The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday granted bail to former IAS officer Pradeep Sharma in connection with a 10-year-old bribery case. Sharma was arrested on March 9 by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) moments after he was released from Sabarmati Central Jail on bail in another case of alleged money laundering.
The ACB had filed an FIR in Bhavnagar on March 9 — hours before Sharma’s release from the jail — booking the former IAS officer for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 25 lakh in 2008 when he was the managing director of Alcock Ashdown (Gujarat) Ltd, a state-owned company.
In his bail plea, Sharma stated that the bribery FIR was “mala fide” and filed by the state government “for personal vengeance, to see that the applicant (Sharma) remains in judicial custody for longer time”. Sharma stated that he has been in judicial custody for nearly four years in 10 different cases, all pertaining to alleged corruption.
Sharma stated that after getting the copy of the bail order of the court he “executed a bail bond and went to submit the release order before the jail authority (Sabarmati Central Jail, Ahmedabad), but the same was not accepted and was told to come next day i.e. on 09/03/18”. “The next day…when the relative of the applicant went to submit the release order, the same was accepted and at around 10 o’clock in the morning when the applicant came out from the gate of central jail…15 to 20 police officers of ACB, Ranip and Sabarmati police stations came in police jeep and arrested the applicant without giving any reason,” the bail application stated, adding that the ACB had lodged the FIR on March 9 at 6.15 am, hours before his scheduled release.
The ACB had stated that the bribery FIR was based on a statement of Sahay Raj, managing director of a private shipping firm —Shoft Shipyard- who had alleged that he gave Rs 25 lakh bribe to Sharma for releasing funds back in 2009. According to the ACB, Sahay Raj’s statement was recorded by the ED during its probe against the former officer in a money laundering case.
Sharma, however, argued that while he was in jail, the ACB never questioned him or lodged any FIR regarding the bribery. The FIR was filed only after he was released on bail, he said.
Justice A J Desai granted relief to the former IAS officer. Sharma’s lawyer R J Goswami said that court noticed the manner in which the FIR was lodged hours before his client was set to be released on bail on March 9.