SC lets Sharief off the hook in corruption case

 In a major relief to former Railway Minister C K Jaffer Sharief, the Supreme Court on Friday quashed the criminal proceedings initiated against him for allegedly taking four officials to London for his medical treatment in 1995.

A Bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi noted that it appeared from statement of witnesses and other materials that those four persons had assisted Sharief in his official work as he continued to be minister there.

“It is difficult to visualise as to how the appellant can be construed to have adopted corrupt or illegal means or to have abused his position as a public servant to obtain any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage either for himself or for any of the four persons,” Justice Gogoi, reading out the verdict, said.

An FIR was registered by the CBI against Sharief on June 3, 1998 under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

It was alleged that the former Bangalore North MP made the Managing Directors of RITES (Rail India Technical and Economics Services Ltd) and IRCON (Indian Railway Construction Co Ltd) to approve the journeys of B N Nagesh, the then additional personal secretary to him, S M Mastan and Murlidharan, stenographers in the railway cell and Samaullah his domestic help and caused loss to the tune of Rs 7 lakh to the exchequer.

The court said as a Minister it was for him to decide on the number of the officials accompanying him to London.

“If in the process, the rules or norms applicable were violated or the decision taken shows an extravagant display of redundance it is the conduct and action of the appellant which may have been improper or contrary to departmental norms. But to say that the same was actuated by a dishonest intention to obtain an undue pecuniary advantage will not be correct,” the court said.

The CBI had filed closure report twice in the absence of requisite sanction for his prosecution. But the trial court did not accept closure report and instead on July 26, 2008 took cognizance of the offences alleged against him.

He approached the Delhi High Court challenging the trial court but could not get any relief. The HC dismissed his plea on April 11, this year.

Senior advocate P P Rao, appearing for Sharief, submitted that the facts appearing from the reports of the investigating agency, ex facie, do not make out the commission of any offence by accused.

Setting aside the HC’s order, the apex court rejected the contention of Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who, appearing for CBI, said Sharief had earlier only raised the issue of absence of sanction and so could not be allowed to enlarge the ambit of the argument by questioning lack of necessary ingredients for offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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