Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Nmart Andhra Pradesh High Court Case Update on 07th January, 2013:

Crl Petition Nos.8630 of 2012

ORDER: Dated 05th January 2013

A report came to be lodged by Chukkala Rama Rao before the Station House Officer, Gajuwaka P.S on 31.8.2012 alleging inter alia that he has been sponsored by one Kura Ramesh to join in New Look Retails Private Limited on the assurance that various benefits are being conferred on the members on deposit of Rs.5,500/-. Believing the scheme propounded by New Look Retails Private Limited, he joined as a member and also made three hundred (300) members to join the scheme in the chain business. Subsequently, he came to know that New Look Retails Private Limited closed its N-Mart retails and thereby, cheated many depositors. He tried to contact the said Ramesh, who joined him as a member in the chain of retail stores of New Look Retails Private Limited but his whereabouts could not be known. Basing on the report, a case in Crime No.368 of 2012 came to be registered. The petitioner apprehending arrest in Crime No.368 of 2012 filed Crl.M.P.No.1760 of 2012 on the file of the Metropolitan Sessions Judge-cum-Special Judge to try offences under N.D.P.S.Act, Visakhapatnam seeking pre-arrest bail. The learned Sessions Judge, on considering the material brought on record and on hearing the counsel appearing for the parties, came to the conclusion that the petitioner does not deserve for grant of anticipatory bail and thereby, proceeded to dismiss the petition, by order dated 26.11.2012. For better appreciation, I may refer the relevant portion of the order and it is thus:-

"The fact that the Metropolitan Sessions Judge, Vijayawada as well as the District and Sessions Judge, Prakasam, granted bail to the petitioners in the cases pending before them is not germane for grant of anticipatory bail to the petitioner in this case also. It is contended for the prosecution that Nmart company collected deposits from various customers and failed to return the same and that the failure to refund the said deposits fall within the ambit of Sec.5 of AP Protection of Depositors of Financial Establishments Act, 1999. Every person responsible for the management of the affairs of the Financial Establishment including a Promoter, Manger or Member of such Establishment is liable for punishment in case of default of return of the deposits collected. The petitioner was said to have induced the public to deposit a sum of Rs.5,500/- by showing lucrative benefits such as free coupons, credit facility, gifts besides payment of double the amount deposited. It is not the case of the petitioners that they have refunded the amounts collected. The shops were said to have been closed. As such, the offences alleged are grave and the money of the public is at stake. Investigation is also pending. As such, I am of the view that this is not a fit case for grant of anticipatory bail to the petitioner.”

The petitioner being unsuccessful before the Sessions Judge in securing anticipatory bail approached this Court by filing the instant application.

3. Heard Sri S.Niranjan Reddy, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner and learned Public Prosecutor appearing for the respondent-State.

4. Sri S.Niranjan Reddy, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner contends that the membership fee collected by Nmart (a retail store of New Look Retails Private Limited) is not a deposit since a member is allowed to purchase the goods worth of Rs.5,500/- apart from securing various benefits such as forty eight purchase vouchers worth of Rs.220/- each spreading over forty eight months. In a way, his contention is the business activity does not come within the purview of the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978. Learned counsel would further contend that specified goods have been made available to the customers at a cheaper rate since the company procures the same from the manufacturers directly and whatever benefit the company derives is being disseminated to the customers by way of extending various benefits. A further contention has been advanced by the learned counsel that the petitioner hails from a respectable family with good antecedents and he is recipient of the Best Chief Managing Director award for the year 2011, Bharat Ratna Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Award, Honorary Chairman, International Human Rights Association (Asia Region), Member of Task Force (Ministry of Consumer for Food and Public Distribution), Government of India.

5. Learned Public Prosecutor submits that the scheme floated by Nmart (a retail store of New Look Retails Private Limited) appears to be attractive but on close scrutiny of it, the main object is to collect Rs.5,500/- from each member and appropriate major part of the said amount. As on this day, Nmart enrolled 4,25,522 members in Andhra Pradesh and 10,48,576 members all over the country and thereby collected huge amounts and subsequently, closed most of the retail shops. The scheme ultimately is for the benefit of the company and the members are the losers. Learned Public Prosecutor explained how the scheme ultimately ends in favour of the company.

6. It is brought to my notice during the course of hearing that the petitioner obtained Transit bail in Crime No.154 of 2012 of Kandukur Town from the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, 24th Court, Borivali, Mumbai and failed to appear before the concerned court and consequently N.B.W came to be issued against him by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, 24th Court, Borivali, Mumbai. Various intricacies of the scheme floated by Nmrt are required to be examined during the course of investigation. Huge amount has been collected by Nmart from the depositors. Most of the shops came to be closed and the benefits the company promised have not been honoured. The petitioner is the Chairman and Managing Director of Nmart. In view of the pendency of investigation and the quantum of amount involved in the case, the petitioner does not deserve for grant of anticipatory bail.

7. Accordingly, the Criminal Petition is dismissed.


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Jitendra Dubey
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