Updated: April 2, 2021 3:26:31 am
A Delhi court on Thursday convicted IRS officer Ashutosh Verma, alleged defence middleman Suresh Nanda and his chartered accountant Bipin Shah in a criminal conspiracy case in which Verma was allegedly bribed by Nanda to dilute a report against him and shield him from prosecution in ongoing investigations by CBI and other agencies.
The investigations related to defence deals and related matters.
Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj convicted the three accused persons under criminal conspiracy charges, noting that it has been proved beyond doubt that Verma “diluted the appraisal report to favour” Nanda and Associates at the behest of Shah.
Verma was earlier deputy director (investigation) in the Income Tax Department at the time.
The judgment stated, “This is no part of a government servant’s duty to meet secretly at odd hours those persons whose matter he is dealing officially. So much so, to keep his meeting at Mumbai (a) secret, Ashutosh Verma sought permission to visit Lucknow from prosecution witness Shailender Handa and proceeded to Mumbai. There is definite evidence that he diluted the appraisal report and thereby committed the offence under Section 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of IPC, making him ineligible for the protective coverage of sanction under Section 197 (prosecution of judges and public servants) CrPC.”
The court will hear the arguments on sentence on 5 April.
Sanjiv Nanda, Suresh’s son, was earlier discharged in this case.
As per the prosecution, on March 8, 2008, the four suspects were arrested while holding a meeting at Mumbai’s JW Mariott hotel. The CBI had alleged that the accused “entered into a criminal conspiracy for the purpose of manipulating the report of Income Tax investigation being conducted (by) Ashutosh Verma to show undue favour to Suresh Nanda, by abusing his official position.”
Verma had conducted searches at the premises of Nanda in February 2007 and appraisal report of the search and seizure of incriminating documents was under preparation with him.
Shah, at the behest of Nanda, had approached Verma to “to minimise income tax liabilities after obtaining huge illegal gratification from Suresh Nanda and Sanjiv Nanda,” the CBI had submitted.
The CBI had produced 134 incriminating telephone conversations and SMSes that were intercepted in 2008. Besides this, the agency also relied on 32 incriminating conversations between Nanda and some others, including prosecution witnesses, related to the discussion on a land deal in Goa.
Lawyers for the accused had told the court that recorded conversations contained in a CD is not admissible.
The court, however, ruled that the CD was admissible. The order noted: “There is no other objection to the CD. It is not the submission of the accused that there is any tampering, alteration, transposition, excision in the recorded conversations. The accused have not come forwarded with a case that there are conversations in the CD in their voices but the incriminating parts of the conversations are result of tampering, alteration, transposition, excision etc.”
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