The Patna High Court has refused to quash the FIR registered against former Vice Chancellor (VC) of Magadh University Rajendra Prasad alias Dr. Rajendra Prasad in connection with a corruption case.
Justice Ashutosh Kumar also dismissed his plea for anticipatory bail and ordered, "If the petitioner surrenders before the Special Court and makes an application for bail, the petition shall be considered on its merits without prejudice to any remarks made in this order."
The Special Vigilance Unit defended the same by contending that in matters of financial irregularities, when the act discloses prima facie offence under the Act, and other Sections of the Indian Penal Code, there is no requirement of any sanction, as what is protected is the decision taken by a public servant in discharge of his official function or duties and not any action erga omnes by the accused. It was contended that it is no part of the official duty of the Vice-Chancellor to fudge records; purchase materials bypassing the rules; and ignoring the objection of the finance department; and pressurizing the other officials of the University working under him, to execute such illegal action.
It was alleged that the petitioner, while working as Vice-Chancellor, Magadh University, Bodh Gaya, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with his P.A. -cum- Assistant viz. Subodh Kumar and two of the private firms viz. M/s. XLICT Software Private Ltd., based in Lucknow and M/s. Poorva Graphics and Offset Printers as also the Finance Officer of Veer Kunwar Singh University as well as the Registrar of Patliputra University and some others and had thereby dishonestly cheated the Government ex-chequer to the extent of approximately Rs. 20 Crores during the check-period 2019-21 while making purchases of various items like e-books and OMR answer-sheets for use in University for conducting examination and otherwise.
"The reasons for prosecuting the petitioner is that such purchases worth several crores were made by adopting a procedure, which was arbitrary and with the sole purpose of getting undue advantage to himself. There was no requisition or tender and that the materials, in derogation of the financial rules, were not procured through GEM. No procedural formalities were complied with, despite the petitioner being apprised of such requirements," the Court noted in its order.
Court also noted that the FIR discloses that no records were preserved by the accused persons of the supply and notwithstanding the objection note put up by officers dealing in financial matters as well as the then Vice-Chancellor of Veer Kunwar Singh University, payments were made to the private firms. All this was done with the active support of the Finance Officer of Veer Kunwar Singh University and the Registrar of Patliputra University, both of whom have also been made accused in this case.
The petitioner's Senior Advocate Jitendra Singh Jitendra Singh argued that all the offences, which are alleged to have been committed by the petitioner, are acts which are relatable to the official functions and duties of a Vice- Chancellor and even if it is found that such action was negligent and without following the rules in that regard, that shall not take away the protection granted to him under Section 17A of the Act.
He further argued that purchase of OMR question booklets, to be used in University examination and E-Books for University library comes within the domain of the functions of a Vice-Chancellor of a University. This being the case, before investigating into the alleged offences, the mandate of law required obtaining of prior sanction of the Chancellor to launch any investigation.
The Court noted that prima facie the offences alleged against the petitioner do not come within the protective cover of Section 17(A) of the PC Act, 1988, requiring prior sanction for lodging the FIR and continuing with the investigation as such acts does not come within the category of recommendation made or act done in exercise of official duty/ function.
The Court observed in the order that for the reason of the gravity of offence alleged to be committed by the petitioner while holding high office of Vice Chancellor, his making attempts at influencing the witnesses and tampering with the evidence and not cooperating with the investigation, the respondent SVU has made out a case for custodial interrogation of the petitioner.
Case Title: Rajendra Prasad alias Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Former Vice Chancellor, Magadh University Vs Vigilance Investigation Bureau, State of Bihar
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Pat) 18