The Supreme Court today dismissed a Special Leave Petition challenging an order passed by Punjab and Haryana High Court, wherein the latter had refused the application for anticipatory bail filed by Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Gaurav Relhan, an accused under sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988.
Dr. Relhan, who is an eye specialist at the Hisar Military Hospital, Haryana, has been accused of accepting bribe from candidates in lieu of a declaration of fitness in the medical board test for the purpose of their recruitment in the army.
In an operation conducted by army personnel, with the aid of three independent witnesses in March, 2015, one Mr. Vikas Bishnoi had been arrested while receiving cash from prospective candidates in exchange for medical clearance. During interrogation, Mr. Bishnoi had confessed to being a party to the offence and collecting bribe on behalf of Lieutenant Colonel Relhan. The involvement of Relhan being prima facie proven by the findings of the court of enquiry of the army authorities, the Registrar, Hisar Military Hospital had proceeded to register an FIR against the army doctor in April last year.
Dr. Relhan had then sought anticipatory bail, contending that the FIR was suspiciously lodged more than a year after the alleged incident and that he had already begun cooperating with the investigation. He had further argued that except for the claims of co-accused Vikas Bishnoi, there existed no credible, sufficient evidence of any collection of money by him for manipulating the medical test results of candidates for selection in the army.
The Haryana state authorities had, however, aggressively opposed the grant of anticipatory bail, relying on the recorded statements of candidates allegedly promised the certificate of medical fitness by the army doctor in consideration of specific sums of money as evidence.
Agreeing with the State, the High Court had then, in October, cancelled his interim bail, observing, “Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Gaurav Relhan has misused his authority as doctor for wrongful gain and therefore, engaged Vikash Bishnoi as his conduit or tout to contact the candidates for collecting money from them and accordingly, used to call the candidates and collect money. The statements of witnesses clearly show that co-accused Vikas Bishnoi used to contact the candidates and thereafter, ask them to pay money through him or directly to the Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Gaurav Relhan………..The plea for anticipatory bail cannot be made available to such persons.”
The High Court had also declined to deem the filing of the FIR one year after the commission of the alleged offence as a mitigating circumstance for the grant of anticipatory bail, attributing the delay to the pendency of the departmental inquiry.
Taking note of the observations of the High Court, the Bench of Justices Rajan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and Adarsh Kumar Goel refused to interfere with the impugned order and disposed of the Special Leave Petition accordingly.