Notice to accused not necessary to freeze bank account under Section 102 CrPC: Madras High Court

The Madras High Court has rejected a plea by the wife of controversial PUBG player Madan to unfreeze his bank account at Axis Bank Limited.

Judge Mr. Nirmal Kumar observed that there are wide-ranging allegations against the two defendants, including embezzlement of funds raised on behalf of Covid Relief and revenue from livestreaming PUBG gaming videos with obscene comments and foul language against women and adolescent subscribers.

In the High Court, the main argument of Kiruthika, the administrator of two YouTube channels, namely Madan and Toxic Madan 18+, was that the freezing of the bank account did not correspond to the procedure envisaged under Article 102 ( 3) of the Cr. computer

Section 102(3) Cr. The PC requires any police officer acting under subsection (1) to deliver a seizure report to the competent magistrate after freezing the bank account. The petitioner alleged that no such seizure report was given to the magistrate and that such seizure was not made known to the petitioner with an infant. She argued that the account cannot be frozen indefinitely and such restraining orders can only be short-lived.

The court noted that the bank acknowledged the freezing of the defendant’s account to the police in a letter dated June 15, 2021. It was produced and submitted to the magistrate during Kiruthika’s pre-trial detention on June 16.

Judge M. Nirmal Kumar, after taking note of the submissions of the State and Kiruthika, noted in the order below:

The letter dated 15.06.2021 sent by the Principal Director and Chief Operating Officer, Axis Bank, RAPuram Branch, Chennai was produced to the concerned Magistrate during the Applicant’s dismissal as can be seen from the Court seal and the initial of the magistrate dated 16.06.2021. The aforementioned letter was sent together with the statement of account for A/c.No.xxxx for the period from 01.01.2020 to 31.12.2020 and from 01.01.2021 to 14.06.2021 and other relevant documents”

With regard to informing the petitioner about the freezing of accounts, the court noted that there is no such mandate in the legal provisions. Resting on Teesta Atul Setalvad v. Gujarat State (2017), the court noted that Section 102 Cr.PC does not provide for the issuance of notice to the account holder. For the purposes of the investigation, no notification to the suspect can be expected under the law, the court added.

“SSection 102 C.cr. is an important step towards the investigation, given the established legal position, the accused cannot have a say in the investigation and notice to the suspect is out of the question. The intent of the investigative agency need not be revealed to the suspect at this crucial stage, otherwise an alert message would be received by the suspect, creating enormous leeway for manipulation or destruction. evidence.”

The respondents also argued that although the investigation is complete and the indictment has been filed, Kiruthika must stand trial to prove that she is entitled to the money in the frozen bank account.

The court noted that of the funds to the tune of crores of rupees raised for Covid Relief from other players, subscribers and subscribers, only less than two lakhs were donated through a crowdfunding platform called Milaap.

“…regarding the amount of the balance, the defendants must give reasons. Although the prosecution claims that 2842 victims across India were deceived and victimized, but only 25 victims could be accessed by the prosecution. ‘charge.“, observed the court while rejecting Kiruthik’s plea for giving proper instructions to unblock the account.

However, the court also added that it is open to the applicant to address the judicial magistrate concerned to unblock the account by giving satisfactory explanations. The court observed that the freezing of the account cannot continue indefinitely and the petitioner can show the magistrate concerned that the freezing of the bank account is not necessary for further investigation.

“Subsequently, it is for the court concerned to consider the defendant’s plea in accordance with the law, after having heard the petitioner and the defendant police on the facts and circumstances of the case and, thereafter, to render the appropriate orders, added the court.

context

PUBG Madan and Kiruthika have been accused of defrauding funds raised for covid relief and amassing revenue from posting PUBG Gaming videos on the two YouTube channels which are riddled with abusive and dirty language. The prosecution had argued that Madan and Kiruthika streamed PUBG game videos with obscene commentary, even when the two YouTube channels had large followings, including children under the age of 18. According to the police, Kiruthika had also revealed the establishment of a company in the name of Madan Game Station Private Limited, of which the applicant and her father are the directors.

According to the prosecution, the two YouTube channels Madan and Toxic Madan 18+ have 7.7 lakhs and ten thousand subscribers respectively.

Kiruthika was arrested on June 15, 2021, and Madan was arrested by police three days later. According to the police, the two made confessions about uploading PUBG gameplay videos with vulgar language on YouTube channels even though PUBG software is banned by the Indian government. PUBG Madan was taken into custody on June 19 and he was subsequently detained under Goondas Law on August 5, 2021.

Initially, the case was registered against the two of them for offenses relating to Sections 67, 67A of the Computers Act, Sections 294(b), 509 of the ICC and Section 4 of the Representation Act 1986 indecent of women. Later, when the alleged scam behind covid relief came to light, an amending report was filed and IPC Section 420 was also added as an offence.

According to the prosecution, the defendant received the money through various digital channels, including UPI Apps. Additionally, a notice was sent to Google India under Sections 160 and 91 of the Cr.PC for removing the offensive videos from the two YouTube channels. The IP addresses indicated that the two YouTube channels were accessible from their residence using a broadband connection. According to the Prosecution, the defendants illegally obtained Rs.35,62,060.58/- between 23.01.2020 and 31.05.2021 from Google Company, USA.

Case title: Kiruthika v. The State represented by the police inspector & Anr.

Case no: crl. OP No. 14733 of 2021

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 105

Click here to read/download the order