IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
CORAM: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE VIPIN SANGHI
Judgment delivered on: 25.07.2016
BAIL APPLN. 626/2015
SMT RAMESH KUMARI ….. Petitioner Through: Mr. Kirti Uppal, Sr. Adv. with Mr. V.P. Rana, Advocate versus STATE OF NCT OF DELHI ….. Respondent Through: Ms. Radhika Kolluru, APP for State a/w SI Balihar Singh Mr. K.K. Sharma, Sr. Adv. with Mr. K.K. Malhotra and Ms. Ayush Chourasia, Adv. for the complainant
VIPIN SANGHI, J.
1. This application under section 438 Cr PC has been filed by the applicant Smt. Ramesh Kumari Bhardwaj to seek anticipatory bail apprehending arrest in case FIR No.33/2014 registered with PS-EOW, Mandir Marg, New Delhi under section 419/420/467/ 468/471/120B IPC.
The applicant states that she is a 65 years old lady and is managing a school with approximately 2000 children and 80 staff members. She is associated with the said school for the past 25 years i.e. from its inception. The applicant has respect and roots in the society, and she has joined the investigation as and when called upon to do so in the aforesaid case.
The background facts
2. One Inder Singh Bindra, aged 76 years living in New York, USA got the FIR in question registered against one Jaswant Singh Bhullar (JS Bhullar), who is now dead, against the late husband of the applicant Deepak Bhardwaj and a few others, including the petitioner – who was shown as accused no.8 in her capacity as shareholder and director of a company, namely, Delhi Apartments Pvt. Ltd.
3. The case of the complainant was that he had purchased approximately 33 bigas 9 biswas of agricultural land situated in village Samalkha, Tehsil Mehrauli, New Delhi vide three sale deeds. The same were executed in favour of the complainant through JS Bhullar, who was holding a General Power of Attorney (GPA) on behalf of the sellers. The complainant’s other friends, also living in USA, also purchased contiguous lands in the same area through JS Bhullar. The complainant claimed that over the years, JS Bhullar gained his confidence, and introduced Deepak Bhardwaj to him as a nice person, who also owned lands in the vicinity. The complainant was told that Deepak Bhardwaj was an influential person and that he would look after the complainants land and ensure that the same is not trespassed. Like the complainant’s other friends, the complainant too allowed Deepak Bhardwaj to look after his land while the complainant was overseas. He claimed that Deepak Bhardwaj was looking after the land as a caretaker, since he had won over the trust of the complainant and his friends, who had similarly purchased contiguous lands.
4. The complainant claimed that he came to know in July 2013 of a fraud played upon him. He claimed that he learnt from Dr. Amarjeet Singh- who had purchased contiguous lands, that Dr. Amarjeet Singh, the complainant and others had been defrauded. Their lands had been fraudulently sold to Deepak Bhardwaj through forged and fraudulent documents, and that the family of Deepak Bhardwaj and their accomplice are claiming to be owners of the said lands including that of the complainant.
5. The complainant stated that he learnt that late JS Bhullar along with other accused had forged his signatures on a GPA allegedly executed by the complainant at Chandigarh on 24.07.1987. He claimed that he neither signed the GPA in favour of JS Bhullar, nor was he in Chandigarh on 24.07.1987. He did not even remember having come to India in July 1987 and, in any case, he never went to Chandigarh in July 1987. He stated that somebody impersonated him, and his signatures were forged on the GPA dated 24.07.1987 on the strength of which JS Bhullar sought to transfer the lands to Deepak Bhardwaj. He never lived on the address, nor any of his relatives stay or stayed at the address mentioned in the GPA as his address. He also stated that before forging the said GPA, Deepak Bhardwaj and others of SRA Farms on 23.07.1987 also got confirmed from the registering authority that there was no contravention of Section 8 of the Delhi Land (Restriction) Act, 1972 in respect of his land. This was done without the signature of the complainant on the declaration form, as was required under the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954. By using the forged GPA, JS Bhullar acted as the vendor of the complainants land, and collusively executed sale deeds dated 16.09.1988, registered on 30.09.1988, in favour of Deepak Bhardwaj and his nominee/ henchmen without making reference to payment of sale consideration. The sale deeds simply stated that sale consideration had been paid to the vendor (JS Bhullar) before the Sub-Registrar. No details of any cheque number, bank etc. were stated in the fraudulent and collusive sale deeds. He also stated that he had not received any sale consideration for sale of the said land. He stated that Deepak Bhardwaj continued to take care of the land as a caretaker – having won his trust, and he never disclosed the factum of the execution of the sale deeds in his favour.
