Gujarat High Court declines anticipatory bail to CGST Inspector alleged of corruption.
The Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 as amended from time to time, is the principal anti-corruption law. It is enacted to combat corruption in government agencies and public sector businesses in India. The High Court recently declined anticipatory bail in the case of Gauravkumar Sudarshankumar Arora Vs State of Gujarat (Gujarat High Court), where the petitioner filed a petition to seek anticipatory bail in case of his arrest in connection with the FIR registered for the offense punishable under Sections 12, 7(a), and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Facts of the Case:
- That applicant had done his graduation in Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics and Communications) and was appointed as the Inspector in the office of CGST and was serving in the said Department since 2016.
- A FIR was lodged by the complainant Mr. Narendrasinh Narsansinh Lakum alleging that he was having a shop in the name of Bhavani Trading Company and another shop under the name and style of Patel Agency at Limdi and third shop was also owned by the first informant, which was in the name of his son under the name and style of Bhaani Axi Business at Borna.
- That first informant was selling grocery items, building materials and tobacco.
- The accused had visited the shop of the first informant and had inspected the shop and godown.
- The accused informed the first informant that they were keeping the goods in the godown situated at Borna without their permission and, therefore, has to deposit an amount of penalty to the tune of Rs. 2.50 Lakhs for the shop situated at village Borna.
- In the shop situated at Chuda, it was found that GST Number was not reflected properly in the board, and therefore, it was informed that the complainant has to pay penalty of Rs. 2.50 Lakhs.
- The informant had to pay a penalty of Rs. 5 Lakhs. The informant was called with the accounts at the GST office, and therefore, the informant had visited the office of the GST with his accountant with necessary documents.
- The accused had talked with the first informant and it was made to understand that if any legal formalities were not to be done, the informant would pay a sum of Rs.75,000 to the accused persons.
- That first informant did not want to pay the amount of bribe and, therefore, lodged a complaint with the ACB Police Station, Surendranagar.
- The applicant was apprehending his arrest in connection with the FIR and, therefore, preferred an application for anticipatory bail before the District Judge and Special Judge (Atrocity), Surendranagar. The co-accused Mr. Rajivkumar Raviraj and Mr. Ravi Bhavani Shankar Joshi were arrested in connection with the aforesaid FIR.
Observations of the High Court (HC)
- As the complainant was not happy to pay such amount of illegal gratification demanded by the accused, complainant approached the office of ACB and a trap was arranged on the basis of the complaint received from the complainant.
- As discussion was made with the accused no.1 and complainant demanding amount of illegal gratification from him and to pay the amount to the accused no. 3.
- Amount of illegal gratification was accepted by the accused no. 3.
- Accused nos. 1 and 3 were caught by the raiding party as they were in collision in commission of offence and as were connected in commission of offence, a complaint was registered against them.
- HC observed that if they referred the transcript made between the complainant and the present applicant/accused, demand of illegal gratification was clearly made by the present applicant.
Reference by HC to the earlier cases
This Court, in similar issue, in case of Rajesh Chandulal Shah versus State of Gujarat in Criminal Misc. Application held that:
- Grant of anticipatory bail in corruption matters involving public servants should be in the rarest of rare cases.
- It was a settled position of law that neither anticipatory bail nor regular bail can be granted as a matter of rule.
- The anticipatory bail, being an extraordinary privilege, should be granted only in exceptional cases.
- It is only if the court is convinced, on the basis of the materials on record, that a public servant has been falsely involved or that the allegations of demand or acceptance of illegal gratification are with an oblique motive or tainted with mala fides, that the court may consider to protect such public servant by grant of anticipatory bail.
- Why should a corrupt public servant, who is not only a menace to the society but a potential threat so far as the progress of the country is concerned, be shown any indulgence by a court of law by granting him protection in the form of an anticipatory bail
Conclusion by the HC
Present applicant was charged with the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and the investigation is at a very crucial stage. No exceptional or special circumstances were pointed out by the learned applicant for the applicant for the purpose of grant of anticipatory bail. The presumption of innocence could not be sole consideration of the grant of bail as requested. Therefore, the bail application was rejected by the High Court.