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Court rejects Rajasthan govt plea for withdrawing officials’ graft cases

'Not in public interest, if allowed public will lose trust in justice system,' rules special judge

Written by Deep Mukherjee | Jaipur |
Updated: December 2, 2021 7:04:54 pm
Advisors to CM Ashok Gehlot: Governor seeks report from Rajasthan govtRajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot (File)

Rejecting a plea by the Rajasthan government seeking to withdraw corruption cases against three serving and former bureaucrats, a court in Jaipur has ruled that it would not be in public interest to allow the withdrawal of the cases and that if the government’s application is allowed, the public will lose faith in the justice system.

On November 26, the court rejected the Rajasthan government’s plea for withdrawal of corruption cases related to an alleged land scam against the three officials, including G S Sandhu, ex-IAS officer, retired Rajasthan Administrative Service officer Nishkam Diwakar, and serving state service officer Onkar Mal Saini.

Sandhu is also an advisor to the state Urban Development and Housing Department – the same department facing the corruption charges – and the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) whose president is Vaibhav Gehlot, son of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

“It wouldn’t be in public interest to approve the application by the special public prosecutor for withdrawal of prosecution..Instead, if approval is given, then the public will lose trust from the entire justice system and criminal law administration,” states the 33-page judgment delivered by special judge Mukesh of the court for Prevention of Corruption Act cases.

The court ruled that if public servants involved in corruption succeed in getting proceedings against themselves withdrawn due to their influence, the public will lose faith in the justice system.

“If any public servant has indulged in corruption and due to his influence he is successful in withdrawing the proceedings against him, then the public will certainly lose trust from the public administration, justice system and justice process. This will be lethal for the entire society and justice system,” says the judgment.

The chargesheets had been filed against the three serving and retired officers in 2015 and 2016, when the BJP was in power. The charges date back to 2010-2011, when Sandhu was a principal secretary and Diwakar a deputy secretary in the Urban Development and Housing Department. Saini was then deputy commissioner in the Jaipur Development Authority.

According to the chargesheets filed by the Anti Corruption Bureau in July 2016, the officials were part of a “criminal conspiracy” hatched to allot land belonging to a housing society to a private construction company. The three accused were arrested but subsequently granted bail. The allotment was made in June 2011 and cancelled in May 2013 by the then Congress government.

In its judgment, the court has also stated that “it appears that the special public prosecutor didn’t independently apply his mind” before presenting the application for withdrawal of the cases against the accused.

In July 2019, after Gehlot returned to power, Sandhu and Diwakar made a representation to the government. The Urban Development and Housing Department set up a committee which recommended withdrawal of cases against them. The state then filed an application, on January 19 this year, recommending that the cases be withdrawn.

In its verdict, the court also questioned the neutrality of this government committee. “In this case, the committee constituted by the state government in relation to the withdrawal of the proceedings, in that, Bhaskar A Sawant, Principal Secretary, Urban Development and Housing Department was also a member. Even though it has been said about him that he was a specially invited member. But it appears that the meeting was presided by Bhaskar A Sawant. Since the case is related to the same department and there is no compulsion of the Principal Secretary of the UDH department, the committee’s opinion can’t be accepted as neutral,” the judgment said.

 

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