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P.K. Seshan Vs. State and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revision Appeal No. 264 of 1973
Judge
Reported inILR1974Delhi260
ActsPrevention of Corruption Act, 1947 - Sections 5(1)
AppellantP.K. Seshan
RespondentState and anr.
Advocates: A.S. Vir and; R.L. Mehta, Advs
Cases ReferredKathi Raning Rawat v. State of Saurashtra
Excerpt:
.....that in prosecuting the petitioner under the provisions of the act after he has ceased to be a public servant would amount to denying him the advantages associated with the office of a public servant and in imposing upon him the disadvantages associated with the office of a public servant in a trial before the special judge.;that in a case, where the accused ceased to be a public servant on the date. cognizance was taken of the offence by the special judge, the trial was not vitiated in the absence of section under section 6 of the act. - - 4.6 lacs required for refined sodium bicorbonate was submitted with a view to overcome a reference to the c. (11) in support of the above submission strong reliance was placed on case. a contention was raised that pending the appeal, the..........two accused, by corrupt or illegal means or by otherwise abusing the petitioner's position as a public servant, for obtaining either for himself or for the other party undue advantage by agreeing to do or caused to be done by the' illegal acts, by illegal means to cheat the government of india through c.c.i, and e. (6) the petitioner objected to the jurisdiction of the special judge to frame charges against him, amongst others, on the ground that the act applied only to the public servants as defined under section 21 of the indian penal code . the petitioner being no longer a government servant, could not be proceeded against under section 5 of the act. (7) it may be stated here that earlier a charge-sheet was submitted against .the petitioner and shri r. k. biria which was withdrawn.....
Judgment:

Prithvi Raj, J.

(1) The petitioner through this revision petition has challenged the order dated 7th June, 1973, passed by Shri O. P. Singia, Special Judge, Delhi, whereby the learned Special Judge framed charges for commission of offences of conspiracy punishable under section 120-B read with section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 (herein to be called 'the Act') and for the substantive offences punishable under section 420 Indian Penal Code . and section 5(2) of the Act against the petitioner and Shri R. K. Biria. The charge for the offence of conspiracy was framed against both of them and the charge of the commission of offence of cheating was framed against Shri R. K. Biria and that for the commission of offence of criminal misconduct was framed against the petitioner.

(2) Relevant facts for disposal of this petition are that M/s. Saurashtra Chemicals under license granted by the Government of India for manufacture of heavy and light soda ash went into production in the early part of 1960. The company applied for grant of essential Goods Import license for import for one complete plant with bagging and weighing equipment, and accessories and spares for the manufacture of Dense Soda Ash, in the value of Rs. 6.1 lacs. The Government allowed this import. Import license dated 22nd September, 1962, was issued in their favor. The company further submitted another application on 22nd September, 1961, for the grant of Industrial Act license for manufacture of Refined Sodium Bicarbonate. This license was issued to it on 23rd May, 1962. Another application was submitted on behalf of the Company on 7th November. 1962, for the grant of Capital Goods Import license for import of equipment worth Rs. 4.5 lacs, for manufacture of Refined Sodium Bicarbonate and it included (1) Centrifuges, (2) Co Compressors and (3) Capicitor with Circuit Breakers.

(3) Shri R. K. Biria respondent was the president of the Company while the petitioner who was employed as development officer (ALK) New Delhi was to process or cause to be processed the list of equipment for necessary essentiality certificate and indigenous clearance.

(4) The case of the prosecution is that there was a conspiracy between the petitioner and Shri R. K. Biria in pursuance of which he on the suggestion of the petitioner drew or caused to be drawn up a list of four equipments including centrifuges, Co Compressors and Capacitor with Circuit Breakers and sent the same to the petitioner under letter dated 16th January, 1963, mentioning therein, that according to the petitioners suggestion a part of the license for 6.1 lacs for dense Soda Ash equipment, the equipment worth Rs. 4.6 lacs required for Refined Sodium Bicorbonate was submitted with a view to overcome a reference to the C. G. Committee and other procedure. It is further alleged by the prosecution that in furtherance of the said conspiracy the petitioner made the necessary cuttings, modifications and alterations in the first draft giving an indication that the items were to be imported only for the manufacture of refined soda bicarbonate. The list corrected by the petitioner was returned for re-submission as suggested by the petitioner to Shri R. K. Biria. The company was thus enabled to get the equipments imported on the basis of the said changed list under belief that it was required for manufacture of Dense Soda Ash.