6. On the basis of the said complaint, the aforesaid FIR came to be registered. Investigation was conducted by the police, and status reports have been filed by the police, disclosing the information gathered as a result of its investigation.
Gist of the Status Reports
7. During the investigation, the ownership of the complainant in respect of the agricultural land admeasuring 33 bigas 9 biswas was got verified. In respect of the GPA allegedly executed by the complainant on 24.07.1987, it was found that his address had been shown as House No.175, Sector-11A, Chandigarh. Investigation revealed that during the relevant period, the said house was rented to JS Bhullar, and was used by him for his own residence. The complainant had never lived at the said address. On the basis of the said GPA, JS Bhullar executed 13 sale deeds in respect of the entire land of the complainant admeasuring 33 bigas 9 biswas, which were got registered in the office of the Sub-Registrar, Delhi on 30.09.1988. Amongst others, the following sale deeds were executed by JS Bhullar in favour of:
i) Deepak Bhardwaj – 5 bigas 11 biswas (two sale deeds);
ii) Deepak Bhardwaj and S.K. Sethi – 2 biga 16 biswas;
iii) Deepak Bhardwaj & Sons HUF and Jagdish Lal Malhotra – 13 bigas and 10 biswas (five sale deeds)
8. Investigation revealed that JS Bhullar died in the year 1993 and Deepak Bhardwaj was murdered in the year 2013, allegedly by his son Nitish Bhardwaj, who is facing trial for his murder. The applicant is one of the prime suspects in the said case.
9. The status report discloses that the GPA dated 24.07.1987 – purportedly executed by the complainant in favour of JS Bhullar, was sent to the FSL for forensic examination of the signatures of the complainant appended on it. After examination, the expert has opined that the signatures on the GPA dated 24.07.1987 attributed to the complainant are not his.
10. Investigation also revealed that on 03.10.1988, the applications for mutation of the land in question – which was sold to different persons, were got filed through one Anil Kumar, S/o. Umrao Singh, who is the brother of the applicant. In these applications, Anil Kumar claimed himself to be the Power-of-Attorney holder of the complainant. These applications for mutation were filed on behalf of the seller i.e. the complainant, as against the normal practice where applications for mutation are usually filed by the purchasers, or their nominee.
11. Investigation also revealed that notices for mutation – which were issued in each of the cases to the seller/ vendor i.e. I.S. Bindra – the complainant at 3, Wellington Crescent, New Delhi, as also to the purchasers/ vendees (who were shown to reside at different places including Agra, Lucknow, Moradabad etc.) were received and acknowledged by one and the same person under the same signature/ initial which could not be identified- as the name and address of the recipient was not disclosed. Anil Kumar was interrogated and he identified the initials as that of Deepak Bhardwaj, his brother-in-law. Thus, the notices issued by the revenue authority in the name of various persons i.e. the vendor and vendees – who were shown to be residing at various places, were received by one and the same person. In all the cases of mutation, only Anil Kumar, the brother of the applicant appeared before the competent authority, and that too, on behalf of the seller only.
12. The status report reveals that the accused Anil Kumar was arrested on 29.03.2015. During his interrogation, the accused Anil Kumar disclosed that he acted on the directions of the applicant and Deepak Bhardwaj, who remained present with him throughout the mutation proceedings and after completion of mutation, he handed over the documents to them.
13. During investigation, one A.S. Sethi, who had signed the allegedly forged GPA dated 24.07.1987 was also identified and interrogated. During interrogation, he identified his signatures and admitted his appearance before the Sub-Rregistrar. He stated that he did not know the complainant I.S. Bindra at that time, and he had signed the GPA and appeared before the Sub-Registrar on the presentation of JS Bhullar. He further disclosed during his interrogation that at the time of registration of the GPA, Deepak Bhardwaj and Mrs. Bhardwaj, namely, the applicant remained present with JS Bhullar in the capacity of prospective buyers of the said land.
14. The status report further discloses that in the course of investigation, a notice under section 91 Cr PC was issued to the applicant for the production of the original title documents of the property. However, initially, she did not produce the same. I may observe that only when the present bail application was listed for first time before the Court on 07.04.2015, the applicant handed over seven original sale deeds to the IO in Court. As regards the eighth sale deed, it was submitted that the same was not traceable and the same shall be handed over to the IO as soon as the same is traced out.
