Bombay HC Deprecates Detaining Persons Overnight under Guise of Recording Statement: Report
Moneylife Digital Team 13 May 2024
An arrest is a serious matter and cannot be made in a routine manner on mere allegations that an offence has been committed, the Bombay High Court (HC) observed, says a report.
 
According to the report from Bar & Bench, a division bench of justice Revati Mohite Dere and justice Manjusha Deshpande made the observation while granting interim bail to one, Mahesh Gala, who was arrested in March by tax officers after being detained overnight.
 
The fact that Mr Gala was detained overnight before a formal arrest was made also drew censure from the court. "We deprecate the practice of keeping a person overnight under the guise of recording his statement, irrespective of whether the person volunteered or not. Arrest is a serious matter and cannot be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence, inasmuch as an arrest can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self-esteem of a person." 
 
On 13 March 2023, Mr Gala appeared before the central goods and services tax (CGST) office regarding a 2021 case filed against his company, Om Sai Nityanand Management Pvt Ltd, for alleged violations of the CGST Act.
 
He was detained overnight at the office before he was formally arrested the next day. On 15 March 2023, he was produced before the magistrate for remand.
 
Mr Gala later approached the high court to challenge his arrest which, he claimed, was illegal. 
 
Senior counsel Abad Ponda, representing Mr Gala, argued that there had been a delay in producing Mr Gala before a magistrate which the CGST officer failed to explain.
 
The tax authorities replied that some of the delay was explained by the time taken to print copies of relevant GST returns concerning the case, which took around four hours.
 
The HC, however, agreed with Mr Ponda's stance that this reply was only an eyewash and an afterthought.
 
"The time span mentioned by the respondent Nos. 1 to 3 (Union of India, CGST (Mumbai zone), and Pappu Kumar (inspector, CGST & central excise)) for generating the GST returns and getting the document identification number (DIN), prima facie appears to be an eyewash and appears to have been done to show, that the petitioner was produced within 24 hours ... Prima facie, we do not find, in the facts, that there was any reason for CGST (Mumbai zone) to keep the petitioner (Mr Gala) overnight, when he came on 13 March 2023, more particularly, if CGST (Mumbai zone) did not have documents to question the petitioner," the bench held.
 
The HC also pointed out that if the GST officers did not readily have all relevant documents with them, they could have called Mr Gala for questioning another day instead of keeping him overnight at the CGST office.
 
The bench then allowed Mr Gala's release on interim bail for six weeks on payment of Rs25,000, the report says.
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