(5) On the above averments the prosecution alleges that there was a conspiracy between the two accused, by corrupt or illegal means or by otherwise abusing the petitioner's position as a public servant, for obtaining either for himself or for the other party undue advantage by agreeing to do or caused to be done by the' illegal acts, by illegal means to cheat the Government of India through C.C.I, and E.

(6) The petitioner objected to the jurisdiction of the Special Judge to frame charges against him, amongst others, on the ground that the Act applied only to the public servants as defined under section 21 of the Indian Penal Code . The petitioner being no longer a Government servant, could not be proceeded against under section 5 of the Act.

(7) It may be stated here that earlier a charge-sheet was submitted against .the petitioner and Shri R. K. Biria which was withdrawn as no sanction under section 6 of the Act was obtained for filing the charge-sheet against the petitioner. The petitioner accordingly alleges that the effect of that was that on the perusal of the earlier chargesheet the accused persons were discharged. It is further alleged that the prosecution having taken no steps to obtain sanction from the proper authorities for the prosecution of the petitioner or to have the order of discharge set aside by the superior Court the filing of the present charge-sheet without obtaining the sanction when the petitioner has ceased to be a public servant was improper.

(8) The learned Special Judge negatived the contention of the petitioner and framed the charges against the accused persons.

(9) The petitioner has come up in this revision petition before this Court against the order dated 7th June, 1973, passed by the learned Special Judge framing charges against the petitioner and respondent Shri R. K. Birla.

(10) Shri Avtar Singh learned cousel for the petitioner submitted that the provisions of section 5(l)(d) ofthe Act applied to a public servant in office and not to erstwhile public servant. It was accordingly contended that the petitioner being no longer a public servant, he could not be proceeded against under the Act, the Court of the Special Judge, Delhi accordingly has no jurisdiction to try him. It was also contended that section 6 of the Act is a complete bar to the prosecution of any person under the Act without obtaining a sanction from a competent authority and that there is no exception or saving clause in section 6 to the effect that under any circumstances prosecution could be launched without obtaining sanction from the competent authority. Further the submission was that no sanction for prosecution could be obtained against the petitioner, who was alleged to have committed the offence when he was a public servant but is being prosecuted now that he has ceased to be a public servant. It was, thereforee, contended that if for any reason whatsoever sanction for prosecuting the petitioner could not be obtained, section 6 of the Act would provide a complete bar to the petitioner's prosecution in the present proceedings. It was further submitted that the expression 'public servant' appearing in different places in the Act must be given the same meaning throughout and if this expression 'public servant' excludes an erstwhile public servant for the purposes of section 6 of the Act, the same meaning should be given to that expression in section 5 and in section 2 of the Act. If that be so, now that the petitioner has ceased to be a public servant, his prosecution under the Act was not warranted, under section 2 of the Act. goes the argument, the expression 'public servant' is given the same meaning as defined in section 21 of the Indian Penal Code . which provisions show that the person to be covered by the definition must be in office and docs not include a person who was in office.

(11) In support of the above submission strong reliance was placed on case. Manmal Bhutoria v. The State of West Bengal, : AIR1970Cal253 . In that case the petitioner along with one C. R. Bhattacharjee who was a major in the Army were chargesheeted with the offence under section 5(2) of the Act. The jurisdiction of the State Government to allot the case to the Special Court under the provisions of the West Bengal Criminal Law Amendment (Special Courts) Act, 1949 (West Bengal Act Xxi 1949) (herein to be called 'the Bengal Act )was challenged inter alias on the ground that on the date of allotment Shri Bhattacharjee had ceased to be a public servant, who had already been invalidated from Military service, the offence was not one cognizable by the Special Courts. Further that the proceedings were had as no sanction under section 6 of the Act was obtained. Also a contention was raised that since certain special offences had been created by the Act in the case of public servants which had been made triable by Special Courts apart from the ordinary Courts and an accused in such a case was liable to a much heavier punishment on conviction than by the ordinary criminal Courts of the land, it must, thereforee, follow that not only must the offence be committed while the accused was a public officer but that he should also continue to be a public officer when the proceedings for committal were started by the Government allotting the matter to a court for trial. Further, it was urged that if the correct position in law is that no sanction to prosecute was necessary in a case where the public officer had ceased to be a public officer at the time of the prosecution the jurisdiction of the special courts to try such a public officer must cease after he had ceased to be a public officer. The learned single Judge dealing with the case felt that there was great deal of substance in the contention and that unless he was compelled to hold to the contrary the contention should prevail. However, keeping in view that an offence prescribed under clause 7 of the Schedule to the Special Courts Act which was also defined as an offence by section 5(2) of the Act was an offence triable under the criminal law no matter whether the accused had ceased to be a public servant or not, the learned single Judge observed that even though Shri Bhattacharjee had ceased to be a public officer when the impugned notification was made by the State Government, he was still an accused in respect of an offence under section 5(2) of the Act and as such under section 4(1) of the Bengal Act, the only Court competent to try him would be the Special Court set up under the said Act.

