5 Jan 2021 1:16 PM GMT
The Orissa High Court on Monday allowed a 31 years old criminal appeal and acquitted a man accused of corruption. "It is said that slow and steady wins the race, but when the world is changing very fast, if one does not take pace then the fast would beat the slow. This case is a glaring example to show as to how the true import of the legal maxim 'justice delayed is justice denied'...
The Orissa High Court on Monday allowed a 31 years old criminal appeal and acquitted a man accused of corruption.
"It is said that slow and steady wins the race, but when the world is changing very fast, if one does not take pace then the fast would beat the slow. This case is a glaring example to show as to how the true import of the legal maxim 'justice delayed is justice denied' has yet not been appreciated properly. Delayed justice is the deadliest form of denial of justice," a single bench of Justice SK Sahoo observed while disposing of the appeal filed in the year 1989.
Maheshwar Behera (Appellant no. 2) had been accused of abetting Sridhar Swain (Appellant no. 1) in committing the offence of corruption while executing repair works for the Rourkela Municipal Corporation. They had moved the High Court against a conviction order passed by the Special Judge (Vigilance).
In the judgement, Justice Sahoo commented that the case had proceeded at a "snail's pace" as the FIR was registered against the appellant on 5th January, 1989 and the final order in this case was passed on Monday, 4th January, 2021.
The Bench expressed that the valuable time of the Court must be saved and steps must be taken for the disposal of the older criminal cases which hang over the "head of judiciary like the sword of Damocles". This can only be done through preparation, commitment, discipline and active cooperation from the members of the Bar. Otherwise, the Court stated, "all the planning, mechanism and infrastructure development would fail to yield the desired result in docket management."
"All concerned must realise that 'Rome was not built in a day' and for that continuous effort for doing something good and important is necessary though it may take time," remarked the Bench.
In the case at hand, the Appellant no. 1 had prepared the necessary estimates for carrying out the repair works and had gotten them approved from Executive Officer and Chairman of the Rourkela Municipal Corporation. One of the items required for conducting these repairs was MAXphalt, a type of environment-friendly asphalt.
Appellant no. 2 had earlier quoted the cost of MAXphalt at Rs. 2,021/- but had subsequently, changed it to Rs. 2,621/- by interpolation. The co-accused in this case, one MK Raghaban had made these changes in the note sheet, which was not pointed out by the Executive Officer and Chairman. After the repair work was complete, the co-accused had noted the measurement of the work in the measurement book showing price of MAXphalt at Rs.2,621/- per metric ton and got the bill passed for payment, giving the benefit of Rs.1,289.60 to the appellant no. 2. The FIR had also stated that the appellant no.1 and the co-accused (M.K. Raghaban) quoted false measurement in the measurement book in order to give monetary benefit to appellant no.2.
The Court observed that although evidence of interpolation, overwriting and cutting in the figures and words of the price of MAXphalt were made in the tender papers at a subsequent stage existed, there was no evidence that the appellants had any prior arrangements with the co-accused M.K. Raghaban or, in furtherance of their common intention, had committed forgery in the tender papers and in the tender register of the appellant no.2. Though appellant no.2 had derived temporary pecuniary benefits by getting excess payment, the same was subsequently subtracted from his ensuing running bills, as per the statement given by a prosecution witness.
After hearing all the submissions made by both the sides, the Court came to the conclusion that there was no evidence of abetment of corruption. Further, the Court noted, "After he submitted his tender papers and got the work orders, till he received the payment for the work executed, there is no evidence that he got access to any forged documents. Even if it is held that he got the temporary pecuniary benefits, but the said amount was subsequently deducted from his subsequent running bills. Taking of a false plea regarding quotation of rate of MAXphalt in his tender papers, by itself would not be sufficient to hold that he abetted commission of any offence."
The Court thus set aside the conviction order for the offences under section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947, Sections 465 and 471 (Forgery) read with Section 109 (Abetment) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Single Bench of Justice SK Sahoo allowed another criminal appeal, filed 30 years ago, and acquitted the appellant of the charges of Rape under sections 376/ 511 & 354 of IPC.
Case Title: Sridhar Swain v. State of Odisha
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