A special anti-corruption bureau (ACB) court in Himmatnagar of Sabarkantha district, on Wednesday, sentenced a former revenue officer with up to three years of rigorous imprisonment and penalty of Rs 10,000 for taking a bribe of Rs 500, 13 years ago.
The case dates back to 2007 when one Chandrakant Thakkar had sought that his wife’s name be included in the land possession records’ documents (hakk patrak). However, then talati-cum-mantri of Kanknol village in Himmatnagar, Khant Narayanbhai Kacharabhai “had demanded illegal gratification,” of Rs 500 for making the change. Thakkar, unwilling to pay a bribe, had complained to the Anti Corruption Bureau police station in Himmatnagar, as legally, such a change is not liable to cost. Subsequently, a sting operation was set up where the accused was caught accepting Rs 500 from the complainant.
Khant was booked for the offences punishable under sections seven and 13 (2), read with section 13(1) (d), of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Thirteen years later, the special ACB court has found Khant guilty of the aforementioned offences.
The court of special ACB Judge HD Suthar primarily relied on the prosecution evidence, including voice recordings, tainted notes as well as eyewitnesses. Meanwhile, the accused intially tried to defend himself on the ground that it was a pending tax amount that Khant was recovering from Thakkar. However, this claim was proven to be false by the prosecution.
Notably, at the time of the incident, Khant had been suspended but later reinstated due to the delay and non-initiation of any departmental proceedings for over six months. While reinstating, the departmental order had, however, specified that the accused should be posted in a “non-sensitive remote taluka place” and should not be handed over any additional charge except administrative work. The order had also specified that he shall not be entrusted with any financial work.
At the time of sentencing, the accused argued that he be shown “mercy and leniency,” primarily on the ground he is now a 66-year-old senior citizen who has retired from service, faced a long trial in this case and suffered mental agony.
However, the court’s order noted that in cases wherein public servants are found to have indulged in corrupt practices, “the entire society is found to be affected,” and that corruption is “not only a punishable offence, but also undermines human rights, indirectly violating them, and systematic corruption, is violation of human rights in itself, as it leads to systematic economic crimes.”
The court was of the opinion that such crimes have to be dealt with by imposing deterrent sentences as the accused in his position as a talati-cum-mantri, and in his capacity as a public servant, was a representative of the state wherein he “failed to perform his legal and moral obligations towards the State and society,” and abused his position.
In this regard, the court sentenced Khant to three years of rigorous imprisonment and imposed a penalty of Rs 10,000. Failure to pay the amount would attract up to six more months of simple imprisonment.
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