Karnataka High Court

Karnataka High Court: HP Sandesh J. while dealing with an application filed under Section 439 Criminal Procedure Code, ‘CrPC’ by Deputy Commissioner who is accused of taking bribe of Rs 5 lakh from the complainant for passing an order in his favour, took note of the inefficiencies in the investigation and remarked that if the investigation agency has failed to consider the public interest while dealing with a corruption case involving ADGP, then the Court ought to monitor the investigation in such circumstances.

The bail order was heard and dispensed vide order dated 07-07-2022 which further culminated in a transfer threat received by HP Sandesh J, who in his own words’ remarked vide order dated 11-07-2022

“Hon’ble sitting Judge came and sat by the side of me and stated that he received a call from Delhi (not disclosed the name) and said that the person who called from Delhi, enquired about me and immediately I replied that I am not affiliated to any political party and the Hon’ble Judge did not stop the same there itself and further said that ADGP is from North India and he is powerful and also gave an instance of transfer of Senior Judge of this Court to some other State and told that for no mistake on his part, he was transferred and chances of one side feeding to them”

The case details are such that on 20-5-2022, a case was filed by a complainant before the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) against the Deputy Commissioner. The allegation stated that when the complainant met the DC, he instructed the complainant to meet his Personal Assistant and when he met the Personal Assistant, he demanded an amount of Rs.15 lakhs to get an order passed by the Deputy Commissioner in favor of the complainant. The amount was bargained and reduced to Rs.5 lakhs and accordingly, the amount was accepted by the Deputy Tehsildar (accused 2) who is working in the office of the Deputy Commissioner. The accused 2 filed a petition under Section 439 of Cr. P.C seeking regular bail.

When the petition was heard, the State and ACB claimed the person who has received the money is not an employee in the Deputy Commissioner’s office, but it was revealed by the Personal Assistant of the Deputy Commissioner that the person who has received the amount is working in the Appeal Section. The accused 2 said in his statement that he collected the amount as per the instructions of accused 1 i.e., the Personal Assistant.

However, the Court noted that the ACB did not register the case against the Deputy Commissioner and registered a case only against the clerk and the subordinate officials, despite there being ample material before the ACB. The Court also noted that the counsel appearing for ACB, instead of assisting the Court, submitted that this Court has to consider only the bail petition and not the other materials.

Thus, a simple bail matter highlighted various inefficiencies by the ACB which led to the Court relying on judgments Manohar Lal Sharma v. Principal Secretary 2014 SCC OnLine SC , Kedar Narayan Parida v. State of Orissa, (2009) 9 SCC 538 to observe ADGP who is representing the institution and who is in helm of affairs of ACB did not exercise his powers legally to protect the institution, thus, this Court in the interest of general public since general public are facing difficulties in the Government departments to get the work done from the below rank to the top rank without bribe and hence in the interest of general public, the Court can monitor the investigation.

Further directions were also given by the Court vide order dated 07-07-2022 regarding summoning the documents of B report filed against accused persons alleged of accepting the bribe amount, along with the B- reports filed by ACB since 2016 till date along with its current status (being pending or not).

Deputy Secretary to DPAR mentioned an illegal mining case relating back to 2009-10 against the ADGP in question, where again the investigation was not carried out in depth in respect of the involvement of various officers from the Department concerned. Thus, this Court recommended investigation and necessary action to be taken at the earliest.

The Court further passed directions in the aforesaid matter stating that Deputy Secretary to DPAR is supposed to place all the relevant materials before the Court and directed the CBI to place the report in respect of the said investigation pertaining to ADGP in the aforesaid case on the next date of hearing i.e., 11-07-2022.

The Court vide order 11-07-2022 stated that the Court found inaction on the part of the ACB while dealing with the bail matter at the last hearing and thus observed the same. It was here when the Judge mentioned the transfer threat call which has been already reproduced verbatim above.

Thus, the Court directed the Chief Secretary and DPAR to not post any tainted officer in an institution which is established to prevent corruption by analyzing the details of service records and integrity of the officer.

Even on a mention by ACB Counsel, regarding filing of SLP in Supreme Court slated to be heard on 12-07-2022, the Court further directed to communicate the order to the Chief Secretary as well as to the Secretary to the DPAR and Registrar (Judicial) to keep the further investigation materials in safe custody.

The said order however stands by the Supreme Court vide order dated 18-07-2022 after it was observed that lack of enthusiasm of ACB and ADGP in a matter are not relevant for deciding bail application of accused.

[Mahesh PS v. State of Karnataka, 2022 SCC OnLine Kar 1363, decided on 07-07-2022 and 11-07-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

B L Nagesh, Advocate, for the Petitioners.

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