The Kerala High Court has directed the state government to initiate steps to attach properties of financial firm Popular Finance Limited, which has allegedly cheated hundreds of depositors to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore. The court also directed the Union Government to "expeditiously" consider the state government's request, seeking a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the case of cheating, allegedly by the directors of Kerala-based Popular Finance Limited, headquartered in Pathanamthitta district.
The court gave the directives while considering writ petitions filed by individuals and an association of depositors, seeking a CBI investigation against the directors who allegedly defrauded them.
In its interim order, the High Court directed the state government to pass orders under Section 3(b) of the 'Kerala Protection of Interests of Depositors in Financial Establishments (KPID) Act' without further delay.
This should be done to attach properties of the financial institution and the money and property alleged to have been procured, either in the name of the establishment or in the name of any other person, from out of the deposits collected by it.
"Pending such order, the District Collectors, appointed as competent authority under Section 4 of the KPID Act, shall issue orders, directing closure of all branches of Popular Finance Limited and its allied institutions within the respective revenue districts forthwith and effect attachment of the cash, gold and other assets in the branches and other offices of those financial establishments," Justice VG Arun said in his order.
Directing the Union Government to take a decision expeditiously on the state's request for a CBI probe, the court said if the Union Government decides to do so, the agency's director shall constitute a Special Investigation Team, comprising officers with experience and expertise in probing offences involving economic fraud.
In such an event, the state government shall provide the SIT with the requisite logistical support, the court said.
The court also kept in abeyance a circular by the state police chief, directing transfer of FIRs registered in various police stations to one in Konni in Pathanamthitta district.
It directed police to register separate crimes and draw up separate FIRs on receipt of complaints pertaining to commission of cognizable offences by Popular Finance Limited and its allied establishments within the jurisdictional limits of their police station.
Police have arrested the owners of the Kerala-based finance firm against which over 200 cases have been filed by various depositors and investors, alleging fraud of around Rs 3,000 crore.
Popular Finance, headquartered in Pathanamthitta district, has been engaged in the business of gold loans since 1965 and has 284 branches across five states.
Watch visuals of police arresting owners of Popular Finance: