Police cannot seek to add additional sections and seek extension of judicial custody by a mere letter to the judge without submitting remand papers and bringing the new sections to the notice of the accused, observed the Bombay High Court while granting bail to four accused in an alleged crypto-currency fraud.
Justice SG Mehare, at the Aurangabad bench of the HC, said the accused have to be given an opportunity to contest the additional charges brought against them.
“… in the absence of submitting remand papers without knowledge of the accused, the prosecution cannot by a bare letter addressed to the court, seek extension of remand more than the period prescribed under Section 167 of the Cr.P.C…the extension of remand, particularly after adding new sections constituting the serious offence, is not a bare formality,” said the court.
According to the complainant, one Kiran Kharat and Deepti Kharat induced him to invest money in global digital crypto promising attractive returns. The complainant claimed that he invested a huge amount but the crypto-currency’s price was far lower than the one assured by the Kharats.
An FIR was registered against four persons in this connection under sections 420, 120-B, 504, and 506 of the IPC and sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors Act, 2002.
They were arrested on February 3, this year and remanded to police custody till February 17 and judicial custody thereafter. Their bail applications were rejected on April 4 and the remand was extended regularly after every 15 days.
However, on March 27 the police wrote a letter to the Sessions Judge stating they have added sections 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) against the four.
Four days later, the investigating officer wrote a letter to the Additional Sessions Judge seeking extension of 30 days to file the chargesheet, which was granted.
As per the law, judicial custody can be extended upto 90 days in cases related to offence punishable with death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for 10 years. In other cases, the judicial custody can be extended up to 60 days. If the chargesheet is not filed within this period, the accused is entitled for default bail.
In the present case, the sections applied subsequently are punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment.
The high court questioned whether a mere letter to the judge adding the sections against the accused results in automatic extension of judicial custody up to 90 days.
Although the prosecution argued that it can be done, the HC said without fresh remand papers, the custody cannot be extended.
The court noted that the charge sheet was not filed within 60 days. Thus, the magistrate extending the judicial custody became functus officio (an officer or agency whose mandate has expired) and his power to extend the remand ceased as soon as the prescribed period of filing the charge sheet got over, the court held.