Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sandeep Sharma, J. allowed a petition filed under Section 438 CrPC holding that freedom of an individual cannot be curtailed for an indefinite period without there being a finding of guilt.

The petitioner was accused of having disproportionate assets for which an FIR was registered. The petitioner, who was  Managing Director of H.P. State Forest Development Corpn. Ltd. apprehended arrest in the case which was registered under Sections 13(1)(e) and 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 read with Section 120-B IPC. He prayed for grant of anticipatory bail.

The High Court perused the record and noted that the bail petitioner had already joined the investigation and was fully cooperating; the guilt of the petitioner, if any, was yet to be proved. The Court relied on Dataram v. State of U.P.,(2018) 3 SCC 22 wherein it was held that a fundamental postulate of criminal jurisprudence is the presumption of innocence, meaning thereby that a person is believed to be innocent until found guilty. The Court reiterated that object of bail is to secure the attendance of the accused in the trial, an object of bail is neither punitive not preventive. Considering the facts noted above, the Court found it a fit case to exercise jurisdiction in favour of the petitioner. Accordingly, the petition was allowed and the petitioner was enlarged on anticipatory bail. [Chandra Shekhar Singh v. State of H.P.,  2018 SCC OnLine HP 857, dated 06-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Writing down a hefty 570-page judgement, the Bench of P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy, JJ restored the conviction order of the trial court against Sasikala Natarajan, V.N. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi for holding disproportionate assets. All 3 were awarded the sentence of 4 years each by the Trial Court.

The judgement where the Court said that the present case demonstrates a deep rooted conspiratorial design to amass vast assets without any compunction and hold the same through shell entities to cover up the sinister trail of such illicit acquisitions and deceive and delude the process of law, came at the time when Sasikala was eyeing the post of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

The Court noticed that J. Jayalalitha, who was the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister at the relevant time had come into possession of assets worth Rs.53,60,49,954.00, disproportionate to the known sources of her income during the check period and had got the same dispersed in the names of Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi and the firms & companies involved to hold these on her behalf with a masked front.

The trial court had held that private individuals can be prosecuted by the Court on the ground that they have abetted the act of criminal misconduct falling under Section 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 committed by the public servant. Setting aside the decision of the Karnataka High Court in Selvi J. Jayalalitha v. State, 2015 SCC OnLine Kar 124, decided on 11.05.2015, where the respondents were acquitted of all criminal charges, the Court held that the Trial Court is correct in the face of the overwhelming evidence indicating the circumstances of active abetment and conspiracy by Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi in the commission of the offences under Section 13(1)(e) of the 1988 Act.

The Court further said that corruption is a vice of insatiable avarice for self-aggrandizement by the unscrupulous, taking unfair advantage of their power and authority and those in public office also, in breach of the institutional norms, mostly backed by minatory loyalists. Both the corrupt and the corrupter are indictable and answerable to the society and the country as a whole. [State of Karnataka v. Selvi. J. Jayalalitha, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 134, decided on 14.02.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Bench of Ranjan Gogoi and P.C. Pant, JJ held that the sanction cannot be held invalid only for the reason that in the administrative notings, different authorities have opined differently before the competent authority took the decision in the matter.

In the present case where the appellant, an IRS officer, was involved in the disproportionate assets matter, the CVC had recommended that the sanction for prosecution be granted, however, the Finance Department later referred the matter to Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) which observed that administrative warning could be issued to the appellant for not intimating the transactions to Finance Department. The DoPT later conveyed that insufficiency of evidence can be tested in the court of law and sanction for prosecution can be granted. Finally, the Finance Department granted sanction for prosecution of the appellant.

The Court further said that what is required under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is that for taking the cognizance of an offence, punishable under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 of the Act committed by the public servant, is necessary by the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, and in the case of a public servant, who is neither employed in connection with affairs of the Union or the State, from the authority competent to remove him. It was further explained that sub-section (2) of Section 19 of the Act provides that where for any reason whatsoever any doubt arises as to whether the previous sanction, as required under sub-section (1) should be given by the Central Government or the State Government or any authority, such sanction shall be given by that Government or authority which could have been competent to remove the public servant from his office at the time when the offence was alleged to have been committed. [Vivek Batra v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1146, decided on 18.10.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the petition praying for implementation of the recommendation/report of the Lokayukta Uttar Pradesh, dated 22nd February, 2012, the Court noticed that the law enforcement agencies have moved into action and have collected information and material including with reference to the representations and affidavits received in the course of the said investigation/enquiry.

