Cor­rup­tion law change may af­fect high­pro­file CBI cases

At least half­a­dozen pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing Ni­rav Modi, 2G spec­trum, are in ques­tion

Hindustan Times (Ranchi) - - Nation - Ra­jesh Ahuja ra­jesh.ahuja@hin­dus­tan­times.com ■

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.

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