15. The status report further states that, till date, the original GPA allegedly executed by the complainant in favour of JS Bhullar in Chandigarh- which has been found to be forged; the original SPA executed JS Bhullar in favour of Anil Kumar to enable him to apply for mutation of the land in question, and; proof of payment of consideration, have not been provided. The said report further states that during investigation, the applicant had admitted that she is in possession of the entire property, including that which had been registered and mutated in favour of different persons other than in favour of Deepak Bhardwaj and his HUF. However, she did not give any satisfactory reason for the same.
16. As per the status report, the investigation conducted so far has revealed that an elaborate conspiracy through active connivance of JS Bhullar, Deepak Bhardwaj and his family members was hatched to grab the property of the complainant by preparing forged documents. The respondent also states that there are reasons to believe that though the entire land of the complainant was sold to eight different persons, but actually the entire transaction was benami in nature, since none of the purchasers appeared before the Sub-Registrar at the time of the execution of the sale deed; the alleged bank drafts for all the 13 sale deeds were presented by Deepak Bhardwaj before the Sub-Registrar; none of the purchasers filed applications for mutation of the land; only Anil Kumar (brother of the applicant) did so, and that too on behalf of the seller; none of the purchasers bothered to take possession of the land allegedly purchased by them; none of the purchasers got the land demarcated; the entire land from the beginning remained in possession of Deepak Bhardwaj, who enjoyed the benefits arising therefrom, and after his death, the applicant is enjoying the same. The stamp paper in respect of the 13 sale deeds were purchased on the same date, apparently, from the same vendor, and all the sale deeds were registered on 30.09.1988 with the same set of witnesses.
17. A second status report was also filed in the matter, disclosing that the applicant had provided a photocopy of the GPA dated 24.07.1987 which was found to be forged by the FSL. However, she has not provided the original document to the IO. To unearth the entire conspiracy, her custodialinterrogation is necessary. She is the most vital link who could provide the vital leads about the conspiracy.
18. The State has filed a third status report which shows that JS Bhullar sought to transfer the complainants property on the basis of two alleged GPAs, allegedly executed by the complainant in the year 1986 and 1987. He earlier entered into agreements to sell the property in question to Sh. Raman Kumar Sood, Ajay Kumar Sood and Satish Kumar Sood (Sood Brothers), and on the basis of the second GPA, he entered into the sale deeds taken note of herein above, inter alia, with late Deepak Bhardwaj, his HUF and other entities/ associates. Copy of the original GPA was produced by Sood Brothers.
19. This status report also states that the applicant has been evasive in replying to the questions pertaining to the fraudulent transactions- by stating that all these acts were done by her late husband Deepak Bhardwaj and JS Bhullar. The report further states that she has been actively continuing the conspiracy to keep hold on the fraudulently acquired land by entering into settlements with Sood Brothers on behalf of the other registered owners of the land in question, who are believed to be either dead or untraced. She is not disclosing the whereabouts of the alleged registered land owners, and the authority obtained from them to enter into settlement on their behalf with the Sood Brothers. The applicant entered into settlement in suits filed by Sood Brothers against the accused persons, as well as the complainant. The complainant had stated that he was not aware, and he was not served with any notice of the civil suit till 2013. However, since he learnt of the same and appeared before the Court, the applicant settled the matter immediately with Sood Brothers. The complainant also stated that he was being represented through lawyers in the said civil suit without his consent or authority. The said aspect was also under investigation. In this status report, the police also disclosed that 6 of the sale deeds executed in favour of Deepak Bhardwaj and S.K. Sethi, Amita Bansal and Uma Aggarwal, Aditya Prakash Aggarwal, Kusumlata Jindal and Meena Goel, Balkishan Singhal and Sona Devi have not been recovered.
20. The fourth and the last status report, inter alia, discloses that the second FIR No.187/2013, PS-EOW has also been quashed on compromise. The State discloses that the applicant was a Director in 18 companies since 1996. She continues to be a Director in 16 of those companies, including Deepak Resorts and Hotels Pvt. Ltd., since 07.02.1996. Consequently, she is not an ordinary housewife. She is a businesswoman, and was actively involved in the fraudulent transactions. Two more cases had been registered against the same accused persons – being FIR No.185/2013 and 187/2013 at PS-EOW Cell, making similar allegations of land grabbing by forging documents. In the said case, approximately 11 bigas 2 biswas and 9 bigas 12 biswas of lands respectively of NRIs/ senior citizens is involved. Case FIR No.185/2013 has been quashed by this Court on a settlement.