Bombay HC grants pre-arrest bail to 2 Navy officers accused in ₹6.76-crore fraudUpdated: Sep 18, 2020, 23:36 IST
The Bombay high court (HC) on Friday granted interim protection from arrest to two Indian Navy officers who were booked by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in July for allegedly generating fraudulent bills of ₹6.76 crore for supplying IT hardware to Western Naval Command. The two officers — Captain Atul Kulkarni and Commander Raj Pal Sharma — informed the HC that as another accused had been granted pre-arrest bail by the special CBI court in August, on grounds of parity they too should be granted the same, which the court accepted.
The single judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal while hearing the anticipatory bail pleas filed by Kulkarni and Sharma was informed that in July, CBI had booked four Navy officers including Kulkarni, Sharma, Commander Mandar Godbole and Petty Officer Kuldip Singh Baghel along with 14 others for allegedly generating fake bills.
In the complaint, it was stated that between January and March 2016, four officers had raised fraudulent and forged bills of IT hardware supplies to the Western Naval Command however, none of the supplies had reached the headquarters. Thereafter another five persons from the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Navy), the department that carries out auditing of bills, and other private individuals and companies were also booked in the case.
Advocate Shrikrishna Ganbavle for Kulkarni said his client was Command Logistics Officer for entire Western Command, while Sharma was his subordinate. He submitted that Petty Officer Kuldeep Singh Baghel, who was given access to their ID and password in good faith, had misused the same. After the applicants realised the fraud, they were the first to raise an alarm and alerted the authorities of the same.
Ganbavle further submitted that as a special CBI court had granted pre-arrest bail to one of the accused, Commander Mandar Godbole, on the grounds of parity, the applicants should also be granted protection from arrest.
However, advocate Poornima Kantharia appearing for the anti-Corruption bureau (ACB) of CBI opposed the applications and sought time to take instructions to verify material on record and respond.
After hearing the submissions, the bench restrained CBI from taking coercive steps against the applicants until further orders and directed it to file an affidavit in reply to the plea within a week and posted further hearing to October 7.
The court also asked applicants to remain present before the investigating agency to cooperate with the investigation.