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Karnataka HC dismisses pleas by former BCI Vice-Chairman, Law College Principal in corruption case

Karnataka HC dismisses pleas by former BCI Vice-Chairman, Law College Principal in corruption case

Aditya AK

The Karnataka High Court has dismissed revision petitions filed by a former Vice-Chairman of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and a Principal of a law college in Bangalore challenging an order of a Special CBI Judge in a corruption case filed against them.

In 2012, the Special CBI Court at Bangalore had dismissed applications filed by the accused seeking discharge in a case filed against them under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

R Dhanpal Raj, an advocate practising at Chennai, served as Vice-Chairman of the BCI for two years from 2010. The other accused were Principal of Sarvodaya Law College AMR Veeraiah, an administrative officer from the law college, and a former student.

In August 2010, the BCI had passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on inspections of law colleges. In October that year, Raj in his capacity as Vice-Chairman had issued an order directing the Secretary of the BCI to start fixing dates for inspections. Raj fraudulently claimed that he had discussed the matter with the Chairman of the BCI and got approval for the same.

On Raj’s instruction, the BCI Secretary issued notices to four law colleges, including Sarvodaya Law College in Bangalore. An inspection committee was later formed to conduct these inspections.

It is alleged that between October and December 2010, Raj committed various illegal acts in conspiracy with the Principal and the other accused. The former Vice-Chairman allegedly demanded illegal gratification of Rs. 5 lakh in exchange for granting renewal of the law courses at Sarvodaya Law College. An amount of Rs. 50,000 was allegedly given by Veeraiah to Raj, who demanded the payment of the rest of the amount, failing which he would give an adverse report against the college. He also allegedly asked for an additional amount of Rs. 1,50,000 as illegal gratification.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alleged that the accused committed offences punishable under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 7, 8, 11, 12, 13(2) r/w Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Before the High Court, it was contended by the former student that the CBI had no jurisdiction to register a case against him, as he was not a public servant. It was also argued that there is no material to connect the Principal and the administrative officer of the college to show that there was a conspiracy. It was further submitted that there is no demand for any gratification and that under such circumstances, the provisions of the Act are not applicable.

The Special Public Prosecutor contended that the scope of the revision petition before the High Court is limited. As per Section 19(3)(c) of the Act, there is a specific bar to file a revision petition under Section 397(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Bench of Justice BA Patil ultimately dismissed the petitions. It was held,

“…Now-a-days if a case is registered under the Act, it will be protracted for a long period on one or the other grounds only with an intention to drag on the proceedings. If it is encouraged the witnesses will forget the proceedings after long gap and there will be many contradictions and omissions and ultimately it goes to the benefit of the accused. In that light, the very purpose of Section 19(3)(c) of the Act defeats. It is the duty of the Courts to adhere to the law of the land and to implement its object and purpose. In that light also, the present petitions are not maintainable.”

It was held that the petitioners had not shown any patent error of jurisdiction on the part of the trial court.

“…while considering the question of framing of charge, the trial Court has undoubted power to shift and weigh the evidence for a limited purpose for finding out as to whether there is a prima facie case has been made out against the accused or not. The test to determine a prima facie case would naturally depend upon the facts of the each case and no straight jacket formula or universal law can be made in this behalf.”

The Court also held that it cannot be said that the amount has been paid due to duress or threat by Raj. Thus, there was no infirmity in the decision of the trial court.

“The trial Court after scrupulously scrutinizing the prosecution material has been satisfied to come to the conclusion that there is sufficient material to proceed against the accused persons and on the basis of the same, it has rejected the application filed by the accused. In that light, I am of the considered opinion that this case is not a rarest of the rare case and there is no patent error of jurisdiction. The order of the trial Court is neither perverse nor illegal.”

Therefore, the High Court dismissed the revision petitions, and directed the trial court to dispose of the matter within eight months from the date of this order.

Read the order: