State Handicapped Persons Welfare Corporation MD cut and removed a 40 year old Jackfruit Tree from office premises; SC upheld the Conviction and reduced the Sentence giving reasons of age and medical conditions

State Handicapped Persons Welfare Corporation MD cut and removed a 40 year old Jackfruit Tree from office premises; SC upheld the Conviction and reduced the Sentence giving reasons of age and medical conditions

Anthony Cardoza, former managing director of the Kerala State Handicapped Persons Welfare Corporation, was held guilty of corruption, criminal breach of trust and indulged in a conspiracy to take a jackfruit tree home for his personal use. A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit of the Supreme Court by its judgment dated 14 November 2014, confirmed the lower courts’ orders and held Cardoza guilty.

On 15.10.1997 FIR No.9 of 1997 was registered and in the vigilance inquiry it was revealed that:

“A jack tree of about 40 years of age was cut and kept in the compound of 10 Cents of land owned by the Kerala State Handicapped persons welfare corporation Thiruvananthapuram at Pojoppura. Shri Antony Cardoza, Managing Director of the Corporation got it removed and cut into convenient pieces on 24.06.1996 and took it to his residence at Alapuzha on 25.06.1996 through A Vasudevan Nair. Shri Prabhakaran Nair, L.D. Accountant met the expenses of Rs.690/- by way of labour charge for this purpose which was never claimed reimbursement from the corporation. Thus Shri Antony Cardoza being the servant of the Corporation as M.D. with wrongful intention committed theft of jack tree wood worth about Rs.10,000/- which was cut down and kept in the land of the corporation at Poojappura and Sh. Prakahakaran Nair, L.D. Accountant intentionally facilitated Sh. Antony Cardoza in the commission of the offence punishable under Section 381 and 109 IPC and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1) (c) of PC Act, 1988.”

After considering the evidence on record, the trial court found that the offences of corruption, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy were made out and held him guilty. Mr. Cardoza then filed an appeal in the Kerala High Court. The High Court confirmed the view of the Trial Court and held that after considering the entire evidence, it found that the timber (wood) were under the control of Mr. Cardoza and that the entrustment and misappropriation were established and there was no doubt that the property was taken by him for his personal use.

Mr. Cardoza then filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court of India. Senior Counsel Mr. P.H. Parekh submitted on behalf of Mr. Cardoza that the timber was simply lying in his house and that the property was not converted to his use.

The Bench dismissed Mr. Cardoza’s contentions and held:

As Managing Director of the Corporation, the appellant (Mr. Cardoza) was having dominion over the property in question in his capacity of public servant. The removal of timber from the plot in question to the house of the appellant at a considerable distance and non-accounting thereof in the books of the Corporation are very clinching and relevant circumstances. We therefore uphold the order of conviction as recorded by the Courts below.

However, the court took into consideration his advanced age and medical reasons and reduced the period of imprisonment to one year. The Bench further directed that he should surrender within three weeks and serve the remainder of his sentence.

Read the Judgment here