No Legal Bar on Initiating Coercive Process Against Witness: Delhi Court

A Delhi court has refused to cancel the non-bailable arrest warrant issued against entrepreneur Sachin Dev Duggal in a case related to alleged laundering of Rs 60,000 crore by the Videocon Group which it had obtained from a consortium of banks to develop its oil and gas assets in Mozambique, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and East Timor.

Special Judge Rajesh Kumar Goel dismissed the application moved by Duggal, seeking cancellation of an order passed by the court on February 10, 2023 issuing the warrant against him.

The application claimed Duggal was only a witness in the case.

While dismissing the application, the judge said there was no legal bar on coercive action if a person, who has been summoned by a probe agency, even as a witness, fails to appear despite the service of notice or summons.

“This court could not understand as to how to secure the presence of that person, if he is not appearing despite the service of summons. In that eventuality, the only option would be to go for a coercive method or process for securing the presence of a person in connection with the investigation of a serious case of money laundering,” the judge said in an order passed on June 9.

At this stage, it will not be appropriate to finally adjudicate and conclude that the applicant is only a witness, as the same is a matter of investigation to be done by the investigating agency, the judge said, adding if there are incriminating circumstances and evidence, the stand can change within an hour.

“Sometimes, a person may approach the investigating agency with a complaint alleging that a cognizable offence has been committed. At that stage, prime facie he would be the complainant and a material witness but later on, after one or two days, there are chances that he or she may be the main accused of the said offence. This all is a matter of enquiry and investigation,” the judge said.

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The court said the applicant in the instant case “is blowing hot and cold”.

“Sometimes he would say he is ready to join through VC (video conference)….. and at the same time he would say that since he has not been served the summons through proper channel, therefore, he is not supposed to join the investigation,” the judge noted.

In his application, Duggal said he was a law abiding citizen of the UK and was having deep roots in society.

Duggal added he had no intention to show disrespect to Indian laws and he always cooperated with the Enforcement Department (ED).

The ED opposed the application, claiming Duggal was a suspect and not a witness in the case.

The ED has alleged that the Videocon Group had entered into several “unexplained” transactions with Duggal.

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