The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Haryana Chief Secretary to initiate and pursue appropriate administrative action against HAFED (Haryana State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation) officials in a matter of misappropriation of 35,552 quintals of paddy and financial loss amounting to Rs 6.82 Crores to the Federation.
The bench of Justice Fateh Deep Singh said this while upholding the order of the Additional District and Sessions Court of Kurukshetra, whereby three persons including Vinod Jain (proprietor of Jain Agro Industries), his clerk Surjit Singh and Sushil Kumar Gupta, clerk of HAFED, were convicted with three years’ imprisonment under Section 420 (cheating) read with Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
In the matter pertaining to the case, HAFED, Kurukshetra, had entered into an agreement in September 2009 with a firm Shri Guru Roshan Traders (the miller) through their proprietors Paras Jain, son of Vinod Jain. By virtue of the agreement, HAFED gave 79010.75 quintals of paddy for the Kharif season 2009 to this firm for custom milling. As per terms of this agreement, the firm was to return 67 per cent of this paddy by way of rice to HAFED to be delivered to FCI. The firm entered into an agreement and issued a cheque of Rs one crore to HAFED besides giving FDR of Rs 5 lakhs pledged with HAFED. On this bond, Vinod Jain, father of Paras Jain and proprietor of Jain Agro Industries, signed as witness. Jain Agro Industries was declared a defaulter after the year 2010.
However, Vinod Jain later rechristened the firm as Haryana Food Rice Mills from Jain Agro Industries and started transacting business with Haryana Agro Industries Corporation, whereas his son Paras Jain disappeared in the year 2010 (arrested later and is now facing trial).?
During the course of time, the miller returned only 29,117.25 quintals of milled rice and thereby misappropriated 35,552.18 quintals of paddy and causing financial loss amounting to Rs 6,82,35,552 to HAFED. As a consequence of this embezzlement, Anil Ahlawat, District Manager, HAFED, made a written complaint in November 2010 leading to registration of FIR in December 2010 under Sections 406, 409, 420, 120-B IPC, PS Thanesar, Kurukshetra against Vinod Jain, father of Paras Jain, Surjit Singh and Sushil Kumar Gupta, clerk HAFED.
The Judicial Magistrate First Class, Kurukshetra in June 2015 acquitted all the accused of the charges so framed against them. The state, however, filed an appeal wherein the three, Vinod Jain, Surjit Singh, and Sushil Kumar Gupta (HAFED clerk) were held guilty and convicted by the ADJ Kurukshetra in March 2020. The three then filed an appeal against the ADJ Kurukshetra order before the HC seeking to quash the punishment order of ADJ.
The HC after hearing the arguments and further commenting on the role of the other officials held: “.all the accused present revision petitioners entered into a criminal conspiracy and with a dishonest intention to facilitate cheating of the HAFED, an undertaking of the state… It is a matter of common knowledge and prudence that there hardly is direct evidence in cases revolving around the criminal conspiracy, unless and until one of the accused has turned as an approver.”
It added: “What rather one can perceive is that the studied silence on the part of the department especially the complainant who happens to be the District Manager of the area through whom the transactions have been held too were guilty of active connivance and participation and finding that the matter was getting out of hands had chosen a convenient way to lodge a complaint to save his skin cannot be lost sight of.The role of the officials of the HAFED are well elicited from the fact that the accused firm had only capacity of 2,000 metric tonnes. How and under what circumstances and by what means it was allocated such a massive quantity which was as per the norms laid down by the HAFED ought to have been allocated to a firm/company with the capacity of not less than 8000 metric tonnes.”
The bench said in its order that as per the HAFED milling policy, security of Rs 25 lakh per tonne was to be taken, so while Rs 2 crore was due, only Rs one crore was taken as security.
The court said that from top to bottom in the hierarchy of HAFED every one was working with malafide intention for motivated reason to have rich harvest at the state’s expense.
Commenting on the JMIC order which acquitted the accused, the HC held, “The trial court failed to appreciate this vital prosecution evidence in totality. Keeping in view that it was a white collar crime carried on by literate business men well enlightened by their advisers and helped by the officials of the complainant department itself. The first appellate court has gone into the vital evidence crucial to prove the offence and has rightly come to a justifiable conclusion holding out the guilt of the accused”.
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