In a significant development, the Bombay High Court, through Justice Urmila Joshi-Phalke of the Nagpur bench, suspended the sentence of former Congress MLA Sunil Kedar, who was convicted in a bank scam case involving over Rs. 153 Crores. The High Court observed that the trial court’s conclusions were at odds with presented evidence, highlighting discrepancies in the investigation process and the handling of the case.
Trial Court’s Contradictions:
The High Court raised concerns over the trial court’s observations, pointing out that they contradicted the evidence presented during the proceedings. Notably, the trial court had concluded that there was a conspiracy between Sunil Kedar and officers of Home Trade Limited (HTL). However, the High Court emphasized that such a conclusion went against the investigating officer’s admission that Kedar had no personal gain from the investment and was not involved in the transfer of funds.
Moreover, the court noted that the trial court’s assertion that no steps were taken to initiate action was contradicted by the fact that Kedar himself had lodged the First Information Report (FIR) before the registration of the crime. These inconsistencies prompted the High Court to question the trial court’s judgment.
Background of the Case:
Sunil Kedar, a former Congress MLA representing Saoner Assembly Constituency, also served as the acting Chairman of the Nagpur District Central Cooperative Bank (NDCC Bank). He, along with six others, was convicted for conspiring to misappropriate funds from the bank, ostensibly invested in government securities through private brokers, including HTL.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) uncovered irregularities, leading to investigations. Kedar, originally lodging an FIR against the brokers, alleging misappropriation, found himself facing charges of breaching trust and conspiring to defraud the NDCC Bank.
Conviction and Appeal:
The Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Nagpur, sentenced Kedar to rigorous imprisonment for five years. However, Kedar filed an appeal challenging the conviction and sought the suspension of his sentence during the appeal’s pendency. The High Court, while considering Kedar’s plea, acknowledged the need to assess whether he presented arguable points in his appeal and had a chance of acquittal.
High Court’s Observations:
The High Court scrutinized the trial court’s findings, particularly its conclusion that crores of rupees were transferred to HTL without acquiring Government of India Physical Securities. Despite this, the trial court also observed that the accused did not take steps to verify the authenticity of the securities or confirm their purchase.
Contrary to the trial court’s assertion that the board of directors remained unaware of transactions, the High Court highlighted evidence indicating that the purchasing of government securities through HTL was communicated to both the board of directors and shareholders, further emphasizing the need for a comprehensive review of the evidence.
Concerns of Irreparable Damage:
Expressing concerns about potential irreparable damage if the sentence were executed before the appeal’s decision, the High Court concluded that Kedar raised arguable points in his appeal justifying the suspension of the substantive jail sentence. The court, therefore, suspended the sentence until the appeal is decided by the first appellate court.
The Bombay High Court’s decision to suspend Sunil Kedar’s sentence brings attention to discrepancies in the trial court’s findings, raising questions about the fairness of the conviction in the Rs. 153 Crore bank scam case. As the legal proceedings continue, the High Court’s intervention underscores the importance of ensuring a thorough examination of evidence and upholding the principles of justice in high-stakes cases involving public figures. The unfolding developments in Sunil Kedar’s appeal will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of this complex legal battle.