Soma Chakravarty Vs. State Through Cbi  Insc 545 (10 May 2007)
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 710 OF 2007 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition
(Crl.) No.552/2006) Markandey Katju, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. This appeal has been filed against the judgment and order of the Delhi
High Court dated 22.10.2005 in Criminal Revision Petition No. 10/2005.
3. Heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.
4. The Criminal Revision Petition was filed in the High Court challenging
the order of the Special Judge, Delhi in Case CC No. 63/2001 titled CBI vs.
Priya Uppal & Ors., by which the appellant and two others had been charged
for offences under Section 420 read with Sections 120-B, 429, 468 and 471 of
Indian Penal Code as well as under various provisions of the Prevention of
Corruption Act. The appellant along with the other accused in this case
allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy and by misusing their official
position caused undue pecuniary advantage to themselves to the tune of
Rs.30,30,057/- and caused a corresponding loss to the Indian Trade Promotion
Organization (ITPO) which is a wing of the Central Government, from whose
account money was released against bogus receipts of advertisements which had
actually never been carried by any newspaper or other publication.
5. The prosecution case is that the publicity department of ITPO was
concerned with the release of advertisements in newspapers. There were two
types of advertisements; (1) regular advertisement & (2) ad hoc advertisements.
Regular advertisements were given to the national dailies and other leading
newspapers and magazines, whereas ad hoc advertisements were those which were
issued on ad hoc basis from time to time with the specific approval of the
Chief Managing Director or Executive Director only. The procedure for release
of advertisements on behalf of ITPO was as follows:
6. Requests were received from Indian and foreign
magazines/newspapers/publications for the advertisements which were processed
by the publicity officer of the rank of Deputy Manager level and were put
before the CMD/ED through the Senior Manager/Deputy General Manager for his
approval. On receipt of the approval from the CMD/Executive Director by the
publicity Division the concerned manager sent letters/release orders to the
party for publication of the material. After the advertisements were published
the concerned officer of the publicity Division of ITPO had to process and pass
the bills for making payment to the advertising agency. Copy of the letter sent
and copy of the newspapers/magazine were also forwarded or attached to the bill
submitted by the agency.
7. The prosecution alleged that at the relevant time Shri Bal Krishan,
Deputy Manager was in charge of the work relating to ad hoc advertisements. He
was the authorized officer to process the bills for such advertisements. It is
alleged that Shri Ajay Uppal, proof Reader/Senior Assistant of ITPO floated 6
bogus firms and submitted 76 bogus bills worth Rs.30,30,057/- for payment by
signing under fictitious names like, Sanjay Gupta, Neeraj, Atul, etc. With
these bills he enclosed photocopies of fake advertisements. Out of 76 bogus
bills, 14 were dishonestly processed and verified by the accused Soma
Chakravarty and P. K. Jindal, in connivance with the co-accused to cheat the
ITPO and give wrongful gain to themselves and to the other accused in this
case. It is stated that the appellant also had the knowledge that Bal Krishan
had been authorized to verify the bills pertaining to ad hoc advertisements.
All the bogus vouchers had been filled in by the co-accused Gyase Ram who was
neither posted in the publicity division nor was authorized to do so. It is
further alleged that the appellant knew that those bogus bills had not been
entered in the bills register of the publicity Division of ITPO and no file had
been opened/created in respect of these firms claiming to have published
advertisements. The file numbers written on the fictitious bills were also
fake. None of these bills bore initial or signatures of Shri Balkrishan, who
was incharge of the ad hoc advertisements of ITPO at the relevant time. As
regards the other accused, P.K. Jindal, the allegation is that he as Senior
Manager of Accounts passed bills worth Rs.1,75,000/- related to these transactions.
On these facts, the CBI concluded that there was sufficient evidence of
conspiracy to cheat along with the other evidence of forgery, cheating and
Accordingly a charge sheet was filed. The trial court after examining the
allegations and evidence collected by the investigation framed the impugned
charges against the appellant Ms. Soma Chakravarty & Mr. P.K. Jindal.
Against the framing of charges a criminal revision was filed in the High
Court which dismissed the same by the impugned judgment.