(12) It would be appropriate here to note the relevant provisions of the Bengal Act. Section 4(1) and section 4(2) of the said Act are as follows:-

'NOTWITHSTANDINGanything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, or in any other law. the offences specified in the schedule shall be triable by Special Courts only. Provided that when trying any case, a Special Court may also try any offence other than an offence specified in the Schedule which is an offence with whi'ch the accused may under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.. be charged at the same trial. 4(la) ... 4(2) The distribution amongst Special Courts of cases involving offences specified in the schedule, to be tried by them shall be made by the State. 10. The provision of the Prevention of Corruption Act (II of 1947) shall apply to trials under this Act'. The relevant provision of the Schedule to the said Act in respect of clause 7 is as follows: 'Offences triable by special Judges. 7. An offence punishable under section 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947'.

(13) An appeal was filed against the judgment of the learned Single Judge in the above-cited case which was here by a Division Bench of the High Court at Calcutta in re: Manmal Bhutoria v. The State of West Bengal and others, (supra) The unreported judgment of the Division Bench (comprising of P. B. Mukharji C. J., and B. C. Mitra, J.) in the said appeal is annexure 'E' to the present revision petition at page 35. The learned Chief Justice while dealing with the contentions of the appellant, noted in an earlier part of my judgment observed that if a public servant ceased to be a public servant, he was neither entitled to the advantages of a public servant nor could he be saddled with the liabilities attached to the office of a public servant. Further, it could not be said that in certain respects he was a public servant for the offences under the Act and for certain other respects he was not a public servant. In this view of the matter, the learned Chief Justice concluded as at page 6 of the said judgment that a person who had ceased to be in office, that is, who ceased to be a public servant did not come within the ambit of the expression 'public servant' and consequently was not governed by the Act. Such a person could not commit an offence under section 5(2) of the Act.

(14) The above view proceeded on the ground that it was not open to contend that one part of the Act, namely, section 6 would not apply but the other part of the Act, namely, section 5 would apply even though section 10 of the Bengal Act provided that the provisions of the Act shall apply to trials under the Bengal Act. In taking this view it was observed at page 5, that vice seemed to steer clear of Article 14 of the Constitution, namely, that the advantages and disadvantages must be alike. The Act of the State Government, after Bhattacharjee ceased to be a public servant, in distributing the said case to the special Court was considered vocative of the principle of equal protection clause by denying the advantages associated with the office of a public servant while imposing on him the disadvantages and/or disabilities associated with the office of a public servant. In the result the Act was held to be not discriminatory but the action of the allotment of the case to the Special Judge was held to be discriminatory. B. C. Mitra, J. while concurring with the above view observed at page 18 of the judgment that in order to hold that Bhattacharjee was a person against whom a charge under section 5(1) (d) and section 5(2) of the Act could be valid and lawfully brought, there must be clear and specific sanction and mandate of the statute to the effect that even though a person had ceased to be a public servant, he should be deemed to be public servant for the purposes of section 5 of the Act. In the absence of such-a provision in the Act, charge under section 5(1) (d) and 5(2), it was observed, could not be lawfully brought against Bhattacharjee.

(15) Strongly commending the observation of the learned Chief Justice in the above-cited case, Shri Avtar Singh vehemently contended that the Act of the respondent State in prosecuting the petition under section 5 of the Act now that he ceased to be a public servant, was vocative of the principle of equal protection clause in denying to him the advantages associated with the office of a public servant, namely. not to prosecute him without obtaining previous sanction of the authority competent to remove him from his office as per section 6 of the Act, and in imposing on him the disadvantages associated with the office of a public servant inasmuch as in a trial before the Special Judge the presumption of innocence will not be available to the petitioner but on the contrary presumption that he is guilty shall he drawn against him, compelling him to prove his innocence by denying to him the normal .presumption of innocence which is attached to every accused in a trial for an offence in ordinary court of law.

