The Apex Court on April 4 dismissed a Special Leave Petition against an order of the Madras High Court denying bail to 2 Korean Nationals who have been alleged to have committed fraud under Section 132(1) (d) of the Central Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017. The applicants have been detained at the special camp for foreign nationals which is located in Tiruchirapalli.
The applicants, Choe Jae Won and Choi Yong Suk were carrying out business in India as general manager and managing director of Chowel India Private Limited, a company indulged in manufacturing of car bumpers and sear framers. They were arrested on June 24, 2019, for GST liability evaluated to be around Rs. 40 crores. The company had collected the GST from their customers but failed to pay it to the government since August 2017.
The petitions were first filed before the High Court but it was dismissed by Justice S. Vaidyanathan where the petitioners alleged that the Authorities in the Camp were not taking proper measures of spraying any disinfectant in the Camp and that social distancing was not being observed properly, amongst the outbreak of COVID-19. The petitioners had complained of lack of medical facilities and severe overcrowding at the special camp. They further argued that if anyone in the camp is infected with the deadly pandemic, this would put everyone’s life at risk in the camp, including the petitioners.
The Petitioners also prayed that they should be released and be allowed to stay at their residences in Kancheepuram District until the pandemic threat subsides.
The petition was opposed by Special Public Prosecutor who submitted that the Applicants had furnished false address and in case they are released, there is a huge risk that they may flee to Korea, through the borders of Nepal and China. He also insisted that they should not be released from the Camp and instead the Court should order that their trial be conducted in a speedy manner.
The court took stock of actual conditions in the special camp where they have been confined via Whatsapp Video Call and refused to grant them bail. The court observed, “This Court is able to visualize that the special camp is maintained neatly and there are no stains in the toilets.”
After hearing both the submissions, Justice S. Vaidyanathan denied to release them and directed the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (Economic Offences-I), Egmore, Chennai to take up the case after normalcy is restored post-COVID-19 lockdown, and proceed with the same on a day-to-day basis, without adjourning it beyond ten working days at any point of time.
It was also pointed out that the two Petitioners were already granted interim bail by the High Court in August, nevertheless, they failed to deposit the necessary bond amount. Hence, they are detained at the special camp. The court also mentioned that shifting the Applicants will open floodgates of litigation from other detainees and may even ignite the spread of the coronavirus.
As the Madras high court admired the use of Whatsapp video calling in such cases where on-site inspection is required. The Supreme Court also suggested that these video calling mode should be implemented in viewing disputed site such as encroachments on roads, water bodies, illegal construction etc.
The bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Indira Banerjee dismissing the Special Leave Petition issued a notice to the government of Tamil Nadu, returnable in 2 weeks.
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