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Allahabad High Court grants bail to former Axis Bank employee accused in Rs 22.36 crore fraud

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The Allahabad High Court has recently granted bail to Kamal Ahsan, who was a Relationship Manager in Axis Bank, Civil Lines Branch, noting that the applicant is suffering from malignancy.

The single-judge bench of Justice Rahul Chaturvedi passed this order while hearing a Criminal Misc Bail Application filed by Kamal Ahsan. In an earlier order dated November 8, 2021, the court noted that the applicant is suffering from malignancy. 

The Court had requested the doctor concerned of Kamla Nehru Hospital, Prayagraj to scan the applicant and submit a report on Kamal Ahsan’s health condition and the stage of cancer. The report from the office of SSP Jail, Central Jail, Naini Prayagraj dated November 11, 2021 annexing the report from Kamla Nehru Memorial Hospital is taken on record.

Kamal Ahsan is facing prosecution under Section 3/4 of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and the trial is underway.

The contention raised by counsel for the applicant is that for the incident of March 1, 2013, case was registered on a complaint made by one Yogesh Bajpayee, Assistant Vice President, Axis Bank, Allahabad with the allegation that the applicant is working as a Relationship Manager in Axis Bank, Civil Lines Branch. After receipt of the complaint, an internal committee of the Bank was constituted to inquire about the allegations made against the applicant. The Committee found that the applicant was handling the accounts of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (SHUATS).

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The applicant, in connivance with one Rajesh Kumar, Accountant, SHUATS, opened a new account in the name of his family members and relatives and siphoned off Rs 22.39 crore from SHUATS fraudulently. As per the Axis Bank Investigating Report dated April 7, 2017, 385 fraudulent transactions were debited to the SHUATS account from March 5, 2013 to November 7, 2016.

On these allegations, initially the FIR was registered under section 409, 418, 420, 421, 463, 467, 471, 477, 201, and 120-B IPC. The applicant was arrested on 28.07.2017.

Contention raised by counsel is that the co-ordinate Bench of the Court, while considering the Criminal Misc Bail Application have allowed the bail application of the applicant, the application and eventually enlarged on bail on August 13, 2018.

After his release, the enforcement case information report was lodged on September 11, 2017 by one Ram Chandra, Assistant Director, PMLA mentioning therein that Section 120B, 418, 420, 421, 467, 471 IPC invoked in FIR are scheduled offences under the prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and on the basis of aforesaid information and documents, prima facie, case of money laundering act under section 3 of the Act, 2002 punishable under section 4 of the Act, seems to be made out.

Counsel for the applicant has drawn the attention of the Court to the ground of arrest order dated November 09, 2020 recording his satisfaction for the arrest and the primary satisfaction was that on February 07, 2019, April 24, 2019 and July 05, 2019, the applicant was summoned for consultation of document and evidences, but he has never cooperated and unnecessarily sought adjournments on the three occasions, on this, the PMLA authorities came to the conclusions that the applicant is avoiding the investigation and applying the delaying tactics to hamper the investigation and thus on November 10, 2020, he was again arrested under the PMLA, 2002 and after investigation, Enforcement Directorate has filed the charge sheet on December 10, 2020 against Kamal Ahsan (applicant), Syad Yawar Hussain, Jamal Ashraf and Rajesh Kumar.

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It was contended by counsel that the applicant was in jail who was arrested on 28.07.2017 and eventually bailed out on 13.08.2018. Facing the incarceration for one year and one month and thereafter, he is again in jail since 10.11.2020.

Counsel for the applicant submitted that the applicant is aged about 36 years but he is suffering from a number of serious and deadly ailments. He is suffering from Diabetes Mellitus for 7 years and Fistula for 3 months with oral cancer operation in January 2019.

“In this case, the applicant is suffering from cancer and has undergone a surgery in January, 2019 at P.D. Hinduja Hospital, Mahim, Mumbai and thereafter the attending doctor has advised him to have a periodical check up of the affected area. The applicant is a known case of CA buccal mucosa squamous cell cancer now presented with Nasopharyngeal wounds. He has already faced incarceration for almost two years, when the maximum punishment is seven years. Thus, as per the mandate of law provided under section 45 of PML Act, the applicant deserves bail,” the court observed.

Bal Mukund, Counsel for the ED, opposed the bail by making a mention that the applicant is hail and hearty and his good care is being taken by the jail authorities and assures the Court that as and when his treatment for specialised agency is warranted, it will take due care of. Besides this, it was also urged by counsel for the Department that out of an astronomical figure of Rs 22.39 crore, only Rs 6 crore have been recovered so far and the Department is trying hard to recover the same.

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Bal Mukund raised apprehension that he is the main culprit of this big scam and if released on bail, it is likely that he would flee the country and the institution as well as the bank would be at utter loss and it would become impossible to conduct the trial in a smooth way.

The Court held, “After hearing the rival submissions and perusing the documents, it is clear that initially the FIR was registered in which the coordinate bench of the Court on August 13, 2018 bailed out the applicant and during his arrest, the ED on November 11, 2017 moved the complaint and re-affected his arrest on November 10, 2020 and since then he is in jail.”

“The Department is progressing its investigation with snail’s speed but seems to have filed the charge sheet. The ailing applicant is behind the bars under trial for more than a year. So far as apprehension of fleeing away is concerned, seems to be unfounded and without any basis.”

The Court said that the Enforcement Directorate is at the fullest liberty to seize the applicant’s accounts after grilling him as per the law. But he cannot be put behind bars for an unlimited period.

The Court ordered, “In view of the above, I am of the considered opinion that the applicant is entitled for bail keeping in view that he is suffering from deadly ailments of Cancer and accordingly, the applicant-Kamal Ahsan be released on bail in the case on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 25 lakh and two sureties to the like amount to the satisfaction of the trial court with the following conditions :-

(i) He shall not leave the country without permission of the court and get his passport deposited in the court within a week after his release.

(ii) He also makes himself available as and when the Investigating Officer requires his personal presence with the desired documents by the prosecuting agency.

(iii) He shall not influence the prosecution witnesses directly or indirectly.

(iv) During trial, he shall not make any adjournment whatsoever on any ground and shall cooperate in the early conclusion of trial. The trial court too is expected to conclude the trial on the top most priority and conclude the same within a reasonable time.

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