The Supreme Court has granted bail to Paresh Chauhan, one of the accused in the multi- crore Goods and Services Tax (GST) billing scam, saying the accused cannot be detained indefinitely in custody.
A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh said: “We are of the view that the appellant cannot be indefinitely detained in custody more so having already undergone a period of 25 months of custody when he can be sent behind bars for maximum five years. It is almost 50 per cent of the sentence. Complaint has been filed”.
Chauhan’s counsel submitted that his client has been in custody for 25 months out of a total period of 5 years for which he can be sentenced, and the investigation has not been completed so far. Chauhan was arrested by the state goods and service tax department in December 2019. He moved the top court seeking bail.
The accused counsel emphasized that the proceedings arising from evasion of GST were preceded by a search operation where the officers concerned occupied a house for more than a week with lady members , which was adversely commented upon by the high court.
The counsel further argued that the endeavour of the officers is only to teach his client a lesson for having initiated proceedings which resulted in adverse orders against them. The counsel also drew the attention of the bench on the counter affidavit filed by the Gujarat government where the allegation against his client is that he played an important role in execution of the scam and that confidential investigation is still under way in order to identify these persons and the role played in the execution of the scam.
Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju opposed Chauhan’s bail plea saying that he is a habitual offender who has earlier also been engaged in violation of the law as per earlier provisions. “His submission is that a number of accused are absconding and only on their being taken into custody would the root of the problem be detected where the evasion of duty is to the extent of 64 crores”, noted the bench.
The top court, in its order passed on February 1, said: In view of the aforesaid facts and circumstances, we are inclined to grant bail to the appellant on terms and conditions to the satisfaction of the Trial Court. We have put to learned counsel for the appellant that the appellant must be careful not to indulge in any such activities in the future”.