In the High Court of Judicature at Madras WP No. 7435 and 7437 of 2020 Petitioner Choe Jae Won; Choi Yong Suk Respondents The Principal Secretary to the Government & ors. Date of Judgement 9th April 2020 Bench The Honourable Mr. Justice S.Vaidyanathan
- The petitioners were the General Manager and Managing Director of Chowel India Private Limited were arrested and remanded to Judicial Custody under Section 69 of CGST Act, 2017. The allegations were that they collected the GST from the people but did not remit the same to the Government of India, since August 2017.
- The Enforcement Compliance Management Section of GST initiated proceedings against them under Section 132(1)(d) of the Act.
- The court granted interim bail till 11th September 2019 with a condition that Rs. 7,50,00,000 should be deposited. Due to failure to pay the amount they were remanded back to judicial custody.
- The petitioners obtained bail by the provisions of default bail as per Section 167(2) of the CrPC. However, the 1st Respondent sent them to the custody of the 2nd petitioner.
- The petitioners filed H.C.P.No.2767 of 2019 and H.C.P.No.2776 of 2019 challenging the same however due to the ongoing pandemic the cases could not be listed.
- They further filed a writ petition for their release from the Special Camp at Tiruchirapalli and allow them to stay at Belchem 804, Kancheepuram due to the prevailing pandemic.
- Whether the Petitioners should be released from the camp due to the ongoing pandemic?
Arguments for Petitioners
- They state that the investigation has been completed by the 2nd Respondent and filed the complaint before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Chennai. They seek the permission of the to stay the Belchem 804, Kancheepuram instead of the Special Camp as the Authorities have not taken proper measures like disinfecting the camp, social distancing etc.
- They also state that the Habeas Corpus Writ Petitions filed by the Petitioners is not a bar to hear the present Writ Petitions .
- The special camps where the petitioners are detained can only accommodate 40 people, but nearly 80 people are detained. If any one of the person gets infected with COVID – 19, then all the other detainees’ lives will be in danger.
- They also submit that they will abide by the conditions imposed by the court and not move from the place till normalcy is back and would move back to the Special Camp willingly.
Arguments for the Respondents
- The Respondents 1, 3 and 4 object the contentions and state that none of the detained people have COVID- 19 and that proper safety measures are taken by the Authorities.
- They are 40 rooms in which 73 people are confined and there is sufficient place and proper social distancing is being followed.
- The petitioners alone cannot be given the opportunity to reside in their respective home as this would lead to other inmates also approaching the court for similar relief.
- Respondent number 2 contended that the investigation for the offences against petitioners have been completed and the Charge Sheet has been filed under the Metropolitan Magistrate and it is pending of trial.
- It has also been contended that the address provided by the petitioner is false and they used to reside in Hotel Flamingo with another Korean National. They have provided with a false address to escape from the law, and if released they will escape to Korea from the borders of Nepal and China.
- The court to ascertain the truthfulness of the statements of the Petitioners, made a videocall to the Special Deputy Collector and came to the conclusion that the Camp is maintained neatly.
- There is sufficient space for 80 people and the photographs furnished have been to prove that more number of people are there with no social distancing. The cluster is due to the inmates and not due to the Respondents.
- The issue of furnishing false address cannot be addressed by the court in this stage. The court is not an investigating agency to ascertain if the address is true or not.
- The State Government has to take decision in matters related to detention and not the courts. Art 21 is available to every citizen and the law is equal to everyone, including criminals.
- It is important to note that none of the inmates have been infected with COVID-19. If they are released and few days later, they test positive, then the whole area will be under risk.
- There are other people quarantined in the Special Camp and the petitioners cannot be given special treatment as this would set an unfair precedent.
- The Respondents 1, 3 and 4 contended that instead of shifting the petitioners, the trial can be ordered to be conducted in a speedy manner.
- Finding justification in the same and keeping in consideration the fact that there have been several Non-Bailable warrants against them and there is a probability they might escape, the court while declining the relief sought by the Petitioners, directs the Magistrate to take up the case after normalcy is restored post COVID- 19, proceed with the cases on a day- to – day basis, without adjourning it beyond 10 days at any point of time.
- The write petitions stands dismissed.
“The views of the authors are personal“