The Supreme Court on September 12, 2019, in the case of Serious Fraud Investigation Office v. Nittin Johari & Anr., has set aside the Delhi High Court order granting bail to Bhushan Steel’s former chief financial officer Nittin Johari who was arrested by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for alleged fraudulent activities.
A Bench comprising of Justices N.V. Ramana, Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi passed the judgment while referring to the law laid down by the Supreme Court in past decisions on the question of granting bail to persons accused of economic offences.
“Economic offences constitute a class apart and need to be visited with a different approach in the matter of bail. The economic offences having deep-rooted conspiracies and involving huge loss of public funds need to be viewed seriously and considered as grave offences affecting the economy as a whole and thereby posing serious threat to the financial health of the country,” the court held.
The court found that the Delhi High Court, while granting bail to Johari on August 14, 2019, did not apply its mind to all the circumstances required to be considered while granting bail, particularly in relation to economic offences.
The apex court thus set aside the Delhi High Court order and asked it to consider Johari’s bail plea afresh at an early date.
Johari was arrested by the SFIO on May 2, 2019, for alleged fraudulent activities, including filing false documents with various banks.
The case of the prosecution is that from 2009-10 to 2016-17, Brij Bhushan Singal and Neeraj Singal, promoters of the BSL, assisted by employees and close associates, used a complex web of 157 companies to siphon off funds from it for various purposes, and also fraudulently availed themselves of credit from lender banks and cooked account books.
Their activities, according to the prosecution case, caused a loss of around ₹3,500 crore.