Karnataka High Court: While deciding upon the instant petition questioning the registration of crime under Section 13(1)(b) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and its pendency before Additional District and Sessions Judge and Special Judge, Dharwad; the bench of M. Nagaprasanna. J.*, rejected the petition and stringently directed the Lokayukta to set its house in order by directing completion of investigation in the instant case within a time frame, failing which the “Damocles sword of prosecution will always be hanging on the head of the public servant and defeat several of his rights, if any”.
Background: The petitioner was appointed as a Lecturer in J.S.S. College, Dharwad in 1991. Later on 28-12-1998, the petitioner was appointed as a Reader by direct recruitment in the discipline of Organic Chemistry in the Postgraduate Department of Studies, Karnataka University, Dharwad. After about 10 years of working as a Reader, owning to his eligibility, the petitioner was promoted to the post of Professor in the said Department of the University and worked as Professor up to 4-08-2018. Holding the substantive post of Professor, the petitioner worked as Chairman of Postgraduate Studies between 4-08-2018 and 22-09-2018. Later from 22-09-2018 the petitioner also worked as Registrar, Administration of the University up to 31-01-2009. He later went back to his substantive post of Professor.
On 11-06-2019, anonymous complaint emerged before the then Anti-Corruption Bureau and suo motu proceedings were initiated against the petitioner. The petitioner knocked the doors of the High Court questioning the investigation, but the High Court rejected the writ petition keeping open all the contentions and permitting the petitioner to take steps seeking closure of proceedings against him after filing of the charge sheet by availing any remedy available to him in law.
The instant petition came into being charge sheet has not been filed despite passage of 3 years and petitioner wanted to apply for the post of Vice-Chancellor of the University.
Contentions: Counsel for the petitioner contend that the crime was registered in 2019 and though more than 4 years have passed by the Lokayukta is yet to file its final report and that so long as the crime is pending on his head, the petitioner is unable to apply for any post which is taking away his fundamental right.
Rebutting the contention, the respondent argued that the delay has caused not because of the Lokayukta but on account of the petitioner himself as the petitioner has grossly delayed in submission of his Schedules-I to XXIII as is required for further investigation in which he admits that he has 20 bank accounts. That on further investigation it is revealed that he has 58 bank accounts. Going behind these bank accounts and deciphering the transactions has led to gross delay.
Court’s Assessment: Perusing the facts and arguments of the case, the Court stated that petitioner’s contention that proceedings should be quashed as these are depriving the petitioner of his right of application for the post of Vice-Chancellor, is unacceptable as it is the act of the petitioner that has led to the situation that he is now been surrounded in.
The Court noted that the case at hand is that of disproportionate assets and also took note of the numerous bank accounts operated by the petitioner. The Court pointed out that the petitioner had only divulged 20 bank accounts which were inclusive of both savings and loan accounts. The investigation has led to existence of 54 accounts and now four more have now been gathered during the investigation. “If in the teeth of the aforesaid facts the petitioner is left off the hook on the score that despite passage of 4 years no charge sheet has been filed, it would run counter to law”.
The Court pointed out that the enormous task that was faced by the prosecution to unearth transactions of the petitioner had undoubtedly taken time. Therefore, the delay in the peculiar facts of the case at hand is not vital which would lead to obliteration of the crime itself. “The prosecution cannot now sleep over the matter any further. An outer limit is required to be directed for filing of the final report before the concerned Court”.
In its concluding comments, the Court cautioned the respondents to “get their house in order” hoping that this case would become an eye opener for speedy completion of investigation for which lack of will of the Lokayukta has to be eradicated.
[Kallappa v. Deputy Superintendent of Police, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 57, decided on 16-08-2023]
*Order by Justice M. Nagaprasanna
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Petitioner- Gurudas Khannur, SR. Counsel for A.S. Patil, Advocate
Respondent- Anil Kale, Advocate