In possibly the first conviction post demonetisation, a Delhi court convicted three officials of the Punjab National Bank, holding that “the case seems to be classical misuse of power by the bank officials after demonetisation of legal tender currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 denomination by the Government of India”. The court also invoked the popular quote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” to make its point.
Special CBI Judge Raj Kumar Chauhan held that the accused conspired to commit criminal breach of trust and falsification of bank records by making fictitious and false entries. According to the court, the accused showed legal tender notes of Rs 10.51 lakh deposited by two customers as demonetised currency, and exchanged it “unauthorisedly and illegally”.
The three officials, former senior manager Ramanand Gupta, former deputy manager Bhuvnesh Kumar Julka, and former head cashier of PNB’s Civil Lines Branch Jeetander Veer Arora, have been convicted under sections 120(B), 409, 471, 477 (A) of the IPC and several sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. They have been convicted for a period of four years and the court has imposed a fine of Rs 4 lakh on each man.
During arguments on the sentence, CBI counsel Praneet Sharma prayed for a strict sentence and urged that corruption has taken its roots deep in society, therefore maximum punishment should be awarded.
Reacting to the conviction, advocate Amit Gupta, who appeared for Ramanand Gupta and Julka, said, “They (the convicts) have not done any illegal act. There is no exchange of any money. Beneficiary is not on record. This is the ageless story of the CBI… there is no motive.”
However, the judge in his order said that corruption has far-reaching consequences as it not only weakens the internal economy of the nation but also affects its international reputation, and erodes the faith of the public in the system. Therefore, the sentencing policy must make a strong impact upon society, the judge noted.
“The act of the convicts has left a slur on institution in which they have grown into their services as they are senior officers of the bank,” the court said.