Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bombay HC raps police for 'inaction' in scams

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday criticized the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) for its "total inertia and inaction" while dealing with scamsters who dupe people of their life savings through quick return investment schemes.

A division bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice Rajesh Ketkar was hearing public interest litigations against SpeakAsia and a similar Ponzi scheme floated by Rahul Patil of Symbiosis Group where "Rs 25-30 crore" were collected from investors.

The judges had barely finished hearing the SpeakAsia case and directed the EOW to file an affidavit on the preventive steps it proposed to take to curb such offences when the Symbiosis case came up for hearing.

The petition, filed by Vijay Gehi, urged the court to transfer the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), saying despite submitting all details about the accused to the police a year ago, nothing was done. "We gave them (the police) names, addresses and telephone numbers of the accused. They did nothing," said Gehi's advocate, adding that the Symbiosis website is yet to be blocked. "Subsequently, the accused withdrew money from their bank accounts," said the lawyer, who also pointed out that not a single arrest was made in the case even though a lower court had rejected the anticipatory bail plea of the accused. "How ineffective you (EOW) are! These offences are worse than murders," said Justice Desai.
Gehi's advocate said his client had lodged a complaint with the Shivaji Park police but nothing is being done. A doctor, who had invested Rs 1.25 lakh in one of the schemes, lodged a complaint on February 19, 2010, with the Versova police, the lawyer told the judges. A year later, the case was transferred to the EOW.
Terming the delay by the Versova police in transferring the case to the EOW and their failure to freeze the accounts of the accused "distressing", the judges said, "Had the money been seized immediately, perhaps such a situations would not have risen."
"It is high time the police department, in coordination with the state government, took preventive steps so that common people do not fall prey to such scams," said Justice Desai. The judges directed the ACP and DCP (EOW) to take "prompt steps" and file a reply.
The judges, while hearing the SpeakAsia case, expressed anguish over how "persons who are cheated are sent from one police station to another". "Don't harass a person who's been cheated. Why don't you take down his/her complaint," asked Justice Desai.
Taking note of the fact that the lower court while rejecting bail plea of the accused last month had directed that its order be placed before the additional commissioner of police and the deputy commissioner of police (EOW) so that they could guide the investigating officers, the judges said, "This is yet another matter where the police have shown total inaction and inertia," they added.
Public prosecutor Pandurang Pol replied that cases about Rs 50 lakh go to EOW. But judges said in such matters speed is the essence. "There should be quick relief," said Justice Desai.

Times of India
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