In a peculiar case, Ferozepur Judicial Magistrate First Class (Punjab) Arun Gupta has convicted a man who obtained his licence to practise law 21 years ago in 1996, under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code for fraudulently obtaining the law degree.
Pradeep Sharma, who is the complainant in the case, alleged that accused Anoop Kumar was appointed as a Home Guard volunteer with effect from May 16, 1985. He remained in service for over a decade till March 4, 1996. He was called off from duty due to absence. It was alleged that the accused finished a three-year LLB course from Lucknow University while working as a volunteer for the Home Guards, with the same roll number.
It was also contended that 75% attendance is mandatory, however, the accused did not attend as many lectures and fraudulently obtained the degree.
Thereafter, the accused enrolled himself as an advocate at the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, and started practising at district courts in Ferozepur. He also became a Notary Public for Ferozepur district. Therefore, the complainant alleged that the accused was wrongfully gaining from his fraudulent degree.
As for the accused, in his statement, he pleaded not guilty and claimed innocence. He stated that the complainant was related to his brother’s wife and the said allegations were fabricated because they had lost civil cases against him (accused).
Counsel for the accused also questioned the locus standi of the complainant in this matter.
Court’s Observations And Final Order
JMFC Arun Gupta did not accept the questions raised on the locus of the complainant and said this was being done in larger public interest to expose how degrees are fraudulently obtained.
He noted how the accused had been residing in Ferozepur discharging his duty as a Home Guard volunteer (for which he was paid a daily allowance) throughout and did not attend lectures for his LLB course. He said: “Further, about the plea that he obtained his LLB degree as per rules, the accused was required to prove it by leading some evidence. The onus was upon the accused. To discharge the onus, he did not lead an iota of evidence. On the other hand, the complainant proved beyond doubt that the accused was present at all times during the said period at Ferozepur doing his Homeguard duty. In absence of contrary evidence, the plea of the accused that he obtained alleged LLB degree lawfully cannot be believed.”
It was further noted: “The mens rea on part of the accused is duly established. The accused had intent to defraud and to make wrongful gain and wrongful loss to the institute from the beginning. The accused never attended any classes from the very beginning………. The accused obtained his law degree in absentia. The accused never disclosed the real facts that he was doing service in Ferozepur. The accused obtained law degree by intentional dishonest concealment of real facts, ie by fraud and deception.”
Thus, the accused was convicted under Section 420 of the IPC and sentenced to three years in prison and fined Rs. 2,000.
Read the Order Here