JAMMU: Special Judge CBI Jammu Rajesh Sekri on Tuesday rejected the bail application of Hilal Rather, son of Ex-Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, involved in Rs. 177 crore J&K Bank scam. The court proceedings were held using the facilities of Video-Conferencing and WhatsApp Video call.
The court denied the interim bail to Hilal Rather, son of a former Jammu and Kashmir minister, rejecting his fears of contracting COVID-19 in custody, with the court saying that he will be at more risk if he moves out of Jail.
While rejecting the application, Special CBI judge Rajesh Sekhri noted that in the prevailing situation, the accused is more likely to contract the virus if he moves out of the jail, and his release may frustrate the purpose behind the lockdown.
Rather moved an application before the special CBI judge, Jammu seeking interim bail after the CBI filed a charge sheet against him in the Rs 177 crore J&K Bank loan fraud case on health grounds, citing the prevailing threat of contracting coronavirus during incarceration.
The CBI strongly countered his arguments submitting that Rather, son of former Jammu and Kashmir minister Abdul Rahim Rather, is more likely to contract the disease if he moves out of jail.
The Centre has already announced a complete lockdown and restricted all forms of movement to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the agency said.
The multi-crore loan case is related to the alleged misappropriation of crores of rupees from the term loans running into crores sanctioned by Jammu and Kashmir Bank for his ambitious township project known as Paradise Avenue at Narwal Bala Jammu in the year 2012. The investigation conducted by the Bureau has revealed that Paradise Avenue, a partnership concern of Hilal Rather, Dr Rizwan Raheem Dar of Sanant Nagar Srinagar, Ghulam Mohd Bhatt of Baramulla Kashmir, Daljeet Wadhera and Deepshikha Jamwal of Jammu was sanctioned a term loan of Rs 74.27 crore in the first phase in relaxation to the credit policy of the bank which restricts loan to a partnership firm at Rs 40 crore and the loan was approved by the Board of Directors of the J&K Bank when Hilal Rather despite the fact that he had already entered into an OTS with the State Financial Corporation in the past. The remaining loan amount was granted by the Board despite the fact that the repayments of the first loan taken was not complete. Hilal Rather, who also owns Simula Group of Companies, was being questioned for the last few months by the Bureau in connection with the siphoning of crores of rupees from the loan amount sanctioned by the New University Campus Branch of J&K Bank for the construction of flats under the name of Paradise Avenue. He has been evading details of property raised and other transactions related to siphoning of funds meant for construction. It has also been revealed that the funds diverted have been used to purchase huge properties abroad, holidaying abroad with family and friends and also for other entertainment activities. All the loan amounts availed by Hilal Ahmed Rather to tune of Rs. 177 crore have become NPA.
In the charge-sheet submitted by the CBI it has been stated that investigation on certain vital points including end use of funds, diversion of funds, role of officers of CHQ, Board of Directors and partners of the firm with regard to all 4 term loans is still underway to establish the role of other public servants and private persons/partner and employees of the firms et in the instant matter and also to collect more evidence against Hilal Ahmed Rather, Iqbal Singh and Arun Kapur. After completion of investigation, result of the same will be submitted before the court in the shape of supplementary charge-sheet.
Special Judge CBI Jammu Rajesh Sekri after hearing senior Advocate Sunil Sethi along with Advocate Pranav Kohli for the applicant whereas senior Public Prosecutor Manmohan Sharma for the CBI, observed that Counsels appearing for the petitioner have made a mention to consider the bail motion of the petitioner on the ground of medical emergency.
The prosecution opposed the motion and stated that the accused has been discharged from the PGI in stable condition without any advice for special treatment/hospitalization. It was alleged that the medical report furnished by the accused appears to be manipulated on the second green page of the discharge summary where “maintain hygiene & clean condition” is written, thus, needs to be verified.
Objections filed by the CBl through Whatsapp were forwarded to counsels for the petitioner. Albeit denying manipulation of the medical report, the defence has not denied in its rejoinder that the petitioner has been discharged from the PGI in a stable condition.
Court further observed that the medical record, produced by the petitioner, bears testimony to the fact that the petitioner was discharged from PGI, Chandigarh way back on March 21, 2020 in a stable condition.
Court further observed that although counsels for the petitioner have vehemently denied that medical record of the petitioner has been manipulated, but Sharma, Senior Public Prosecutor has rightly submitted that second green page of the record where, “maintain hygiene & clean condition”, is written is neither scaled nor signed by the PGI doctors.
The predominant argument of counsels for Hilal Rather was that he being suffering with various ailments is more susceptible to contract coronavirus infection in unhygienic conditions in the jail.
Fact remains that the jail authorities, hospitals, the aforesaid court and High Court of J&K have always taken proper and adequate care of the health and of the petitioner. Vide order dated February 18, 2020, High Court directed Medical Supt of Super Specialty hospital Jammu to submit medical report of the petitioner and the aforesaid hospital immediately obliged vide report no. URO/20/288 dated February 19, 2020. It needs a specific mention that the petitioner was not enlarged on bail by High Court on basis of aforesaid medical report of super specialty hospital.
The petitioner was advised by the doctors for assessment of his health condition through PGI, Chandigarh. Consequently Supt District Jail Jammu sought permission of this Court for his evacuation to PGI on March 11, 2020 and this court allowed the prayer on the same day. PGI Chandigarh after assessment of the health discharged the accused/petitioner in a stable condition.
Special Judge CBI further observed “The medical condition of the petitioner has been described as stable, and as such, there is no question of extending him the concession of bail on medical grounds”. Court also found force in the submission of the prosecution that given the condition of the accused and the prevailing situation, he is more likely to contract the virus, if he moves out of the jail. With these observations, Court observed that the petitioner has failed to make out a case of interim bail on the ground of medical emergency. Consequently, the petition for interim bail is dismissed. However, Supt District Jail is directed to ensure proper hygienic in jail premises in general and the room, where the petitioner has been lodged. The petitioner shall be also subjected to regular medical check-up.