Customs officer’s aide in bribery case gets bail as CBI fails to file chargesheet within time

Mumbai: A special CBI court has granted bail to an aide of a customs officer who would allegedly collect bribes on the officer's behalf from importers for clearing their consignments, as the agency did not file the chargesheet within the stipulated 60-days period.

Ghatkopar resident Mahadev Kumkar had approached the court with a plea for default bail and claiming the investigation agency ought to have completed the probe within the stipulated period. The period has expired, but the chargesheet has not been filed. He said he had an indefeasible right for bail in the situation.

The CBI had resisted his plea and told the court that chargesheet could not be filed for want of sanction under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) and attributed the inability to secure sanction due to the pandemic. The prosecution said the concerned departments are working at less than 25 percent staff and hence the sanction could not be obtained. It said that if he is released on bail, it will hamper its probe as he may influence witnesses.

The court in its order noted that since 10 April the applicant is in judicial custody. It said that as per the CrPC, 90-days time to file the chargesheet can be given when the offence is punishable by a term of over 10 years jail, but the offences against the applicant are punishable by a seven-year-sentence. It further noted that the time for filing of chargesheet expired on 9 June. While passing the order on 16 June, it noted that till date, no chargesheet was filed.

Special CBI judge AS Sayyad said in his order, “...it is failure on the part of the prosecution to complete the investigation within the period of limitation. Once prosecution fails to complete investigation within the period of limitation, the applicant accrues indefeasible right to move such an application for grant of default bail. The court has no power to intervene with the indefeasible right of the applicant..”

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