(16) It may be noted here that the Bench noticed the decision of the Supreme Court in case S. A. Venkataraman v. State Air 3958 Supreme Court 107, Referring to the said case, the learned Chief Justice observed that the Supreme Court had held that where the accused ceased to be public servants when the Court took cognizance of the offences, the provisions of section 6 of the Act did not apply and the prosecution against them was not vitiated. Applyin' the ratio of Venkataraman's casei to the facts of the appeal before the Division Bench the Chief Justice observed that the Bengal Act was not discriminatory but the action of the State Government in allotting the case to Special Court was discriminatory. With great respects to the learned Judge I express my inability to concur in the said view. If the Act is not discriminatory how can the action taken in pursuance of the provisions of the Act can be said to be discriminatory.

(17) Mitra, J. keeping in view the decision of the Supreme Court in Venkataruman's case (supra) rejected the appellant's contention that the Special Court had no jurisdiction because section 4(1) of the Bengal Act could not be invoked. In that connection it was observed at page 16 of the judgment that 'It is to be remembered that in S. A. Venkataraman's case the trial was by the special Court and although it was held that sanction u/s 6 of the Prevention Act was not necessary, the trial by the Special Court of the accused in that case was upheld'. The above extracted observation is a complete answer to the doubts expressed by the learned Judge that ''there must be clear and specific sanction and mandate of the statute to the effect that even though a person had ceased to be a public servant, he should be deemed to be a public servant for the purposes of S.5 of the Prevention Act'. Besides, it may be noted that the learned Judges of the Division Bench experienced difficulty in the said case in view of the provisions of the Bengal Act which provisions cannot be pressed into service in the case before inc as the Bengal Act is not applicable to Delhi.

(18) It would be appropriate to note here the decision of thedr Lordships of the Supreme Court in S. A. Venkalarainan's case (supra) wherein at pages 110 and Iii it was observed that 'The object of the Act Was to suppress bribery and corruption. ...............The provisions (S.S. 4 and 5) of the Act, indicate that it was the intention of the Legislature to treat more severely than hitherto corruption on the part of a public servant and not to condone it in any manner whatsoever. If section 6 had not found a place in the Act it is clear that cognisance of an offence under sections 161, 164 or 165 of the Indian Penal Code or u/s 5(2) of the Act committed by a public servant could be taken by a Court even if he had ceased to be a public servant. The mere fact that he had ceased to be a public servant after the commission of the offence would not absolve him from his crime.'

(19) It was further held in the above-cited case, 'There is nothing in the words used in S.6(i) to even remotely suggest that previous sanction was necessary before a Court could take cognizance of the offences mentioned therein in the case of a person who had ceased to be a public servant at the time the Court was asked to take cognizance, although he had been such a person at the time the offence was committed'.

(20) Accordingly it was observed in the above-cited case that in giving effect to the oridinary meaning of the words used in section 6 of the Act, the conclusion was inevitable that at the time a Court was asked to take cognizance not only the offence must have been committed by a public servant but the person accused was still a public servant removable from his office by a competent authority before the provisions of section 6 could apply. Where an accused person had ceased to be public servant at the time the Court took cognizance of the offence alleged to have been committed by him as public servant, the provisions of section 6 did not apply and the prosecution against such a person would not be vitiated by the lack of a previous sanction by a competent authority.

(21) The learned counsel for the petitioner strongly submitted that the contention raised in Mcininal Bhutorias case (supra) that in prosecuting a public servant under the Act who had ceased to be a public servant would parse be vocative of the principle of equal protection clause in denying him the advantages associated with the office of a public servant and in imposing on him the disadvantages associated with the office of a public servant in a trial before the Special Judge was not raised and considered in S. A. Vengataraman's case by the Supreme Court. If that be so, it was urged, the view taken in Manmal Bhutoria's case should be accepted. The contention appears to be attractive but has no force. In a recent case C. R.. Bansi v The State, of Maharashti-n. : 1971CriLJ662 , it was observed at page 789:-

'THEpolicy underlying section 6 and similar sections is that there should not be unnecessary harassment of public servants. But if a person ceases to be a public servant the question of harassment does not arise . ...............'

(22) In that case the appellant was dismissed from service on June 27, 1962. Charge-sheet against him under section 5(2) read with section 5(1) (a) and (d) and section 5(3) of the Act was filed against him on July 30, 1962 in the Court of the Special Judge. The appellant submitted an appeal to the President of India on September 21. 1962. The President was pleased to convert the order of dismissal into the one of removal. A contention was raised that pending the appeal, the appellant should have been deemed to be in service and thereforee deemed to be in service on July 30, 1962, and that without a previous sanction under section 6 of the Act his trial and conviction was bad. It was observed that the appellant ceased to be a public servant when the order of dismissal was passed. It was accordingly held that the trial could not be held to be had for breach of sanction under section 6 of the Act. In that view of the matter the conviction of the appellant recorded by the Special Judge under section 5(2) read with section 5(1) (a) and (d) and section 5(3) of the Act was upheld.