8. On behalf of the appellant it was contended before the High Court that
there was no material before the Special Judge entitling him to frame charges
against the accused. It was submitted on behalf of the accused Soma Chakravarty
that she did nothing more than processing some of those 14 bills and sending
them to the accounts division of ITPO from where the payments had been
collected by cheques. It was submitted that the appellant was working as Deputy
Manager in the publicity division of I.T.P.O. and had signed 13 bills and
sanction forms after they had been processed by Gyase Ram and all the 13 bills
contained the signatures of Gyase Ram when they were put before her for her
signature. She contended that she had signed those bills in the normal course
of her duties and the bills were passed by the accounts section. She attributed
lack of vigilance to the accounts section which was required to verify those
bills with reference to the sanction for the advertisement. She claimed that
Bal krishan, the officer authorized to deal with the ad hoc advertisement, was
himself a beneficiary of part of the alleged money cheated out of ITPO. It was
claimed on behalf of the appellant Soma Chakravarty that the investigation had
failed to reveal any mens rea on her part. She contended that she was
implicated only because of her failure to take sufficient care while initialing
the bills in question. She contended that it was not possible for her to detect
at the time of initialing the bills that any fraud was being played on her by
co-accused Gyase Ram and others. Accordingly she sought to be discharged from
the case. Similarly, the other co-accused P.K. Jindal also denied any
involvement in the offence and alleged that there was hardly any allegation
against him in the charge sheet.
9. The High Court dismissed the Criminal Revision Petition filed by the
appellant, and hence this appeal by special leave.
10. Learned counsel for the appellant relied on the decisions of this Court
in Union of India and another vs. Major J. S. Khanna etc. 1972 (3) SCC 873,
State of Maharashtra and others vs. Som Nath Thapa and others 1996 (4) SCC 659
and L Chandraiah vs. State of A.P. and another 2003 (12) SCC 670 and contended
that before framing the charges the court must have some material on the basis
of which it can come to the conclusion that there is a prima facie case against
the accused. In our opinion there was such material before the Court while
framing the charge.
11. It may be mentioned that the settled legal position, as mentioned in the
above decisions, is that if on the basis of material on record the Court could
form an opinion that the accused might have committed offence it can frame the
charge, though for conviction the conclusion is required to be proved beyond reasonable
doubt that the accused has committed the offence.
At the time of framing of the charges the probative value of the material on
record cannot be gone into, and the material brought on record by the
prosecution has to be accepted as true at that stage. Before framing a charge
the court must apply its judicial mind on the material placed on record and
must be satisfied that the commitment of offence by the accused was possible.
Whether, in fact, the accused committed the offence, can only be decided in the
12. Learned counsel for the appellant contended that in view of the
aforesaid decisions no charge could be framed against the appellant as there
was no material to show that she was prima facie guilty or had any mens rea.
We cannot agree.
13. The facts of the present case disclose that advertisements of six bogus
firms had been published and 76 bogus bills worth Rs.30,30,057/- were submitted
for payment by signing under the fictitious names like, Sanjay Gupta, Neeraj,
Atul, etc. Out of these 76 bogus bills 14 were said to be dishonestly processed
and verified and signed by the appellant Soma Chakravarty and co-accused P. K.
Jindal. All the bogus bills were filled by co-accused Gyase Ram who was neither
posted in the publicity division nor was authorized to do so. These bogus bills
had not been entered in the bills register of the ITPO and no file had been
opened or created in respect of these firms claiming to have published the
advertisements. The file numbers written on the fictitious bills were also
fake. None of these bills bore the initial or signatures of Shri Bal Krishan
who was incharge of the ITPO at the relevant time.
14. It was contended by the learned counsel for the appellant that the
appellant had signed the aforesaid 13 bills in the normal course of her duty
and it was the Accounts section which was negligent in not verifying these
15. In our opinion once a person signs on a document he or she is expected
to make some enquiry before signing it. In fact, accused Soma Chakravarty was
never assigned any duty in respect of processing or signing the bills for ad
hoc advertisements, and she was assigned duty only of regular advertisements.
Moreover, these bills were not sanctioned/approved by the competent authority
i.e. the Chairman/Executive Director.
16. No doubt Soma Chakravarty contended that she signed these fake bills by
negligence but without any mala fide intention, but this is a matter which, in
our opinion, is to be seen at the time of the trial. There are serious allegations
of misappropriation of a huge amount of money belonging to the government, and
it cannot be said at this stage that there is no material at all for framing
the charge against her. Hence, we agree with the view taken by the High Court
in this connection.
17. In view of the above, we find no infirmity in the impugned judgment and
this appeal is consequently dismissed. However, we make it clear that any
observation made by us in this judgment or in the impugned judgment of the High
Court will not influence the trial court, which shall decide the case on its
merits, as expeditiously as possible.