2 March 2022 10:32 AM GMT
Observing that "corruption is a distinct type of offence. It is like cancer to society. It eats the social and economical health every second resulting in unimaginable consequences," the Karnataka High Court recently confirmed the conviction handed down to a Commercial Tax officer under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. A single judge bench of Justice V...
Observing that "corruption is a distinct type of offence. It is like cancer to society. It eats the social and economical health every second resulting in unimaginable consequences," the Karnataka High Court recently confirmed the conviction handed down to a Commercial Tax officer under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
A single judge bench of Justice V Srishananda dismissed the appeal filed by accused Padmanabha challenging an order of the special court dated April 6, 2015, by which it sentenced the accused to 2 and half years of simple imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh under section 7 of the Act and sentenced him to four years simple imprisonment under section 13 (1) (d) of the Act.
The bench said, "The material evidence on record is analysed, the prosecution having established that the accused demanded illegal gratification in respect of release of lorry bearing No.CG-04/DA-2645 which was intercepted by Ananthanarayana on 7.12.2008 and the tainted money having been recovered from the custody of the accused, colour test having stood positive coupled with the explanation offered by the accused being not capable of believing, this court is of the considered opinion, that prosecution is successful in establishing all ingredients to attract the aforesaid offences."
It added, "Therefore, the finding recorded by the learned trial judge that the accused is guilty of the aforesaid offences is not suffering from legal infirmity or perversity."
One Subramanian lodged a complaint with the Bagalkote Lokayukta Police on December 10, 2008, which was later transferred to the Vijayapur Lokayukta Police. It was stated in the complaint that he was working in a private company. On December 2, 2008, he had purchased equipment from the company and after paying the necessary tax on the purchase was transporting it to Koppal.
When the lorry reached Dhulkhed commercial tax check post on December 7, 2008, the officers intercepted it and asked for illegal gratification. Accordingly, the complainant visited the check post and met one Ananthanarayana who allegedly demanded Rs 15 lakh. On negotiations the officer demanded reduced the amount to Rs 5 lakh.
Later on December 10, 2008, the complaint met the present accused who was incharge of the check post and he demanded a sum of Rs 10,20,000 and asked to pay an instalment of Rs 5 lakhs immediately. Following which a complaint was lodged and a trap was laid and the accused came to be arrested.
The prosecution examined 8 witnesses to bring home the guilt of the accused. Following which the special court convicted and sentenced the accused. The order thus came to be challenged by him in appeal.
Advocate Anil Kumar Navadgi appearing for the accused submitted that the explanation offered by the accused that tainted money recovered was in fact a penalty amount to be paid by the complaint in accordance with law.
Further, he said the lorry was intercepted by Ananthanarayna who was in-charge of the check post on that day. However, though the two persons were initially shown as co-accused in the offence their names were dropped by the prosecution.
Prosecution opposed the plea:
Special Public Prosecutor Subhash Mallapur appearing for the prosecution said "There was no initiation of penalty proceedings at all under the KVAT Act and when there are no proceedings, the question of complainant paying penalty would not arise."
It was also said that the trial court considered the explanation offered and assailed the appropriate reasons in rejecting the explanation offered by the accused and accordingly convicted him.
The bench went through the evidence produced by the prosecution before the trial court said, "The arguments put forth on behalf of the accused/appellant that there was no demand made by the accused as the file was pertaining to Ananthanarayana who has been shown as accused initially in the FIR and then not charge sheeted, cannot be countenanced."
Referring to section 12 and 13 of the KVAT Act, the court said, "It is crystal clear that after issuance of the GC note and after expiry of ten days if no documents are furnished as is required then only initiation of penalty proceedings would commence. In other words GC note came to be issued on December 7, 2008 and thereafter upto December 17, 2008 there could not have been any penalty proceedings at all."
It added, "Further even after December 17, 2008, having regard to the fact that the end point of supply of the equipment being at koppal, which is more than 100 kilometres away from Dhulkhed check post, another show cause notice was required to be issued as per section 13 of section 53 of the KVAT Act, giving ten days time to pay penalty."
The court opined, "In other words penalty proceedings would have commenced in the case only after December 27, 2008 that too only in event of not furnishing satisfactorily replying to the show cause notice. Further, Ananthanarayana would get a right to confiscate the equipment and auction it for the purpose of recovery of the penalty."
The court also pointed to the discrepancy as to why would the accused receive Rs 5 lakh that too at 5 am in the morning on December 11, 2008, when the alleged penalty amount was fixed at Rs 10,20,000.
Following which it upheld the trial court order and dismissed the appeal. The court directed the accused to surrender himself before the trial court by March 15, for serving the remaining part of the sentence.
Commercial Tax Office One of the Hubs Of Corruption.
The court in its order noted that,
"It is the common experience that Commercial Tax office, is considered to be one of the the hubs of corruption. Poor and gullible drivers would fell prey for the illegal demands day in and day out."
It added, "Only when the greed is too high, some cases reach the higher ups or the Lokayukta. Many cases might have settled amicably. Very few cases of this nature would result in filing of the case and brought to logical end. In some cases, though prosecution is launched with all initial spirit, may not get the required support from the complainant and other prosecution witnesses and the cases end up in acquittal."
The court remarked that statistics published in the National Crime Bureau in respect of the cases filed under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act were disappointing. It said, "Reasons may be many. While an innocent person needs to be protected by the court of law, it is the equal duty and responsibility of the court of law to punish a culprit. All efforts must be made so that the real culprit does not escape from the rigors of law."
Case Title: Padmanabha v. State of Karnataka
Case No: Criminal Appeal 200043/2015
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 56
Date of Order: February 9, 2022
Appearance: Advocate Anil Kumar Navadgi for petitioner; Special Public Prosecutor Subhash Mallapur for respondent
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