JUDGMENT ANALYSIS: STATE OF GUJRAT V. MANSUKHBHAI KANJIBHAI SHAH
Author: Manali Agrawal
Case: State of Gujrat v. Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah
Citation: SC (0417) 2020
Bench: N.V. Ramana, Ajay Rastogi and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, JJ.
Decided on: 27.04.2020
It is the landmark judgment that can be considered as a step ahead towards curbing the roots of corruption which are percolated in every nook and corner of the public sphere including the Educational institutions. The case related to corruption in educational Institutions wherein the Apex Court acknowledged that “Corruption is the malignant manifestation of a malady menacing the morality of men” and held that Deemed Universities are covered under the purview of the definition of "University" under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
▪ Daughter of the Complainant was admitted to the MBBS course in 2012 in Sumandeep Vidyapeeth which is a deemed University. The respondent in the present case is the trustee of Sumandeep Charitable Trust which established and sponsored Sumandeep Vidyapeeth.
▪ FIR was filed by her mother against the four accused including the respondent in the present case alleging that the fee of her daughter was completely paid as per the University’s annual fee slab. But, before she filled up her final examination form in 2017, her father was asked to pay additional Rs. 20lakhs for allowing the daughter to appear in the final examination.
▪ In lieu of the same, cheques were deposited in favour of the respondent and then the complainant lodged FIR in the police station.
▪ Later, a sting operation and subsequent raids confirmed the commission of the alleged offence. Non-dated cheques worth more than Rs. 100 crores and certain fixed deposits that were drawn in the name of the institution were recovered.
▪ The charge sheet was filed against the four accused for various offences under Sections 7, 8, 10 and 13 (1)(b) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 read with Section 109 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. The respondent filed a discharge application under Section 227 of CrPC before the District and Sessions Court which rejected the application. The respondent filed the Criminal Revision Application before Gujrat High Court which allowed the application and discharged the respondent. Aggrieved by this, the State of Gujrat appealed to the Supreme Court.
Whether the Respondent is a 'public servant' under Section 2(c) of the PC Act, 1988?
Whether the Accused-Respondent can be discharged under Section 227 of the CrPC?
Arguments advanced by the appellant:
The PC Act is comprehensive legislation which intends to curb all kind of corruption activities must be construed to include the act of the respondent. Thus, the technicalities should not defeat the objective of the legislation.
The public function must not be the exclusive domain of the state; private institutions like Universities also perform a public function by imparting education to the public. As per UGC guidelines, Deemed Universities discharge public function.
The Respondent was discharging public duty. Positive command is not necessary to perform a public duty or formal requirement of giving remuneration for the services rendered.
Lack of authority to grant sanctions cannot lead to non-prosecution.
Arguments advanced by the Respondent:
It is the settled principle of law that a law must be interpreted in a strict sense and the Court must follow the interpretation that seeks to exempt the subject from the penalty rather than the one which imposes the penalty on him.
The respondent as trustee is not a Public Servant as he did not hold any position in the University and was not engaged by it for rendering any service.
The respondent does not fall within the ambit of Section 2(c)(XI) of the PC Act and the Gujrat High Court was correct in acquitting the respondent.
No proper sanction was obtained for prosecuting the respondent. Sanction obtained from the Charity Commissioner is not valid as he is not a Competent Authority as he is not empowered to appoint or remove a Trustee.
▪ The Court ruled that Deemed-to-be Universities are covered under the purview of the definition of "University" under the PC Act. The Court acknowledged that the intention of legislatures must be kept in mind while interpreting the law and the objective of the PC Act was to achieve honesty in public life.
▪ The court analyzed the definition of ‘public servant’ and said that interpretation must consider the genuine import of words. The Court thus contradicted the principle of strict- interpretation of law asserted by the Respondent.
▪ While deciding upon the claim of the respondent that deemed-to-be university cannot be assumed under PC Act as it is separately defined under the UGC Act, 1956 and not covered expressly under the PC Act, The Court referred to Bangalore Turf Club Ltd. v. Regional Director, ESI Corporationand observed that definition under one Act cannot be imported into another if it is not pari-materia with one another, since the UGC and PC Act do not deal with the same subject matter, they cannot be pari-materia.
▪ The Court held that the definition of public servant under the Act does not give an exhaustive list of officials and focuses more on the public duty that they perform. An individual is a public servant not based on the position he/she holds, but on the public duty that is performed.
▪ The pieces of evidence recovered in the raid are sufficient to suspect the offense and thus, the discharge of the accused by the High Court under Section 227 was not required. Therefore, the Court set aside the order of the High Court.
The Supreme Court has passed the judgment very correctly in the present case. The Judgment can be marked as the beginning of the eradication of corruption from the education sector of the country. The Court widened the scope of the terms like University and Public Servant which will curb the illegal activities continuing in the educational institutions and promote integrity in its functioning. Further, the Court has not delved into the technical nuances while analyzing different definitions. By not following its literal interpretation and focusing more on the intention of the legislatures to curb all kinds of corruption and this is a great move. By passing such a judgment the Supreme Court did not let go the trust of common people from the Indian Judiciary.