various
places,   which   indicates  mala   fides  of   the
investigation agency;
viii. The  bona   fides  of   Respondent   No.   1   are
evident from his conduct post the grant of
anticipatory bail. As directed  by the High
Court,   Respondent   No.   1   appeared   before
the CBI on at least four occasions, as and
when   called.   Respondent   No.   1   has   also
voluntarily given his voice samples. Given
the   fact   that   Respondent   No.   1   is
cooperating with the investigation, custodial
interrogation   is   not   required.   The   High
Court   erred   in   directing   that,   despite   the
grant of anticipatory bail, the investigating
agency would be at liberty to apply to the
competent   Magistrate   for   police   remand.
This   part   of   the   order   was   to   the
disadvantage of Respondent No. 1 but he
abided by the same and appeared before the
Court   when   the   CBI   applied   for   police
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ix. Respondent No. 1 has an impeccable service
record as is evident from his posting to one
of   the   most   sensitive   assignments   in   the
department. Such postings are only given to
senior   officers   with   clean   images.   His
integrity   is   beyond   doubt   and   he   has   an
unblemished past record. There is no case of
disproportionate assets against Respondent
No. 1; 
x. Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption
Act, 1988 as amended in 2018, provides for
a   bar   on   any   enquiry,   inquiry   or
investigation   by   a   police   officer   into   an
alleged offence by a public servant, where
the alleged offence relates to any decision
taken or recommendation made in exercise
of official functions or duties, without the
previous   approval   of   the   competent
authority.   In   this   case,   the   investigating
agency   has   not   complied   with   the
mandatory   procedure   of   Section   17A   and
has initiated investigation on the complaint
without any prior approval of the Competent
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Authority. The breach of these mandatory
conditions vitiates the proceedings initiated
against Respondent No. 1; 
xi. In these circumstances, the High Court has
rightly   granted   anticipatory   bail   to
Respondent   No.   1   and   has   provided
adequate   reasoning   for   the   same   in
paragraph 12 of the impugned order; 
xii. Cancellation of bail has to be dealt with on a
completely different footing in comparison to
refusal   of   bail   and   ‘cogent   and
overwhelming’   reasons   are   necessary   to
cancel bail once granted. Reliance has been
placed   in   this   regard   on  Dolat   Ram   v.
State   of   Haryana6
  wherein   a   two­judge
Bench of this Court held that:
“4. Rejection of bail in a non­bailable
case   at   the   initial   stage   and   the
cancellation of bail so granted, have
to be considered and dealt with on
different   basis.   Very   cogent   and
overwhelming   circumstances   are
necessary for an order directing the
cancellation   of   the   bail,   already
6 (1995) 1 SCC 349.
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granted.   Generally   speaking,   the
grounds   for   cancellation   of   bail,
broadly   (illustrative   and   not
exhaustive)   are:   interference   or
attempt   to   interfere   with   the   due
course of administration of justice or
evasion or attempt to evade the due
course   of   justice   or   abuse   of   the
concession granted to the accused in
any manner. The satisfaction of the
court, on the basis of material placed
on the record of the possibility of the
accused   absconding   is   yet   another
reason  justifying  the  cancellation   of
bail.   However,   bail   once   granted
should   not   be   cancelled   in   a
mechanical   manner   without
considering whether any supervening
circumstances   have   rendered   it   no
longer   conducive   to   a   fair   trial   to
allow   the   accused   to   retain   his
freedom by enjoying the concession of
bail during the trial.”
xiii. No   supervening   circumstances   for
cancellation of bail have been pointed out by
the CBI or the complainant. 
22. The law on grant of anticipatory bail has been
summed­up   by   this   Court   in  Siddharam
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Satlingappa   Mhetre   v.   State   of   Maharashtra7
after due deliberation on the parameters evolved by
the Constitution Bench in Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia
v. State of Punjab8
. This Court held thus:
“112. The following factors and parameters
can   be   taken   into   consideration   while
dealing with anticipatory bail:
(i) The nature and gravity of the accusation
and the exact role of the accused must be
properly   comprehended   before   arrest   is
(ii)   The   antecedents   of   the   applicant
including   the   fact   as   to   whether   the
accused   has   previously   undergone
imprisonment on conviction by a court in
respect of any cognizable offence; 
(iii) The possibility of the applicant to flee
from justice; 
(iv)   The   possibility   of   the   accused's
likelihood   to   repeat   similar   or   other
(v) Where the accusations have been made
only   with   the   object   of   injuring   or
humiliating the applicant by arresting him
or her; 
(vi)   Impact   of   grant   of   anticipatory   bail
particularly   in   cases   of   large   magnitude
affecting a very large number of people; 
7 (2011) 1 SCC 694.
8 (1980) 2 SCC 565.
