Stayzilla Founder Yogi’s bail plea dismissed

A special court, today, granted one-day custody of Yogendra Vasupal to the Central Crime Branch in connection with an alleged fraud case

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Yogendra Vasupal, CEO, of Stayzilla, who has been languishing in a jail on the outskirts of the South Indian city of Chennai, since last Tuesday (March 14, 2017), has been denied bail by the court.

Vasupal’s bail plea had come up for hearing, yesterday, in the special metropolitan magistrate court for CCB-CBCID (Central Crime Branch-Crime Branch Crime Investigation Department) cases, Chennai. Special metropolitan magistrate MM Kabir, had reserved the order for today.

Rejecting the bail plea today, judge Kabir, said, “Since a police custody application is pending, bail cannot be given at this moment.”

Vasupal, popularly known as Yogi in the Indian startup industry, was arrested last week, on “criminal charges” initiated by Chennai based advertising agency, Jigsaw Advertising and its CEO, CS Aditya, alleging that Yogi and his partner Sachit Singhi owed the company INR 17.2 million (approx US$259,000).

The special court, today, granted Vasupal’s one-day custody to the CCB in connection with the case.

Board members supporting Yogi

Ravindra Krishnappa, who was an investor and Director with Stayzilla till 2015, told Techseen, that he has spoken to Yogi’s family and Board members, and that he is “confident” that this is a case of a disputed invoice with the vendor for non-performance of services under dispute with the company.

“Yogi believes that this is a civil matter being dragged into the criminal domain to exert pressure and has expressed a desire to continue to fight it in the legal system,” Krishnappa said.

He also said that there has been no check bounce, and Yogi’s family has categorically stated that.

The backlash against arrest

Yogi in his defense had said in a blog written before his arrest that the company was using intimidating tactics to extract the money, and that it contended the amount of money Stayzilla owed Jigsaw; and that he had urged Aditya to take up the matter in the court.

Meanwhile, the industry has come out in full support of Yogi and contends that no one should be allowed to use intimidating tactics and at the most it was a civil case, which has been made into a criminal case, using political connections. The industry, on Monday, this week, came up with a website, Help Yogi, that has a letter addressed to Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, urging “to look into this matter and ensure that expeditious justice is provided to Yogi.”

The campaign, which is open for signatures from the industry, has garnered over 440 signatures since Monday. Some prominent names amongst the signatories include Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO, Paytm; Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder, OlaCabs; Mohandas Pai, Board member of Infosys; Amarendra Sahu of NestAway.

The petition to the Home Minister is also backed by industry bodies — CII, IAMAI, ISPIRT, FICCI, TiE, and NASSCOM.

The letter has also been marked to Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman; Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog; Edappadi K Palaniswami, Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu; Rajiv Mehrishi, Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs; and Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.

The Hearing Yesterday

Senior counsel B Kumar had made a submission yesterday on behalf of Yogi that there was no written contract for the services rendered by Jigsaw Advertising. It was all an understanding between the parties (Jigsaw and Stayzilla). The counsel argued that CS Aditya, CEO of Jigsaw Advertising claims that huge number of hoardings were placed in various places across the country and for that, they charged as much as nearly INR 6 million ($91,000 approximately). “We said we have no evidence that you have put up so many hoardings and also, that many such hoardings were placed in insignificant places for which such huge amount cannot be paid for that,” Kumar said.

The counselor also said that the Jigsaw contends that it had advertised on behalf of Stayzilla, on the cabin baggage tags of airlines — Jet airways and Indigo. But that Jigsaw did not enclose any evidence for the same. “So there was a serious dispute as to what we ought to pay,” Kumar added.

He pointed out that the whole dispute was of a civil nature.

However, Additional Public Prosecutor S Manual Arasu contenting against the bail plea, said, “Prima facie this is a clear case of cheating. The other accused (Stayzilla Co-founder Sachit Singhi) is absconding and is yet to be arrested. The CCB is also receiving several other complaints against the accused.”

Building up a case to dismiss Yogi’s bail plea, Arasu also contended that Yogi and Singhi had closed down the company without following any set procedures and the gravity of the offense should be considered.

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