The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted bail to Chitra Ramkrishna, former CEO of National Stock Exchange (NSE), virtually rejecting Enforcement Directorate’s serious charges against her including criminal conspiracy to cheat her organisation and indulging in corruption in the illegal telephone tapping case.

“Prima facie there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant is not guilty of the offence and she is not likely to commit any offence while on bail...the application is allowed and the applicant is granted bail,” Delhi High Court Justice Jasmeet Singh wrote in his 38-page order.

Ramkrishna, also facing the other case of NSE co-location scam probed by the CBI, has been asked by Justice Jasmeet Singh to furnish a personal bond of ₹1 lakh and two sureties of the like amount. Also, she has been directed by Court to not leave the country and appear before the Investigation Officer as and when asked.

Welcoming the order, Ramkrishna’s counsel Shivam Batra told businessline that “the scathing observations from the HC have seconded our through out stand that the entire prosecution has only been launched with a view to harass my client”.

To be out of jail

Ramkrishna in all probability should be out of jail on Thursday since she has previously got bail in the two other cases of the CBI on the NSE co-location and illegal telephone tapping.

She has been behind the bars at Tihar Jail since her arrest by the CBI last March in original case of NSE co-location scam.

The ED, taking up the second CBI case against Ramkrishna, booked her for allegedly being a party to illegal tapping of phone calls of Exchange employees conducted under the guise of an agreement between the NSE and M/s ISEC Services Private Limited, owned by former Mumbai Police Commission Sanjay Pandey.

The ED charged the contract was disguised to conduct “Periodic Study Of Cyber Vulnerabilities” and a payment of approximately ₹4.54 crore was made by the NSE to ISEC for the work from January 1, 2009 to February 13, 2017.

Other than her, the ED said former NSE CEO Ravi Narain, Executive Vice-President Ravi Varanasi, and Head (Premises) Mahesh Haldipur and others too conspired to cheat the NSE and its employees in the case.

Justice Singh rejected ED’s arguments on three schedule offences — on Section 72 of the IT Act, Section 120-B of IPC read with section 420 of IPC and Section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act — the former NSE CEO is alleged to have committed to enrich from illegally eavesdroping on her NSE colleagues.

The Delhi High Court stated that Section 72 of the IT Act which deals with breach of confidentiality and privacy did not apply in this case since former CEO or the NSE were not conferred any powers under the Act.

“Recording or tapping of phone calls sans consent of the concerned persons is an offence punishable under the Indian Telegraph Act and Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act. However, the same are not scheduled offences (under PMLA),” Justice Singh said.

More than that, the court also observed that no complaint or victim has been identified by the ED to show wrongful loss on account of deception or cheating by the accused.

Similarly on the slapping of criminal conspiracy charge under section of 120-B along with with the intention to cheat under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, the Court held that though ED argued that section 120-B is a standalone schedule offence, they have invoked it along with section 420/409 of the IPC in the FIR and at during remand applications.

‘No conspiracy established’

The Judge stated the criminal conspiracy is not made out since criminal intent has not been established by the agency. Above all, section 409 IPC (criminal breach of trust) is not a scheduled offence under the PMLA, it said.

“There is no evidence placed on record to prove corruption or abuse of position by the Applicant (Ramkrishna),” the order read. The Court also refused to accept the ED’s plea that NSE is a public authority under the Right to Information Act (RTI) Act and hence Ramkrishna and other employees of the exchange are public servants to attack provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The senior counsel submits that the Delhi High Court in its order of April 15, 2010, held NSE to be a public authority under the RTI Act. The Single Bench order, however, was stayed by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on May 4, 2010, and “stay was made absolute” on August 21, 2012, Justice Singh stated.

“Since I have held above that prima facie no scheduled offences against the Applicant are established, the provisions of PMLA cannot be attracted to the present case,” the Judge wrote to conclude his order.

The court had earlier granted bail to the other accused, Sanjay Pandey, also.