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(vii)  The  courts  must evaluate the  entire
available material against the accused very
carefully.   The   court   must   also   clearly
comprehend the exact role of the accused
in the case. The cases in which the accused
is implicated with the help of Sections 34
and 149 of the Penal Code, 1860 the court
should consider with even greater care and
caution   because   over­implication   in   the
cases   is   a   matter  of   common   knowledge
and concern; 
(viii) While considering the prayer for grant
of anticipatory bail, a balance has to be
struck   between   two   factors,   namely,   no
prejudice should be caused to the free, fair
and full investigation and there should be
prevention of harassment, humiliation and
unjustified detention of the accused; 
(ix)   The   court   to   consider   reasonable
apprehension of tampering of the witness
or   apprehension   of   threat   to   the
(x) Frivolity in prosecution should always
be considered and it is only the element of
genuineness   that   shall   have   to   be
considered in the matter of grant of bail
and in the event of there being some doubt
as to the genuineness of the prosecution, in
the normal course of events, the accused is
entitled to an order of bail.”
23. In  Sushila   Aggarwal   v.   State   (NCT   of
, the Constitution Bench reiterated that while
9 (2020) 5 SCC 1.
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deciding   applications   for   anticipatory   bail,   courts
should  be  guided by  factors  like  the  nature  and
gravity of the offences, the role attributed to the
applicant, and the facts of the case.
24. The   time­tested   principles   are   that   no
straitjacket   formula   can   be   applied   for   grant   or
refusal of anticipatory bail. The judicial discretion of
the Court shall be guided by various relevant factors
and   largely   it   will   depend   upon   the   facts   and
circumstances of each case. The Court must draw a
delicate balance between liberty of an individual as
guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and
the   need   for   a   fair   and   free   investigation,   which
must be taken to its logical conclusion. Arrest has
devastating   and   irreversible   social   stigma,
humiliation, insult, mental pain and other fearful
consequences. Regardless thereto, when the Court,
on consideration of material information gathered by
the Investigating Agency, is prima facie satisfied that
there   is   something   more   than   a   mere   needle   of
suspicion against the accused, it cannot jeopardise
the investigation, more so when the allegations are
grave in nature. 
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25. Keeping these principles in mind, we proceed
to evaluate the rival submissions. At the outset, it is
to be noted that the High Court fell in a factual error
in   observing   that   FIR   was   registered   on
12th  October, 2022 for the offence alleged to have
taken place on 3rd  and 4th  October, 2022. The FIR
was registered by the ACB against Respondent No. 1
on 4th  October, 2022 under Sections 7, 13(1) and
13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and
was re­registered by CBI on 12th October, 2022.
26. Further, the primary ground assigned by the
High Court to grant anticipatory bail to Respondent
No. 1 is that there was doubt as to the acceptance of
the bribe amount since records of Dhara Angadia
firm had not been produced establishing any link
between Respondent No. 1 & the firm. 
27. The CBI has produced the case diary which
contains the statement made by Smit Thakkar, who
handles Dhara Angadia firm. He has clearly stated
that   Malav   Mehta   was   the   owner   of   Vardhman
account and had informed him that 30 lakhs rupees
would be deposited in his account on 4th  October,
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2022, which in turn had to be sent to someone else.
The   purported   recording   of   conversation   between
the   complainant   and   Respondent   No.   1   wherein
Respondent No. 1 thanked the complainant, after
the deposit of amount in the Vardhman account, is
a reasonable link to connect Respondent No. 1 with
the deposit of illegal gratification in Dhara Angadia
firm,   thereby  prima   facie  showing   acceptance
28. Regarding the alleged discrepancy of delay of
more than 24 hours in the registration of FIR, we
find from the material produced before us that the
complainant   started   narrating   the   complaint   at
07:15   hours   and   it   ended   at   08:00   hours   on
th October, 2022. The panchnama, annexed in the
case diary, provides details of the trap laid by the
ACB and lists all the activities of the ACB team on
that   day,   thereby   dispelling   any   doubts   of  mala
fides on the part of the investigating agencies.
29. We have also gone through the statement of
Mr. Vivek Johri, Assistant Commissioner of Income
Tax who has stated that Respondent No. 1 handed
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over   his   mobile   phone   to   him   before   leaving   the
office, which Mr. Johri later threw away. 
30. The   manner   in   which   Respondent   No.   1
forcefully   evaded   his   arrest   with   the   help   of   his
colleagues   and   got   the   evidence   destroyed,   is   a
strong   circumstance  to   indicate   his  complicity  at
this stage though a clear picture would emerge only
on completion of investigation.
31. The nature and gravity of the alleged offence
should have been kept in mind by the High Court.
Corruption poses a serious threat to our society and
must be dealt with iron hands. It not only leads to
abysmal   loss   to   the   public   exchequer   but   also
tramples   good   governance.     The   common   man
stands deprived of the benefits percolating under
social welfare schemes and is the worst hit.   It is
aptly said, “Corruption is a tree whose branches are
of an unmeasurable length; they spread everywhere;
and the dew that drops from thence, Hath infected
some  chairs  and  stools  of   authority.”   Hence,   the
need to be extra conscious.
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32. From the material placed on record, it seems
that prima facie, the allegations against Respondent
No. 1 cannot be brushed aside lightly at this stage.
There   appears   to   be   a   well­organised   syndicate
comprising officers and officials of the Income Tax
Department, businessmen and Hawala traders, who
are in tandem. Such a nexus needs to be unearthed
through   an   unimpaired   and   unobstructed
33. The   contention   that   prior   approval   of
investigation,   as   mandated   under   Section   17A   of
Prevention of Corruption Act, has not been obtained
and   thus,   the   proceedings   initiated   against
Respondent No. 1 stand vitiated, has no legal or
factual basis. Section 17A merely contemplates that
police officers shall not conduct any enquiry, inquiry
or investigation into any offence alleged to have been
committed by a public servant where the alleged
offence is relatable to any recommendation made or
decision taken in discharge of official functions or
duties,   without   the   previous   approval   of   the
competent authority. The first proviso to the section
states that such approval is not necessary in cases
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involving arrest of the person on the spot on the
charges of accepting undue advantage.
34. As may be seen, the first proviso to Section
17A   refers   to   cases   wherein   a   public   servant   is
charged with acceptance of an undue advantage or
attempt   thereof.   A   prior   approval   or   sanction   to
investigate such an officer in a trap case is likely to
defeat   the   very   purpose   of   trap   and   the
investigation, which is not the underlying intention
of   the   legislature.   The   investigation   against
Respondent No. 1, being an accused of demanding a
bribe, did not require any previous approval of the
Central   Government.   That   apart,   the   accusation
against Respondent No. 1 does not revolve around
any recommendations made or decisions taken by
him in his quasi­judicial or administrative capacity.
35. It is true that cancellation of bail must be done
only   for   cogent   and   overwhelming   reasons.
Nevertheless,   setting   aside   an   unjustified   order
granting bail is distinct from cancellation of bail.
This Court would not, invariably intervene into the
judicial discretion exercised by the High Court while
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granting bail to an accused. All that to be ensured is
that   the   High   Court   exercises   its   discretion
judiciously,   cautiously   and   strictly   in   conformity
with the basic principles laid down by this Court
from time to time in a series of decisions.
36. The Constitution Bench in Sushila Aggarwal
(supra) observed that:
“92.11.   The   correctness   of   an   order
granting   bail,   can   be   considered   by   the
appellate or superior court at the behest of
the State or investigating agency, and set
aside on the ground that the court granting
it did not consider material facts or crucial
37. Having   considered   the   nature   of   allegations,
material on record and the settled legal principles
on grant of anticipatory bail, we are of the view that,
howsoever hard or harsh it may be, the High Court
ought   to   have   refrained   itself   from   extending
protection   against  arrest  to  Respondent   No.  1  in
exercise   of   its   discretionary   jurisdiction   under
Section 438 of the CrPC. 
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38. Assuming Respondent No. 1 had some valid
apprehensions that the actions of ACB (State Police)
were actuated with extraneous reasons, he can no
longer   say   so   once   the   investigation   has   been
transferred to CBI. We do not find any allegation of
personal   vendetta,   victimisation,   bias   or   ulterior
motive against the Central Agency. In any case, CBI
is   expected   to   carry   out   a   free,   fair   and
dispassionate investigation with faithful observance
to the rights of an accused, who is subjected to
custodial interrogation.
39. The   appeals   are,   accordingly,   allowed.   The
impugned judgment and order of the High Court
dated   19th  December,   2022   is   set   aside   and   the
anticipatory bail application of Respondent No. 1 is
dismissed.   As   a   consequence   thereto,   the   order
dated 30th  December, 2022 passed by the Special
Judge,   CBI   Court   No.   3   partly   allowing   CBI’s
application for remand is also set aside. 
40. We clarify that this Court has expressed only
prima facie opinion on the merits of the allegations
for the limited purpose to refuse or grant pre­arrest
Crl. A. No._____ of 2023 @ SLP (Crl.) No. 295 of 2023 etc.                 Page 36 of 37
bail. If Respondent No. 1 moves an application for
grant of regular bail before an appropriate Court,
the same shall be considered on its own merits and
in   accordance   with   law,   uninfluenced   by   the
observations made hereinabove.
41. The   appeals   are   disposed   of   in   the   above
42. Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed
of as well.
New Delhi;
April 17, 2023.
Crl. A. No._____ of 2023 @ SLP (Crl.) No. 295 of 2023 etc.                 Page 37 of 37


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