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In order to frame charge against the accused, a strong suspicion is sufficient: Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court has upheld that in order to frame charge against the accused, a strong suspicion is sufficient through THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE R. NARAYANA PISHARADI in the case of M. Sulfiker v. State of Kerala (CRL.REV.PET NO. 692 OF 2019)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

There were altogether eight accused in the case. The offences alleged against them are punishable under Section 13(1) (d) read with 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and also under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code,1860.

Between 09.11.2000 and 01.06.2002, a large sum of money was received from the Centurian Bank through accounts formed in the name of the sixth accused as well as through bogus accounts. A deficit of Rs.3,56,165/- occurred in the collection of the commission owed to the Bank in the aforesaid transactions. When the Reserve Bank of India initiated action against the bank for violating banking regulations, the bank was forced to pay a penalty of Rs.5,00,000/ to the Reserve Bank of India.

As a result, the bank suffered a total loss of Rs.8,56,165/-. The deficit in commission collection was caused by accused 1 through 5, 7 and 8. They committed the conduct that resulted in the shortage as part of a conspiracy they devised with Accused No.6 in order to gain an unfair financial advantage.

The case was originally pending in the Court of the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, Thrissur.  Thus, the first and the seventh accused have filed the  revision petitions praying that the charge framed against them by the Special Court may be set aside.

JUDGEMENT:

The Court observed that the contention that the Bank has not received any financial aid from the State Government and therefore, the employees of the Bank do not come within the purview of the definition of public servant under Section 2(c)(iii) of the Act cannot be examined in detail at the preliminary stage. It is a matter to be dealt with in the course of the trial of the case.

It was further held that the petitioners have no case that the Director Board of the Bank is not the authority competent to grant sanction for prosecution against them under Section 19(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It was observed that “When the sanction for prosecution is admittedly granted by an authority competent to grant it, the validity of the sanction granted is a question to be decided not at the stage of framing the charge against the accused. It is a matter to be considered and decided by the trial court after adducing evidence in the case.”

Moreover, the validity of sanction for prosecution granted by the competent authority under Section 19(1) of the Act is not a matter to be raised in challenging the charge framed against the accused by the trial court.  There is a distinction between the absence of sanction and invalidity on account of non-application of mind. The former question can be agitated at the threshold but the latter is a question which has to be raised during trial. The challenge would have been maintainable if it is a case of total absence of sanction by a competent authority.

It was held that in order to frame charge against the accused, a strong suspicion is sufficient. A microscopic examination of the materials produced by the prosecution is not warranted at that stage. The evaluation of the materials produced by the prosecution shall be conducted by the court only for the limited purpose of finding out whether any prima facie case is made out against the accused.

 In the aforesaid circumstances, especially in the absence of any challenge made by the seventh accused against the order passed by the Special Court, the application was dismissed. 

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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