Three conditions must be fulfilled for an individual to be regarded as a public servant: Madras High Court

The first is the status of the person in the registered co-operative society; the second is the nature of the business that the relevant registered cooperative society is engaged in; and the third is as to whether the society receives or had received during the relevant period any financial aid from the Central Government or State Government. A coram of Sanjib Banerjee CJ, Sathyanarayan J, Senthil Kumar J, while adjudicating the matter in Subramaniyan v. State; [Crl.MP [MD] No.5514/2020]; dealt with the issue of who falls under the purview of ‘public servant’.

The Government of Tamil Nadu had waived the agricultural jewel loans as well as payment of interest with a direction to the Societies to return the jewels pledged by the farmers. Accordingly, the de facto-complainant approached the revision petitioner for return of the pledged jewels by him. The revision petitioner herein, obtained the signature of the de facto complainant, as if the jewels pledged by him were returned and asked him to come on another day and, accordingly, the de facto-complainant went to the office of the Society and requested the revision petitioner herein to return the pledged jewels. The Petitioner herein is said to have demanded a sum of Rs.6,000/- and on negotiation, it was reduced to Rs.5,000/- as illegal gratification other than the legal remuneration, to return the jewels. Therefore, the petitioner was prosecuted for the commission of the offence of corruption.

The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner stated that Society is running its affairs through the contribution of the members of the share capital and obtains loan from the Central Cooperative Bank, at a lower rate of interest and lends the same for a slightly higher rate of interest and it does not receive any aid from the Government. Therefore, there is absolutely no material to suggest that the said Society receives any financial aid or otherwise from the State or Central Government and as such, the employees cannot come within the definition of ”public servant” as defined under Section 2[c][ix] of the PC Act. The learned counsel appearing for the respondent stated that the revision petitioner being the Secretary of the Society, is expected to discharge his duty fairly and honestly and for the purpose of returning the jewels to the de-facto complainant, in the light of the policy decision taken by the State Government to waive agricultural loans. However, he demanded and accepted illegal gratification and the trap laid in this regard, was also successful.

The Court upon considering the aforesaid facts stated that “Petitioner’s capacity as the Secretary to the relevant registered co-operative society engaged in agriculture, and receiving financial aid from one of the Government bodies specified in Section 2(c)(ix) of the Act, the petitioner was required to discharge such duty in which the community to which the relevant registered co-operative society catered had an interest. As secretary to the relevant registered co-operative society, it was in the usual course of the petitioner’s duties to obtain jewellery, to grant loan, to accept repayment and to return the jewellery. The discharge of such duty, therefore, must be seen as public duty within the meaning of the relevant expression. That would also make the petitioner a public servant under Section 2(c)(viii) of the Act of 1988 in relation to the work done; in addition to the petitioner being a public servant in terms of Section 2(c)(ix) o the Act.”

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