Corruption law change may affect highprofile CBI cases
At least halfadozen petitions, including Nirav Modi, 2G spectrum, are in question
NEW DELHI: A bunch of petitions challenging the criminalisation of charges related to the abuse of office by government employees — the amended Prevention of Corruption Act decriminalises them if there is no illegal gratification (read: bribes) — in the Delhi high court could affect the direction of several high-profile inquiries and cases of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), court filings show.
The investigations and cases that could be affected include the probe agency’s cases against diamond traders Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, and former coal secretary HC Gupta, even appeals in the 2G spectrum case.
The petitions before the courts all involve the accused seeking the benefit of the amendment from retrospective effect. At least half-a-dozen such petitions are pending in the HC, of which at least three will come up for hearing before justice Rekha Palli.
The CBI has been asked to file its response on these petitions. Some of the petitioners are not government employees, but are
It was an issue that was bound to come before the court for final interpretation of the amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act. KARAN SINGH, Lawyer
the co-accused of the government officials involved.
In all these cases, public servants were charged with criminal misconduct despite not being accused of accepting bribes. It isn’t clear whether there are such petitions pending before other courts hearing similar cases.
HT reviewed three such petitions. Court filings show two of the petitions have been filed by Rajesh Mittal and PK Thirwani in cases related to the Co-operative Group Housing Society fraud where a bunch of individuals and government officials tried to defarud the Delhi Development Authority by reviving defunct co-operative housing society pro- jects on paper.
Mittal is not a government employee. These cases are at least a decade old. The other petition is in a bank loan default case involving Raksha Global Steel Private Limited and its promoters. The case is also against unnamed government officials.
In these three petitions, the HC, in an interim order, has stated that the trial courts may continue with proceedings against the accused, but will not pass any final orders until it decides on the petitions. All the three petitions will come up for hearing on January 29.
The Hindustan Times has reviewed relevant court orders in this regard. Before being amended in July, section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act stated, among other things,that if a public servant obtained any “valuable thing or pecuniary advantage without any public interest”, he or she was liable to punished under the section. But the amended act says the public servant will be liable to be punished if he or she “intentionally enriches himself illicitly during the period of his office”.
Lawyers Vijay Aggarwal and Mudit Jain have filed two of the petitions in the cases against Rajesh Mittal and Rakhsha Global Steel.
“The PC Act was amended as a remedy for the mischief of filing frivolous cases against bureaucrats for bona fide decisions taken by them, without any demand or acceptance of illegal gratification, even though these decisions in hindsight are alleged to have turned out to be negligent and thus defined as criminal misconduct under the earlier law,” said Aggarwal.
The petitions claim that following amendments to the PC Act, pursuant to which the rigors of the act having been mollified, the benefit of the same ought to be granted even in the pending matters, since the repeal is beneficial in nature and we have cited many earlier Supreme Court decisions in this regard which support our contention.
The CBI did not respond to an email from the Hindustan Times in this regard. “It was an issue that was bound to come before the court for final interpretation of the amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act,” said lawyer Karan Singh.