(23) In case Nanhu Prasad Singh v. The State of Bihar : 1971CriLJ1712 , the appellant who was working as extradepartmental agent in a post office, was alleged to have misappropriated the amount of a money order which was received in the post office where he was working. The prosection was launched against him under section 5(l)(c) read with section 5(2) of the Act before the Special Judge on 16th July, 1962. The appellant was also dismissed from service long before the date, cognizance of offence was taken. Although he was a public servant at the date of the offence, he ceased to be one on the date when the Special Judge took cognizance of the offence. A contention was raised that the trial of the appellant was vitiated because of the absence of sanction under section 6 of the Act. Repelling the contention the Supreme Court observed that since appellant had ceased to be a public servant on the date cognizance was taken of the offence by the Special Judge no sanction under section 6 of the Act was required and there was no defect in the trial.

(24) It will accordingly be seen that not only in S. A. Venkalaraman's case (supra) but in C. R. Bansi's case (supra) as also in Nanha Prasad Singh's case (supra) their Lordship of the Supreme Court considered the provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Act and taking note of the said provisions, they were pleased to observe that in a case where the accused ceased to be a public servant on the date, cognizance was taken of the offence by the special Judge, the trial was not vitiated in the absence of sanction under section 6 of the Act.

(25) In view of the position having been settled in the aforesaid decisions by the Supreme Court, it is not possible to sustain the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner that in prosecuting the petitioner under the provisions of the Act now that he has ceased to be a public servant would amount to denying him the advantages associated with the office of a public servant and in imposing upon him the disadvantages associated with the office of a public servant in a trial before the Special Judge. Besides offence punishable under section 161 Indian Penal Code . by virtue of section 6 of Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952(46 of 1962) is triable by a Special Judge.

(26) No help can be drawn by the learned counsel for the petitioner from case Kathi Raning Rawat v. State of Saurashtra, 1952 Cr. L. J. 805 wherein it was observed by the Supreme Court that equality prescribed by the Constitution would not be vitiated if the statute operates equally on all persons who are included in the group and the classification was not arbitrary or capracious, as the said observations were made in a different context.

(27) The arugment of the learned counsel for the petitioner that so far as the filing of the charge-sheet, viz, the executive action of the prosecution in filing the charge against the petitioner was concerned, the same was mala fide, is equally untenable in view of my discussion above.

(28) The learned counsel for the petitioner next submitted that the petitioner retired from service on 15th September, 1970. The first charge-sheet was put in against him on 31st March, 1971, which was withdrawn on 15th May. 1971 on the ground that lie had rejoined service under the Gujarat Government on contract basis. The petitioner's services were terminated on 18th November, 1971, by the Gujarat Government. It was accordingly contended that the prosecution had sufficient time from 15th May, 1971, to 18th November. 1971, at their disposal to obtain the necessary sanction under section 6 of the Act for prosecuting the petitioner, but it deliberately waited till the termination of services of the petitioner and filed the present chargesheet on 14th December, 1971, to avoid approaching the competent authority who would not have accorded sanction for prosecution of the petitioner on the facts and circumstances of the case. It was, thereforee, contended that the act of the prosecution to avoid obtaining sanction for prosecution of the petitioner from the competent authority was a mala fide act.

(29) Shri R. L. Mehta, learned counsel for the respondent however, contended that the prosecution did apply seeking permission under section 6 of the Act from .the competent authority but the Gujarat Government in view of the allegations made against the petitioner thought it proper to terminate his services as his re-employment was on contract basis. In the circumstances, Shri Mehta urged, that in submitting the present charge-sheet the act of the prosecution cannot be said to be mala fide as effort was made by the prosecution to obtain the requisite sanction.

(30) It was not denied by the learned counsel for the petitioner that the re-employment of the petitioner was on contract basis. It was, thereforee, within the competence of the State Government to terminate his services which they did. In the circumstances, the prosecution cannot be said to have deliberately waited till the termination of the services of the petitioner with a view to avoid approaching the competent authority for seeking permission under section 6 of the Act.

(31) In view of my discussion on various points, noted above, the petition fails and is hereby dismissed.


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