(1.) The petitioner Ashwini Kumar Patra has filed this application under section 439 of Cr.P.C. for grant of bail in connection with R.C. Case No.09(A) of 2019 pending in the Court of learned Special Judge, CBI, Court No.I, Bhubaneswar in which charge sheet has been submitted under sections 409, 420 and 471 read with section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (as amended in 2018).
The petitioner moved an application for bail in the Court of learned Special Judge, CBI, Court No.I, Bhubaneswar, which was rejected vide order dated 07.01.2021 mainly on the ground that prima facie the petitioner appears not only to have processed the housing loans in question but also submitted invalid/ false post- sanction inspection reports in the Bank and that if the petitioner is enlarged on bail, there would be every chance of his influencing the prosecution witnesses and tampering with the prosecution evidence.
(2.) The factual matrix of the case, in hand, is that the one Roop Lal Meena, Deputy General Manager, Regional Office, Union Bank of India, Bhubaneswar lodged a written complaint before the Superintendent of Police, CBI, ACB, Bhubaneswar on 01.07.2019 stating therein that the accused bank officials of Union Bank of India, Nayapalli Branch, Bhubaneswar (hereinafter 'the Bank') namely, Shri Bhubaneswar Mohapatra, the then Chief Manager, Shri Ashwini Kumar Patra, the then Marketing Officer (the petitioner herein) and Shri Rajesh Kumar Patanga, the then Manager (Advances) entered into a criminal conspiracy with three private builders, seven borrowers of housing loan and some unknown bank officials in the year 2017 and by abusing their respective official positions, housing loans were sanctioned in favour of the borrowers on the basis of false/ fictitious documents/ information including fake/ fictitious ITRs/ defective KYC documents/ information and without verifying the documents by violating the guidelines of the Bank. It is also alleged that the petitioner along with other accused Bank officials without obtaining approved plan/ legal scrutiny/ search report etc. released the entire loan amounts in favour of the accused builders on behalf of the borrowers without ensuring completion of construction of the houses (BJB Nagar-02, Suryanagar-02 and Jaydeb Vihar-03 in Bhubaneswar reportedly sold by builders GDS Builders Pvt. Ltd., Surnag Builders Pvt. Ltd. and Mrs. Puspanjali Patro). It is also alleged that the disbursed loan amounts were allegedly diverted by the accused builders for other purposes and such act on the part of the petitioner along with others have caused undue wrongful loss to the tune of Rs.5,19,16,340/- as on 31.05.2019 to the Bank and corresponding wrongful gain to themselves. The Superintendent of Police, CBI, ACB, Bhubaneswar on receipt of the written complaint and on prima facie finding that the complaint disclosed commission of cognizable offence punishable under sections 120-B, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code and section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (as amended in 2018) registered the same as R.C. No. 09(A)/2019-BBS (RC0152019A0009) dated 01.07.2019 and on getting prior approval from the competent authority of the Bank as per section 17-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (as amended in 2018) for initiating CBI investigation against the bank officials into the alleged matter, proceeded with the investigation. In course of investigation, the investigating officer recorded the statements of the witnesses, seized the incriminating documents and arrested the petitioner along with others and submitted charge sheet against the petitioner for commission of offences under sections 409, 420 and 471 read with section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (as amended in 2018).
(3.) Mr. Devashis Panda, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner contended that the petitioner is in judicial custody since 31.12.2020 and he being the then Assistant Marketing Manager of the Bank has never misused the public money in any manner as he was assigned with the duty of collecting files from the field and providing it to the Manager, Advance and the Chief Manager for scrutiny and sanction of the loan. He further submitted that the petitioner brought the file of the GDS builder and submitted it to the Manager, Advance of the Bank for scrutiny and placed it before the appropriate authority for disbursement of the loan amounts. It is contended that the loan disbursement file after being processed by the Bank was placed before the Chief Manager of the Bank, who then after verifying the entire documents and after thorough perusal of the files, sanctioned the loan amount and the petitioner is in no way connected with any conspiracy and he has never caused wrongful loss to the Bank. With regard to the allegation that the petitioner dishonestly accepted false documents, information including fake Income Tax returns, defective KYC without verification and in violation of the Bank guidelines, learned counsel contended that the petitioner's job in the capacity of Assistant Marketing Manager was not to verify the documents provided by the builders rather it was the duty of the Manager, Advance and Chief Manager of the Bank to scrutinize such documents and to obtain prior approval of plan before disbursing the loan amounts. He placed reliance on the letter of the Bank dated 3rd December 2011, which indicates the role and responsibilities of the Marketing Manager. It is further argued that the CBI officials without arresting the other two Bank officials intentionally, arrested the petitioner illegally even though specific allegations have been leveled by the complainant against the aforesaid two bank officials, namely, Bhubaneswar Mohapatra, the then Chief Manager and Rajesh Kumar Patanga, the then Manager, Advance, who were actually involved in causing wrongful loss to the Bank.
Learned counsel for the petitioner further contended that the incident relates to the year 2017 when the petitioner was Assistant Manager (Marketing) and the allegation that the petitioner conspired with the then Chief Manager (Advances) of the Bank, builder Uma Shankar Patro, three other private builders and seven borrowers of housing loans and misappropriated Rs.5,19,16,340/- and that all the loans were processed, recommended and inspected by the petitioner is not at all correct. He further submitted that out of twenty five charge sheet witnesses, who are officials of the Bank, I.T.Os, Insurance officials, GEQD and CBI I.O., only one private charge sheet witness i.e. C.S.W. No.19, namely, Aswin Kumar Patro, is related to the co-accused Uma Shankar Patro who is to prove that all borrowers are either workers/ known persons/ relatives of the workers in GDS Builders Pvt. Ltd. or Dwaraka Jewellers in which the builder co-accused is a partner. It is further submitted that since investigation has been completed and the petitioner is a local man and he has been dismissed from the services of the Bank, there is no chance of his absconding or tampering with the evidence, therefore, the bail application may be sympathetically considered. ;