18 Sep 2023 10:00 AM GMT
In relation to a corruption case against Punjab's former Chief Secretary Vinay Kumar Janjua, the High Court on Friday directed the State government to send all documents for sanction to prosecute to the Centre. The case dates back to 2009 when Janjua was working as the Director of Industries and Commerce. He is booked for allegedly taking bribe of Rs. 2 lakh.Justice Anupinder Singh...
In relation to a corruption case against Punjab's former Chief Secretary Vinay Kumar Janjua, the High Court on Friday directed the State government to send all documents for sanction to prosecute to the Centre. The case dates back to 2009 when Janjua was working as the Director of Industries and Commerce. He is booked for allegedly taking bribe of Rs. 2 lakh.
Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal observed, "This Court cannot shut its eyes to the serious allegations against the petitioner. If this Court allows the matter to be closed or brushed under the carpet at this stage it would be failing in its duty to ensure that justice is not only done but seem to be done in cases involving corruption by high government functionaries. It is the sacred duty of this Court to uphold the rule of law and any leniency in corruption cases would erode the faith of the common man in the rule of law."
The Court further said that it cannot direct the authority to accord sanction. However, the bench added that while exercising jurisdiction under Section 482 of the CrPC, it would direct the competent authority to "apply its mind" to the issue of granting sanction to prosecute Janjua.
The development comes in a plea filed by one Tulsi Ram, challenging a Special Court's order discharging Janjua from offences alleged under Sections 7 and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The sanction was granted by the Punjab government, but the Trial Court had discharged him, observing that the power to take action against an IAS officer was vested with the Central government.
The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the allegations against Janjua is serious as he was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs.2 lakhs in the presence of two witnesses.
The State supported the plea and submitted that merely on account of sanction not being accorded by the competent authority the whole trial would not be vitiated.
Considering the submissions, the Court noted that the State government after granting the sanction realised that it is not competent and sent the communication to Central government to accord sanction. However, before the Centre could take any decision the State had withdrawn the communication.
The Court rejected the contention of the petitioner that the question of improper or invalid sanction could only be determined at the conclusion of the trial.
"Prosecution in absence of sanction would be vitiated. The public servant may take objections with regard to validity or absence of a valid sanction at cognizance stage but after the commencement of the trial he may take objections at the time of conclusion of the trial, but the trial shall not be scuttled in the midst," said the Court.
The Court also rejected Janjua's contention that the case was lodged against him in a "mala fide and motivated manner".
"...although the salaries of the government employees have increased handsomely over the years but corruption continues unabated as there is no limit to human greed. The social stigma attached to corruption is also diminishing," the Court remarked.
The Court further said that the element of risk for indulging in corrupt practices needs to be increased to serve as a deterrent. It also noted that the criminal proceedings against Janjua appear to have had no effect on his career as he "rose to the positions of Financial Commissioner, Revenue and Chief Secretary of the State, which is the highest post in the State bureaucracy."
Consequently, upholding the decision of the trial court to discharge Janjua, the bench directed the Punjab government "to forward all documents pertaining to the consideration for grant of sanction to prosecute respondent No.2 (Janjua) to the Central Government."
Appearance: Vaibhav Sehgal, Advocate for the petitioner.
Luvinder Sofat, DAG, Punjab.
Dr. Anmol Rattan Sidhu, Senior Advocate with Anandeshwar Gautam and Tejaswini, Advocate for respondent No.2.
Satyapal Jain, Additional Solicitor General of India with Dheeraj Jain, Senior Panel counsel for respondent No.3.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (PH) 176
Case Title: Tulsi Ram Mishra v. State of Punjab and others
Click here to download/read the order.