27 Sep 2023 3:12 PM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has granted bail to IPS Officer Amirt Paul who was arrested in connection to an alleged scam in recruiting police sub-inspectors for the State Police. A single judge bench of Justice Mohammad Nawaz granted bail to Paul who has been in custody since his arrest on 04.07.2022. The bench granted bail to the accused on the execution of a personal bond of Rs 5,00,000, with...
The Karnataka High Court has granted bail to IPS Officer Amirt Paul who was arrested in connection to an alleged scam in recruiting police sub-inspectors for the State Police.
A single judge bench of Justice Mohammad Nawaz granted bail to Paul who has been in custody since his arrest on 04.07.2022. The bench granted bail to the accused on the execution of a personal bond of Rs 5,00,000, with two sureties for like sum to the satisfaction of the jurisdictional Court.
“Merely because the petitioner was working as ADGP, Recruitment Wing, it cannot be concluded at this stage that alleged offence is committed at his instruction or in other words, he has conspired to commit the offence. Hence, he cannot be detained in custody till the conclusion of the trial, considering the number of witnesses cited in the charge sheet.”
As per the prosecution case, the Government of Karnataka had issued a Notification dated 21.01.2021 inviting applications for filling up 545 PSI vacancies in the Police Department from eligible candidates online. A physical test of the candidates who submitted the application was conducted and the date was fixed for conducting a written test of the selected candidates at 91 centres, on 03.10.2021.
It is alleged that the accused persons connived with each other with an intention to earn money illegally by selecting the candidates in a fraudulent manner, instructing the candidates who were willing to pay money to answer only a few questions in the answer sheet and leave the remaining questions blank. Later, on receiving the answer sheets, the accused allegedly filled the blank spaces in the OMR sheets and fraudulently selected ineligible candidates for the post of PSI.
Initially, a charge sheet was filed against accused no.1 to 34 for the offence punishable under Sections 120B, 409, 420, 465, 468, 471, 201 read with Section 34 of IPC. However, in its additional/supplementary chargesheet, Paul was arraigned as accused no 35 and charged under Sections 120B, 36, 37, 119, 409, 420, 465, 468, 471, 201 read with Section 7(a),(c), 8 and Section 13(1) (a) read with Section 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The prosecution alleged that accused Paul worked as the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Recruitment Wing of the Police Department and he was the head of the entire recruitment process. He allegedly hatched a conspiracy with accused Nos.25, 28, 29 and 31 to get undeserving candidates selected for the post of PSI, by allowing them to tamper with the original OMR answer sheets of accused Nos.1 to 22.
Further, the petitioner, being the head of the entire recruitment process, was entrusted with the duty to keep the safe custody of the keys of the kit boxes. However, as per the conspiracy, on 05.10.2021, the CCTV installed in the office where the OMR answer sheets of the candidates were kept, was turned off at the instruction of the petitioner and the OMR sheets were removed from the strong room and tampered with by filling correct answers in the blank spaces and thus, the accused helped ineligible candidates to be appointed as PSI, illegally collecting more than Rs.5 crores.
The petitioner argued that the allegations that the petitioner demanded a sum of Rs.5 crores from the co-accused is entirely false and there is absolutely no evidence to sustain the said allegation. The petitioner was not the only custodian of the key to the antechamber almirah and the keys to the kit boxes.
Further, the allegations that the petitioner collected money from the co-accused is without any basis. Moreover, except for a mobile phone, nothing has been recovered from the petitioner and only on the voluntary statement of the co-accused, the prosecution is alleging that the said accused No.31 has handed over the money to the petitioner.
Finally, it was said, “The entire case against the petitioner is based on circumstantial evidence and that too of conspiracy and even though the allegations levelled are serious, there is no sufficient material to continue his detention, since denying a person of his liberty is a serious matter.”
The prosecution opposed the plea submitting that the FSL reports clearly indicate that there has been alteration on the OMR sheets. He contended that the duty of the petitioner was to have the safe custody of the keys to the kit boxes where the answer sheets were stored, but without receiving the keys and leaving the office earlier than usual, the petitioner intentionally allowed the commission of the offence. He contended that at the instruction of the petitioner, the CCTV was turned off by accused No.31.
It was also argued that the offence committed was serious in nature affecting the public administration system and the petitioner being an influential person, there was a likelihood of tampering with the witnesses in the event of grant of bail.
The Court refused to accept the allegation that the petitioner parted with the keys of the kit boxes and at his instructions the CCTV installed in the office was turned off and the OMR sheets were removed from the strong room and tampered with by filling correct answers.
The court said,
“The material on record reveals that the petitioner was not the only custodian of the key and CW-81 was admittedly having another set of keys of the almirah where the keys of the kit boxes carrying the OMR sheets were kept. It was contended by the learned Senior Counsel that the possibility of CW-81 misusing the said keys is not ruled out.”
Further, it said,
“There is no material at this stage to show that the petitioner handed over the key to accused No.31. The allegations of turning off the CCTV camera is against accused No.31. The prosecution has to establish during trial that it was done at the instance of the petitioner.”
The court also refuted the allegations that as per Paul's directions, the said accused had committed the offence. It remarked,
“There is no material, except the fact that the petitioner was working as ADGP of the Recruitment Wing, to show that at his instructions the other accused persons gained access to the strong room, removed and tampered with the OMR sheets of the accused – candidates who appeared for the examination.”
It was also noted that except for a mobile phone, no cash had been recovered from the petitioner.
“The allegations against the petitioner is one of conspiracy. The allegations of opening the strong room and removing the OMR sheets from the kit boxes and tampering those OMR sheets are alleged against other accused persons. Hence, rejection of bail petitions of those accused is not a ground to detain the petitioner. The prosecution has to prove in a full-fledged trial that at the instruction or direction of the petitioner, other accused persons committed the said act.”
Accordingly, it granted bail on conditions that he will not directly or indirectly make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the Court or to any police officer or tamper with the evidence. He shall not tamper with the prosecution witnesses and shall not influence or intimidate any of the Investigating Officers of this case.
Further, it has directed Paul to cooperate with the further investigation of the case and not travel outside India without prior permission of the jurisdictional court.
Appearance: Senior Advocate M S Shyam Sundar a/w Advocate Vandana P L for Petitioner.
Special Public Prosecutor P Prasanna Kumar for Respondent.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 371
Case Title: Amrit Paul And State By High Ground PS
Case No: CRIMINAL PETITION NO.3696 OF 2023
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