Bombay HC refuses pre-arrest bail to head of firm accused of cheating IITM of Rs. 2.62 cr

The Bombay high court last week refused anticipatory bail to the managing director of a private firm accused of causing wrongful loss of Rs. 2.62 crore to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune by supplying sub-standard digital display boards to the institute.

The anti-corruption wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had booked Anil Girkar, managing director of M/s.Video Wall India Private Ltd., his wife Manisha, also a director in the firm, along with some scientists and engineers of IITM in connection with the alleged fraud.

The CBI alleged that in 2012, the firm was awarded a contract to supply 12 high quality digital display boards and three indoor LCD display for displaying data of current air quality, meteorological data, forecast at different places in Pune, as part of IITM’s SAFAR – System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research – project. The firm, however, supplied sub-standard displays and the officers concerned at IITM fraudulently approved the items as quality products, as contemplated under the tender.

The couple had moved HC after the sessions judge at Pune rejected their anticipatory bail applications on August 14, 2020.

They had questioned the belated allegation of fraud and escalation of prices. It was argued on their behalf that the contract was awarded to them after their bid was scrutinized by an expert committee.

They also contended that there was no need of custodial interrogation of the applicants, since the supply was made by their firm as per specifications mentioned in the tender notice. The contract was successfully discharged and after completing the work of operation and maintenance for five years, in 2017 it was also given an extension for three years, and this sequence of events clearly leads to an inference that there was no deficiency on their part, they said.

Advocate Hiten Venegaokar, who represented CBI, on the other hand pointed out that the tender document envisaged supply of branded products by certain Japanese and German manufacturers, but the firm supplied China-made cheap display boards. He also pointed out that the firm imported the boards from a Chinese firm for a total amount of Rs. 24.67 lakh, and charged IITM Rs. 2.98 crore for the same – about eight times the procurement cost.

Justice Bharati Dangre accepted the contention. The judge noted that the tender required the display boards with brightness of 9,000 NIT, but those supplied had brightness of only 6000 NIT. Similarly frame refresh rate was required to be at least 4,000 Hz, as against the actual of 60 Hz.

“The (internal) enquiry (at IITM) therefore revealed that what was supplied was sub-standard material. It was lacking in the particulars specified in the tender notice and in the supply order,” said justice Dangre while rejecting Girkar’s pre-arrest bail plea.

HC, however, granted anticipatory bail to his wife, Anita, on the ground that she had no role to play in the entire transaction.

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