Booked in six cheating cases, Dehradun businessman moves Supreme Court to shed ‘gangster’ tag

Booked in six cheating cases, Dehradun businessman moves Supreme Court to shed ‘gangster’ tag

FIR filed under UP Gangsters Act describes him as a “gang leader” of a group of four persons & “presumes” him to be a gang member because of six cheating cases, says petitioner.

File photo of the Supreme Court in New Delhi | Reuters

File photo of the Supreme Court in New Delhi | Reuters

New Delhi: A Dehradun-based businessman has been labelled as a “gangster” by the Uttarakhand Police for being allegedly involved in six cases of cheating.

The businessman, who has moved the Supreme Court against the Uttarakhand Police for invoking the UP Gangsters Act, said the FIR filed under the “draconian” law in November last year describes him as a “gang leader” of a group of four persons.

The FIR “presumes” him to be a gang member of an organised crime because of the six pending cases of cheating, he said.

In his petition to quash the  Gangster Act FIR, the businessman claimed the cheating cases are related to small business disputes with trade partners and are civil in nature. Two of the six cases, he added, were settled, while one is the “verge of settlement.”

The FIR has also referred to a rape case registered against him in Haryana. However, the local police have closed it, he submitted, furnishing a copy of the closure report to the top court.

Last week, a bench led by Justice Surya Kant came to the rescue of the businessman, as it restrained Uttarakhand Police from arresting him. A notice issued under the UP Gangster Act to demolish a girls’ hostel run by him in Dehradun was also stayed by the court.

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‘Not fit to invoke Gangsters Act’

His lawyer, Rishi Malhotra, told the bench that the allegations outlined in the six FIRs were pertained to pure business transactions. However, the police had converted civil disputes into criminal offences.

Even if the allegations are taken to be true, they do not constitute such serious offences to attract charges under the UP Gangsters Act. The contents of the FIRs, he contended, revealed cheating that can always be resolved.

As per the UP Gangsters Act, extracted and quoted in the petition, a “Gang” means a group of persons who acting either singly or collectively, by violence, or threat or show of violence, or intimidation, or coercion or otherwise, with the object of disturbing public order or of gaining any undue temporal, pecuniary, material of other advantage for himself or any other person, indulge in anti-social activities.

Gangster means a “member or leader or organizer of a gang and includes any persons who abets or assists in the activities of a gang (as mentioned above), whether before or after the commission of such activities or harbors any person who has indulged in such activities.”

Upon a challenge, the constitutional validity of the UP Gangster Act was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013. But the petition mentioned that the top court reiterated that the object and reasons of the law was only meant to make it a special provision against “gangsterism and anti-social activities.”

But in his case, the petitioner complained, slight delay in making payments due to some disputes over the bill raised by vendors has been termed as an “anti-social activity.”

The first FIR was filed in 2019 when he allegedly slapped the complainant.  The second was lodged in July 2021 when a sale transaction did not fructify. However, this case, he stated, is on the verge of a settlement.

In the third case, registered in January 2022, the petitioner was accused of not paying the vendor from whom he purchased tiles for the construction of a hostel in Dehradun. Though the dispute amount was around Rs 23 lakh, the petitioner paid Rs 12 lakh and resolved the matter.

The fourth case in April pertained to non-payment of dues for the purchase of building material following which he faced a trial under the Negotiable Instruments Act and was acquitted, the businessman submitted.

While the fifth case registered in May alleged the petitioner had not paid Rs 2 lakh for buying sanitary fittings in 2020-21, the sixth filed in November alleged he had not repaid a loan of the same amount taken from the complainant.

Finally, in November 2022, the petitioner “to his utter shock and dismay” was branded as a  “Gangster.”

Meanwhile, the petitioner had instituted legal proceedings against the police officer investigating the six cases. On his petition, the Uttarakhand High Court in October also ordered changing the investigating officer (IO) of his cases.

But when he challenged the invocation of the Gangsters Act, the HC refused to give the businessman relief, despite noting that the IO’s malafide intentions in initiating the proceedings under the special law.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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