The report was the outcome of the complaint made by the appellant against Husna Siddiqui, Member of Legislative Council and Naseemuddin Siddiqui, the then Cabinet Minister in U.P for purchasing lands through their income which they earned from unknown sources. The Allahabad High Court, however, refrained from entertaining the writ petition seeking implementation of the report and said that the opinion of the Lokayukta in the report cannot be construed to be final or conclusive as it was a fact finding enquiry and a detailed enquiry is yet to be made after affording opportunity of hearing to the person against whom complaint is made and also that there was no element of public interest in the grievances made by the appellant. The said decision of the High Court was challenged before the Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.

The Counsel appearing for the concerned State Agencies contended that having regard to the voluminous documents and more particularly the need to verify the correctness of the information made available during the investigation/enquiry, it would take some more time to complete the investigation/enquiry in the respective cases. Accepting the said contention, the bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar, J expressed a sanguine hope that the State Agencies would complete the investigation/enquiry at the earliest and not later than six months from the date of this order and take the same to its logical end in accordance with law. [Jagdish Narain Shukla v. State of U.P., 2016 SCC OnLine SC 990, decided on 26.09.2016]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Owing to the difference of opinion of Madan B. Lokur and R. Banumathi, JJ, the matter related to continuation of G. Bhavani Singh as the Special Public Prosecutor in the case against S. Jayalalitha regarding disproportionate assets has been referred to a larger bench.

Madan B. Lokur, J said that since the prosecution was not represented by an authorized person, the hearing of the appeals in the High Court have been vitiated. He further said that the appeals will have to be heard afresh by the High Court with the prosecution represented by a Public Prosecutor appointed under Section 24(1); of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 or a Special Public Prosecutor appointed by the State of Karnataka under Section 24(8) of the said Code. Terming this case to be a classic example of failure of the criminal justice system, Lokur, J said that whether the allegations of Mr. K. Anbazhagan that the accused persons used their power and influence to manipulate and subvert the criminal justice system for more than 15 years thereby delaying the conclusion of the trial against them are true or not, it is the criminal justice delivery system that comes out the loser.

However, R. Banumathi, J, said that the Special Public Prosecutor appointed for the case is duly authorised to be in charge of the case before the High Court in case of appeal as the Special Public Prosecutor is not attached to a particular Court or Local area, but he is attached to the ‘case’ or ‘class of cases’ and therefore Special Public Prosecutor can appear without any written authority before any Court where that case is under inquiry, trial or appeal. She further said that the authority of the Special Public Prosecutor will follow the stage of case, until his authority has been revoked by the State in express terms. K. Anbazhagan v. State of Karnataka, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 341decided on 15.04.2015

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Providing a major relief to Jayalalitha in the high profile disproportionate assets case, the 3 Judge Bench comprising H.L. Dattu, C.J. and M.B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri, JJ. granted her bail on executing a bond with two solvent sureties and also suspended the co-accused’s sentence passed by the Session’s Judge, Bangalore. Senior Counsels F.S. Nariman and K.T.S. Tulsi represented the petitioners.

As the facts say, J. Jayalalitha was accused of misusing her position as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and during her tenure in 1991-95 acquired properties disproportionate to the known income. The case hit the headlines when on 27.09.2014 the Session’s Judge Bangalore convicted her and imposed heavy fine of Rs.100 crores. The petitioner was further dismayed when the Karnataka High Court on 07.10.2014 upheld the sentence of the Session’s Court and refused to grant her bail terming it to be a case of systematic corruption indirectly violating human rights and a danger to the health of the polity.

J. Jayalalithaa v. State of Tamil Nadu, Petition for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No. 7900 of 2014, decided on 17.10.2014