CITING the gravity of the offence, a court in Gurugram last week denied bail to two women who are mothers of infants born prematurely, and are accused in a case involving cheating and forgery. Shivani, the Judicial Magistrate – Ist Class, through two separate identical orders, rejected the bail plea of the two accused women on the ground that no overwhelming circumstance had been pointed out that warranted the grant of bail to the accused. The accused are facing prosecution for the offence under Sections 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 465 (Punishment for forgery), 467 (Forgery of valuable security, will, etc.), 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) and 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation), read with Section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy), of the Indian Penal Code [IPC]. The case concerns alleged fraud committed by one Parveen Yadav, who is a Deputy Commandment of the Border Security Force, on deputation with the National Security Guard Campus at Manesar. The allegation is that he had impersonated, to various contractors and companies, that he was an Indian Police Services Officer who was in charge of procurement, and induced them to part with a total of 130 crore rupees towards fictitious contracts for supply, construction, and so on. He had also opened a government bank account with a bank where his sister was the branch manager. When the fraud was discovered, multiple FIRs [first information reports] came to be registered by the contractors and companies. The Gurugram Police arrested all the accused persons, including the sister and her infant, who is only 28 days old. The wife of the main accused is also with a 88 days old child. Both these infants have been lodged at the Manesar Police Station along with their mothers. Appearing for the accused persons, advocate Nipun Saxena contended that they are responsible for daily up-keep, care, protection and feeding of their premature infants, and as such, keeping them in custody would not serve the interest of justice. Besides, it was argued that no role of the accused has been attributed. He added that keeping infants in custody is against their fundamental rights as the protection conferred under Part III of the Constitution of India extends with full force to infants. Saxena also argued that in the current situation that is witnessing a peak of COVID cases, the infants and their mothers are at a severe risk of contracting COVID at a police station, which for all purposes is a ‘public place’. Besides, it was contended that the mothers are forced to feed their children at the police station, which is against every conceivable principle of ‘dignity’ zealously guarded under Article 21 of the Constitution. It was urged on behalf of the accused mothers that the condition of the newly delivered infants and their mothers is against all major international covenants and conventions to which India is a party, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Rejecting the bail application, the judge observed: “It has been argued by learned counsel for the accused that the applicant is new mother who has just delivered a baby who was prematurely born but no documents in support of this contention has been produced which reflects that the mother or a baby has any medical issues.Documents attached with the application shows that baby was born after more than 37 weeks of pregnancy which cannot be termed as premature baby. Furthermore, in case of any medical urgency, the Medical Officer in the jail is available for treatment. Hence, this condition of the applicant/accused is not a ground to grant bail to accused”. The judge further opined that vaccination of infants can be arranged in jail. The Court, however, directed the jail authorities to provide adequate food to the accused as they are breastfeeding mothers, and to arrange proper vaccination to the infants as per the provisions of the applicable Jail manual.