MUMBAI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a Bombay HC order quashing the FIR registered against a private firm, City Limouzines, which had
failed to fulfil one of its promises made to investors while accepting money from them and assuring huge returns.
A division bench of Justices S B Sinha and Deepak Verma restored the FIR and allowed the economic offences wing (EOW) of the city police to continue with investigations against the company. The EOW case was that the firm had cheated investors and committed criminal breach of trust.
In September 2007, the EOW registered a case of cheating against Sayed Masood, promoter of the company, on a complaint by Jalandhar Pansare alleging that the firm had failed to keep its promise.
In 2002, City Limouzines advertised a scheme offering returns of 48% on investments. For instance, on an investment of Rs 97, 000, it offered investors Rs 4, 000 every month for five years. The amount collected by the company was to be used to buy Maruti Omnis, which were to be registered in the names of the investors.
The investors were to be paid the profit from the income generated by giving the vehicles on hire. At the end of the five-year period, the vehicles were to be returned to the investors. Around 22, 000 people invested in the scheme, said the EOW. The company also entered into an agreement with the investors.
Pansare lodged a complaint after he was not given a vehicle as promised. City Limouzines, however, did not default on the monthly payments.
Additional commissioner of EOW Sanjay Saxena said, "Our main argument was that the firm's business matrix was not sustainable. Our investigations will continue now.'' He expressed concern that some people still fell prey to such schemes.
On March 3 last year, a high court division bench of Bilal Nazki and S A Bobde quashed the FIR and observed that "the company had no intention to defraud at the time of inception of the agreement. It is a well-accepted principle that while interpreting a clause of the agreement, the whole of the agreement has to be taken into consideration''.
The bench further observed that applying the principles laid down by various judgments of the apex courts, "we do not think that in the facts and circumstances of the case, an offence of cheating is made out''.
The company's contention was that even if a dispute existed regarding the interpretation of a particular clause in the agreement, it would be a civil dispute and not a matter meant for criminal investigation. City Limouzines got around 22, 000 investors but bought only 4, 000-5, 000 cars