14 Oct 2022 4:31 PM GMT
The Delhi High Court has quashed the three FIRs that were registered by Anti Corruption Branch against a senior doctor in 2012 and 2013, observing that there was an unexplained delay of 10 years in completing investigation and that chargesheet was still awaiting sanction from the appropriate authority. The FIRs were under various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Indian...
The Delhi High Court has quashed the three FIRs that were registered by Anti Corruption Branch against a senior doctor in 2012 and 2013, observing that there was an unexplained delay of 10 years in completing investigation and that chargesheet was still awaiting sanction from the appropriate authority.
The FIRs were under various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Justice Jasmeet Singh allowed the pleas filed by Dr Sarbesh Bhattacharjee, the former Director Health Services in Delhi, for quashing of the FIRs registered against him. Bhattacharjee had served as a medical officer under the Andhra Pradesh government, Assam Rifles and finally the Central Government Health Service (CGHS) for 36 years.
The FIRs emanated from a tender inquiry of 2009 relating to the procurement of different medical equipment.
Bhattacharjee was posted as Director of Health Services in August 2009. He was posted as Medical Superintendent of city's Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital in March 2011 and was to retire in January 2012. However, he was suspended from service in November 2011, three months prior to his date of retirement.
Subsequently, a total of four FIRs were registered against him — three by Anti Corruption Branch and one by CBI. While the three FIRs have now been quashed by Justice Singh, Bhattacharjee was not chargesheeted in the 2014 by the CBI as there was no material to substantiate that he had committed the offence.
With regard to the three FIRs, it was the petitioner's case that he had cooperated with the investigating agency after being repeatedly called to join the probe.
While Bhattacharjee was granted regular bail in one of the FIRs in 2012, he was granted anticipatory bail in the other two in 2013.
Advocate Arundhati Katju appearing for Bhattacharjee argued that the impugned FIRs were an abuse of the process of the court as they were registered in 2012, more than two years after the alleged offences and six months after the complaints were received by the agency.
She further submitted that the probe was incomplete even after 10 long years but the same was expedited and concluded after Bhattacharjee moved High Court. "This goes on to show the malafide intent of the respondents against the petitioner," Katju argued.
On the other hand, the prosecution argued that the investigation was complete and the charge sheet was prepared but it was pending before the competent authority for grant of sanction.
Quashing the three FIRs, the court observed that there had been an inordinate delay of more than 10 years in filing the chargesheet, which has still not been filed for want of sanction.
"Even though filing of the chargesheet does not preclude this court from entertaining the present writ petitions as held by the Supreme Court in Anand Kumar Mohatta v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2019) ..., however, in the present matters, investigation was prolonged for over 10 long years and was immediately concluded after filing of the present writ petitions by the Petitioner," said Justice Singh.
The court also observed in the cases against the doctor, there has been "abuse of process of law". "Interestingly, the petitioner never faced departmental proceedings but was suspended, and is now receiving provisional pension," it added.
Observing that Bhattacharjee is entitled to the right to speedy investigation and trial, the court was of the view that the prosecution was unable to justify the inordinate delay in filing the charge-sheet and concluding the investigation.
"In the present case, allegations in the FIR are of the year of 2012 and 2013. The complaint was made two years after the date of the incident and the FIR was registered 6 months thereafter. The delay in registering FIR is fatal. Moreover, the respondent took more than 10 years to finalise the charge-sheet," the court said.
While referring to a Supreme Court decision, it said: "From the aforesaid, what can be culled out is that Article 21 recognises the right of speedy trial. The respondent/prosecuting agency must justify the reason for inordinate delay. The delay should not be attributable to the acts of the petitioner."
Further noting that Bhattacharjee always cooperated and joined the investigation whenever called upon, the court said that the delay in the investigation was not attributable to him.
"The chargesheet has not been filed even till 06.10.2022 and is awaiting sanction. The sword has been hanging on the head of the petitioner for no fault of his," the court said.
It added "What weighs with me is not only the fact that the chargesheet is still awaiting sanction before the competent authority but also the inordinate and unexplained delay in conducting the investigation for 10 long years."
Advocates Arundhati Katju, Mohammad Ali Choudhary and Shrishti Borthakur appeared for the petitioner. R.S. Kundu appeared for the State.
Title: DR SARBESH BHATTACHARJEE v. STATE NCT OF DELHI
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 971
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