No mitigating factor in corruption: Court
In a significant judgement, a Delhi court has ruled that family responsibilities and health issues cannot be grounds for seeking leniency in sentence in corruption cases.
The court said this while awarding three years' jail to a former income tax official in a 19-year-old graft case.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special judge Rajiv Mehra said "emotions or sentiments have no role to play" in dealing with the question of award of sentence in corruption cases.
The court turned down the plea of S.K. Bhatia, a member of an inspection team in the Appropriate Authority Department of Income Tax in the year 1995, who had accepted bribe of Rs.3 lakh for granting 'No Objection Certificate' (NOC) in a property transfer case.
Bhatia had sought leniency in the sentence, which the court denied saying corruption charges against him were "grave and serious".
It also held that corruption was working like an "invincible syndicate" and stressed that there should be a "zero tolerance for bribe and corruption in any place".
The court also fined Bhatia Rs.75,000 while refusing him any leniency.
Bhatia, now 61, sought leniency in sentence contending that he has a son, who was still studying and his presence by his side at this juncture was very essential to settle him in his life.
Bhatia added that he was an acute diabetic, on a high medication dose.
Another accused, A.K. Goel, 57, middleman in the deal, also pleaded to the court for leniency on family and health grounds.
However, the court awarded him one-year rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.50,000.
"The emotions or sentiments have no role to play in dealing with the question of award of sentence in the corruption cases. No mitigating circumstances as suggested may be a ground for any leniency," the court held.
"The plea of family responsibilities or the health ground also cannot be a mitigating factor in corruption cases," it said in the Aug 5 order.
It was contended by the accused that they have been facing trial for the last 19 years and thus be given a benefit of it, which was turned down by the court.
"In the present case, as may be noted, the incident is of the year 1995 and bribe amount of Rs.3 lakh as involved was by any imagination a big amount at that point of time," the CBI judge said.
According to the CBI, Harish Kochar, a businessman contacted Bhatia for issuing NOC for transfer of a property in south Delhi in his brother's name.
Goel and Sanan, employees of Kochar, facilitated the bribe amount. Along with Goel, Sanan was also jailed for a year.
Bhatia demanded Rs.3 lakh for it and was caught red-handed while accepting the bribe amount by the CBI May 8, 1995.
Kochar, the businessman, died during the trial of the case.
(Amiya Kumar Kushwaha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )
(Posted on 10-08-2014)