Karnataka High Court quashes KCOCA charges against Sirkrishna, accused of Bitcoin scam

Karnataka High Court quashes KCOCA charges against Sirkrishna, accused of Bitcoin scam

THE Karnataka High Court cancelled the addition of strict fees under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act, 2000 against accused Sirkrishna and Robin Khandelwal in the Bitcoin scam case.

A single judge bench Justice SR Krishna Kumar said “Filing of two indictments and taking into account two offences within a period of 10 years prior and prior to the date of commission of the offence under the KCOCA is a sine qua non for invocation of the offence and in the absence thereof, the very invocation of the KCOCA would be without jurisdiction or authority of law and deserves to be quashed.

The petitioners had challenged the order dated May 20 passed by the Deputy Inspector General, CID, granting permission to the investigating officer (DSP) to invoke Section 3 of the Act.

The applicants argued that the mandatory requirements of participation in a continuous illegal activity constituting an organized crime are not met, as required by law. There must be more than one indictment filed and cognizance against the accused for a period prior to 10 years from July 17, 2017.

The State opposed the plea, asserting that as of the date of detection of the fraud at the request of the defendants, four indictments in the preceding 10 years had been filed and knowledge had been taken, which would constitute continuing illegal activity amounting to an organized crime committed by the defendants.

The Court noted that Section 3 of the Act provides for the punishment of “organized crime.” It stated that this provision imposes punishment for the “crime/offense” and not for the “criminal/offender.”

It is undeniable that in criminal law it is the court that takes cognizance of the offence and not the offender, and that the sentence is pronounced according to the offence committed by the offender.

The Court stated that it is the date of commission of the offence that must be taken into account and not the date of discovery of the offence. It ruled:

In the present case, it is undisputed that the accused persons allegedly committed an offence under Section 3 of the KCOCA on 17.07.2017 in Crime No. 85/2017 and in the absence of the mandatory requirements that indictments were filed and cognizance was taken within a period of 10 years prior to that date i.e. on 17.07.2017, it cannot be said that in the pending Crime No. 85/2017, the offence punishable under Section 3 of the KCOCA can be invoked against the accused persons and, therefore, the impugned order passed by the 2nd respondent invoking Section 3 of the KCOCA in relation to an offence allegedly committed on 17.07.2017 is clearly without jurisdiction or authority of law and deserves to be set aside.

The court also rejected the prosecution’s argument that the crime is detected only after the investigation is completed and that only the date of detection should be taken into account for the purpose of invoking Section 3 of the KCOCA.

It said, “Where none of the provisions of the KCOCA considers the date of detection of the offence as the relevant date for the purposes of sections 3, 2(d), 2(e) and 2(f) of the KCOCA, there is absolutely no connection between the filing by the police authorities of a final report treating the matter as “undetectable” and the date of commission of the offence relevant for the purposes of invoking the KCOCA.

After granting the requests, the court ordered the special court to forward the files to the competent magistrate for consideration and decision on the bail applications filed by the accused as expeditiously as possible.

Appearance: Senior Advocate Aruna Shyam for Advocate Dilipkumar Gowda R for the petitioners.

Advocate General Shashi Kiran Shetty a/w AGA Rahul Cariappa for the respondents

Reference No.: 2024 LiveLaw (Kar) 311

Case Title: Shreekrishan Ramesh @Sreeki ET State of Karnataka and others
Case No.: WRIT PETITION NO. 15943 OF 2024 (GM-POLICE) C/W WRIT PETITION NO. 15622 OF 2024