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October 18, 2021

Karanataka HC directs govt to take action on ‘Rising Frauds in Aadhaar Enrollment’

by Mahesh Mara in Legal Court Judgement

Karanataka HC directs govt to take action on ‘Rising Frauds in Aadhaar Enrollment’

Fact and Issue of the case

The petitioner is Chief Executive Officer of M/s Edurays India which is a company dealing with e-governance, skill development, finance, education consultancy, manpower consultancy, higher education and institutions and claims to have expertise in Aadhaar enrolment. The petitioner enters into a service provider agreement on 1st April 2015 with Utility Forms Private Limited, Mumbai (hereinafter referred to as ‘Utility’ for short) for providing services mentioned in the contract. On 30th March 2016, the contract between the petitioner and the Utility was extended for a further period of two years.

It is the claim of the petitioner that the 2nd respondent – Deputy Director, Unique Identification Authority of India (hereinafter referred to as the ‘UIDAI’ for short) in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had addressed a permission letter for on boarding Utility as enrolment agency for UIDAI, particularly for the purpose of carrying out enrolments for Aadhaar in Karnataka. In terms of the agreement entered into between Utility and the petitioner, it is the claim of the petitioner that he was providing manpower resources to Utility such as enrolment operators and supervisors. Certain guidelines are laid down by the Circulars issued as to how UIDAI and the persons who have entered into the contract with UIDAI should function.

Things standing thus, on 6-04-2017 an FIR came to be registered on information dated 6-04-2016 for the various offences mentioned (supra). Accused No.1 is the petitioner. Accused No.2 is the one who entered into agreement with UIDAI and accused No.3 is the representative of Utility. The moment FIR is registered, the petitioner is before this Court calling in question the registration of FIR.

Observation of the court

With the facts being so glaring and the offence alleged against the petitioner having such ramification, as issuance of Aadhaar card by such agencies who are not empowered can also lead to distribution of such cards against the interest of national security. It is prudent for the Government of India or the State Government to have a vigil on such instances of rising cases of frauds in Aadhaar enrolment. Any further observation on the merit of the matter would be prejudicial to the interest of the petitioner in his defence before the trial Court. The petitioner, in my considered view has to face trial.

It is germane to notice the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of KAPTAN SINGH v. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH1 wherein the Apex Court holds as follows:

“10. The High Court has failed to appreciate and consider the fact that there are very serious triable issues/ allegations which are required to be gone into and considered at the time of trial. The High Court has lost sight of crucial aspects which have emerged during the course of the investigation. The High Court has failed to appreciate and consider the fact that the document i.e., a joint notarized affidavit of mamta Gupta – accused No.2 and Munni Devi under which according to Accused No.2 – Ms. Mamta Gupta, Rs.25 lakhs was paid and the possession was transferred to her itself is seriously disputed. It is required to be noted that in the registered agreement to sell dated 27-10-2010, the sale consideration is stated to be Rs.25 lakhs and with no reference to payment of Rs.25 lakhs to Ms. Munni Devi and no reference to handing over the possession. However, in the joint notarized affidavit of the same date i.e., 27-10-2010 sale consideration is stated to be Rs.35 lakhs out of which Rs.25 lakhs is alleged to have been paid and there is a reference to transfer of possession to Accused No.2. Whether Rs.25 lakhs has been paid or not the accused have to establish during the trial, because the accused are relying upon the said document and payment of Rs.25 lakhs as mentioned in the joint notarized affidavit dated 27­10-2010. It is also required to be considered that the first agreement to sell in which Rs.25 lakhs is stated to be sale consideration and there is reference to the payment of Rs.10 lakhs by cheques. It is a registered document. The aforesaid are all triable issues/allegations which are required to be considered at the time of trial. The High Court has failed to notice and/or consider the material collected during the investigation.

In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court quashing the criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. is unsustainable and the same deserved to be quashed and set aside and is accordingly quashed and set aside. Now, the trial to be conducted and proceeded further in accordance with law and on its own merits. It is made clear that the observations made by this Court in the present proceedings are to be treated to be confined to the proceedings under Section 482 Cr.P.C. only and the trial Court to decide the case in accordance with law and on its own merits and on the basis of the evidence to be laid and without being influenced by any of the observations made by us hereinabove. The present appeal is accordingly allowed.

In a judgment, a little earlier to the one that is rendered supra, the Apex Court in the case of STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH v. KUNWAR SINGH has held as follows:

Having heard the submissions of the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant and the respondent, we are of the view that the High Court has transgressed the limits of its jurisdiction under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. by enquiring into the merits of the allegations at the present stage. The fact that the respondent was a signatory to the cheques is not in dispute This, in fact, has been adverted to in the judgment of the High Court. The High Court has also noted that a person who is required to approve a financial proposal is duty bound to observe due care and responsibility. There are specific allegations in regard to the irregularities which have been committed in the course of the work of the ‘Janani Mobility Express’ under the National Rural Health Mission. At this stage, the High Court ought not to be scrutinizing the material in the manner in which the trial court would do in the course of the criminal trial after evidence is adduced. In do so, the High Court has exceeded the well-settled limits on the exercise of the jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. A detailed enquiry into the merits of the allegations was not warranted. The FIR is not expected to be an encyclopedia, particularly, in a matter involving financial irregularities in the course of the administration of a public scheme. A final report has been submitted under Section 173 of CrPC. after investigation.

Therefore, in the light of the facts obtaining in the case at hand and the judgments of the Apex Court, I do not find any merit to entertain the Criminal Petition, as in my considered view, it is a matter for trial.

Insofar as the judgments relied on by the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner in the case of STATE OF ORISSA VS. DEBENDRA NATH PADHI reported in (2005)1 SCC 568, the said judgment would be in inapplicable to the facts of the case at hand in view of the manifold circumstances narrated hereinabove. The Apex Court delineated the width of the powers of this Court under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. and under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and held it to be unlimited where the Court would step in to prevent abuse of the process or secure the ends of justice within the parameters laid down in the case of BAJANLAL. The case also lays down that this Court would quash the proceedings only when the accused would file an unimpeachable evidence of sterling quality and seek it to be the basis of quashing. In my considered view, no such document is placed, much less, an unimpeachable one, on the other hand, there are plethora of circumstances for which the petitioner will have to undergo trial. The same reason of inapplicability goes with the judgment in the case of LALITA KUMARI vs. GOVERNMENT OF UTTAR PRADESH reported in (2014) 2 SCC 1 as that is not the issue in the case at hand. Therefore, the judgments relied on by the learned counsel appearing for the Union of India would be applicable to the facts of the case at hand and not the ones relied on by the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner.

The Criminal Petition, accordingly, stands dismissed. It is made clear that any observations made during the course of the order are to be treated to be confined to the proceedings under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. only and the trial Court to decide the case in accordance with law, on its own merit, on the basis of evidence to be lead and without being influenced by any of the observations made in this order.

Conclusion

The petition is ruled against the petitoner and hence disposed off by the court

Read the full order from below

Karanataka-HC-directs-govt-to-take-action-on-‘Rising-Frauds-in-Aadhaar-Enrollment

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