Directorate Of Enforcement vs Bablu Sonkar on 9 February, 2024

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Supreme Court of India

Directorate Of Enforcement vs Bablu Sonkar on 9 February, 2024

Author: Abhay S. Oka

Bench: Abhay S. Oka

                                                                1


2024 INSC 107



                                                                                          NON-REPORTABLE

                                            IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                           CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                        CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S).       OF 2024
                               (@ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION(CRL.) NO(S). 16226 OF 2023)


        DIRECTORATE OF ENFORCEMENT & ANR.                                                ………APPELLANT(S)


                                                           VERSUS

        BABLU SONKAR & ANR.                                                          …………RESPONDENT(S)

                                                      J U D G M E N T

ABHAY S. OKA, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. We have heard the learned Additional Solicitor General for the

appellants and the learned senior counsel appearing for the first

respondent.

3. The first respondent is the writ petitioner, who filed the

writ petition in the Bombay High Court for quashing a complaint

filed by the Enforcement Directorate under Prevention of Money

Laundering Act, 2002 (for short ‘PMLA’). In the writ petition filed

by the first respondent, there was no interim relief granted

pending the hearing of the petition.

4.
Signature Not Verified
The report submitted by the Registrar General of the Bombay
Digitally signed by
Anita Malhotra
Date: 2024.02.13

High Court records that a roster Bench finally heard the writ
16:59:40 IST
Reason:

petition and on 21.04.2023 and the judgment was reserved. As noted

by the Registrar General of the High Court, the roster of the Bench
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which heard the case of criminal writ petitions for quashing was

only upto 04.06.2023 and the same roster was entrusted to another

Bench with effect from 05.06.2023 till 20.08.2023.

5. As can be seen from the copy of the cause list annexed by the

Registrar General to his report, on 26.06.2023, the writ petition

filed by the first respondent was listed for further hearing. The

impugned order was passed in the Chamber on that day. In paragraph

‘2’ of the impugned order, the Bench recorded that there were

similar matters involving the same issue and its judgment will have

impact on other cases which were pending. Thereafter, the Bench

proceeded to pass the impugned order in terms of the paragraph ‘3’,

which reads thus: –

“3. We, therefore, direct that the judgment is de-
reserved and this petition now shall be heard afresh
along with the other connected matters and decided
together in accordance with law. Meanwhile, in order
to strike balance between the competing rights of the
prosecution and the petitioner/ accused person, we
direct that the petitioner be released on interim bail
on his furnishing a PR bond of Rs. 1,00,000/- with two
solvent sureties of Rs. 50,000/- each, to be furnished
before the Special Court dealing with the present ECIR
on conditions that the petitioner shall not leave the
jurisdiction of the Special Court Mumbai without prior
permission of that Court; shall not tamper with the
prosecution witnesses and the evidence, shall not
tamper with the prosecution witnesses and the
evidence; shall co-operate with the investigating
officer in the investigation of the offence registered
against the petitioner and, shall make himself
available before the Special Court as and when
required by the Court or the investigating Officer.
All questions are kept open.”
(Underline added)

6. The moment the Bench directed that the case was released and

it should be heard afresh, the propriety required that the Bench

should not have passed any order on merits, as the roster of the
3

writ petition was with another Bench on that day.

7. What is shocking is that after releasing the case, when

admittedly there was no prayer made by the first respondent for

grant of bail on 26.06.2023, the Bench granted bail for releasing

the first respondent. Even during the pendency of writ petition,

bail was not granted to the first respondent though a prayer for

interim relief of grant of bail was made in the petition. Even if

such a prayer would have been made on 26.06.2023, the Bench could

not have heard the prayer for bail. Only the roster Bench could

have heard the same. On that day, the advocate for the first

respondent admittedly did apply for bail. Therefore, the appellants

were not heard on the prayer for bail. Moreover, bail was granted

in an offence under the PMLA without recording any reasons. Bail

cannot be granted in such a case only to “strike a balance”.

8. We have no manner of doubt that the impugned order to the

extent to which bail was granted to the first respondent will have

to be quashed and set aside. These are all matters of propriety.

Roster notified by the Chief Justice is not an empty formality. All

Judges are bound by the same. On 26.06.2023, after releasing the

case which was heard two months back, the Bench has proceeded to

grant bail without anyone praying for grant of bail. No Bench can

hear a case, unless as per the prevailing roster, the particular

case is assigned to the Bench or that the case is specially

assigned to the Bench by the Chief Justice. Therefore, we set aside

that part of the impugned order by which bail was granted.

9. We permit the first respondent to move the roster Bench by

filing an application for interim relief/grant of bail. Such
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application shall be entertained by the High Court, only after the

first respondent surrenders. We grant time of two weeks to the

first respondent to surrender. If such an application is made by

the first respondent, it shall be taken up by the concerned roster

Bench and decided by giving necessary priority as expeditiously as

possible, considering the fact that now the writ petition will have

to be heard afresh.

10. We make it clear that we are not setting aside the order

granting bail on merits in the sense that we have not dealt with

the issue whether the first respondent is entitled to be released

on bail by way of interim relief. The said aspect shall be

considered by the High Court while dealing with the application,

which may be filed by the first respondent.

11. The appeal is partly allowed on the above terms.

12. There is no reason to entertain the application being I.A. No.

33382 of 2024 for intervention and the same stands dismissed.

13. Pending application(s), if any, shall stand disposed of.

…………………………………………J.
[ABHAY S. OKA]

…………………………………………J.
[UJJAL BHUYAN]

NEW DELHI;

FEBRUARY 09, 2024.

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