The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to stay at this stage an investigation against BharatPe co-founder Ashneer Grover and his wife Madhuri Jain Grover in a case of an alleged ₹ 81 crore fraud based on a complaint by the fintech unicorn.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani also declined to direct the investigating officer to give an advance notice to the couple if he wanted their custody and asked them to file an anticipatory bail instead.
The judge issued notice on the petition by Mr Grover and his wife seeking to quash the FIR registered by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police and asked the investigating agency as well as complainant BharatPe to state their stand.
The court issued notice on the application for stay of investigation as well.
“No case is made out at least at this stage for staying investigation in the matter. So far as advance written notice of arrest is concerned, petitioners are at liberty to adopt other remedies available to them in accordance with law,” the court said.
“File section 438 (of CrPC for anticipatory bail). Why should I get into my inherent power when there is a statutory power,” the court stated.
Counsel for the petitioners contended that the FIR was based on malafides and the allegations pertained to matters relating to GST and management of the company, which they were anyway entitled to do as directors and they disclose no criminality.
It was said that the petitioners were involved in nurturing the company into a multi-crore entity and no fraud was reported by the statutory auditors.
Senior advocates Vikas Pahwa and Dayan Krishnan appeared for the complainant and opposed issuance of notice on the petition.
They argued that the matter involved complex financial transactions which resulted in defalcation of funds and the petitioners availed input tax credit under GST law with respect to bogus transactions and indulged in siphoning of funds and forged certain documents.
The EOW registered the FIR earlier this year under eight sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 406 that deals with criminal breach of trust, 420 (cheating and dishonesty), 467 and 468 (forgery).
BharatPe, in the complaint, alleged that Ashneer Grover and his family caused damages of about ₹ 81.3 crore through illegitimate payments to bogus human resource consultants, inflated and undue payments through passthrough vendors connected to the accused, sham transactions in input tax credit and payment of penalty to GST authorities, illegal payment to travel agencies, forged invoices by Madhuri Jain and destruction of evidence.
Madhuri Jain was the head of controls at BharatPe and was fired in 2022 after a forensic audit revealed several irregularities. Subsequently, Ashneer Grover resigned as CEO in March 2022.
The matter would be heard next on September 25.