It is common knowledge that Judicial/ Administrative/Revenue Officers do not
remain aloof from the public and seek/accept favour from them. The common
favours include availing rent free accommodation, using their private cars &
accepting costly gifts/holidays etc.
There is a model code of conduct/ Rules in all Government Services which mandate
that Government Officials should be honest & modest, maintain integrity & high
character & should not take undesirable favour from outsiders. It is a common
practice that Public officials from Revenue Department, District Administration
or the District Judiciary ask for their personal errands from assessees,
litigants, applicants or advocates/ CAs.
However, as per model code of conduct, this is impermissible and should not be
resorted to as the opposite party or anyone displeased with them might bring it
to the notice of the higher-ups and the concerned person may land into
difficulty. This is particularly true in the present times of transparency due
to RTI, Social Media exposure, Judicial Activism and Media Trials.
It would be trite to refer to a much publicized incident which happened in
December 2020 when a District Judge used a private car while travelling to
attend a camp Court. Incidentally, the car belonged to a person against whom an
FIR was registered for forgery and his matter was 'sub judice'. Immediately
after the knowledge of the incident, the High Court of Uttarakhand took
cognizance of the matter and instituted Disciplinary action against the said
District Judge and placed him under suspension.
It is pertinent that as per service rules, the District Judge was supposed to
use only his official vehicle to attend the camp Court but he travelled in a
private Audi car. The owner of the said Audi car had been booked u/s 420, 467,
468, 471 & 120-B of the IPC and a writ petition (criminal) was pending before
the Uttarakhand High Court.
The High Court treated this act of the District Judge as grave misconduct and in
violation of Rule 3(1), 3(2), & Rule 30 of the Uttarakhand Government Servants'
Conduct Rules, 2002 not becoming of a senior Judicial and smelling of
In yet another case in February 2021,the Uttarakhand High Court suspended a
civil judge (senior division) finding him guilty of misconduct for allegedly
favouring an accused in a criminal case and for using private vehicles owned by
the accused for family trips. The High Court observed that the conduct of the
judge casts serious doubt upon his integrity, amounts to grave misconduct and is
in violation of Rule 3(1), 3(2) and Rule 30 of the Uttarakhand Government
Servants' Conduct Rules, 2002. In both the above cases, the High Court did not
consider the impact of Section 11 of the Prevention of the Corruption Act, as it
stands today after the Amendment in 2018.
It would be relevant to refer to a recent case in the Bombay High Court in
Criminal Revision Application No. 183 of 2023 titled Anil Goel Versus Union
of India & Anr
. decided on 25th October 2023.
The brief facts are that F.I.R. dated 18/12/2015 was lodged by the CBI, Cochin
for the offences punishable under Sections 7, 12, & 13(2) read with 13(1)(a) &
(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 read with Section 120-B of the
Indian Penal Code. The name of the applicant was not mentioned in the primary
charge-sheet and he was never arrested during the course of investigation from
2015 to 2019. On 31/07/2019, C.B.I. fled the supplementary charge-sheet against
the Applicant, accusing him of committing an offence under Section 11 of the
The allegation levelled against him is that, while functioning as Chief
Commissioner of Income Tax (CCIT) from the period between 01/01/2014 to
31/12/2015, he had occupied a flat (guesthouse) belonging to M/s Heera
Constructions, without payment of any rent. CBI claimed that as M/s Heera
Constructions fell within the assessment jurisdiction of the Applicant, the act
of staying in the flat, without payment of rent, constituted offence under
Section 11 of the P.C. Act.
The investigation had revealed that Heera Constructions had taken the said flat
used by it as guesthouse on lease from another private person. The Applicant is
alleged to have stayed in the Apartment, free of cost, by abusing the offcial
position, as Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Thiruvananthapuram. It is alleged
that rent of Rs.4,40,000/- was paid by M/s Heera Constructions Pvt. Ltd. to the
owner of the Apartment. The charge-sheet also alleged that ITO Mr.Sarath
(Accused No.2), knowing that M/s Heera Constructions has official dealing with
Mr.Anil Goel (Applicant), told their CA Ram Pillai Bhadra Kumar to arrange a
guesthouse and thereafter Apartment No.1A in Heera Velmont Palace, was taken on
lease by M/s Heera Constructions from the owner of the Apartment. It is alleged
that Heera Builders paid total rent of Rs.4.4 lakhs to Mrs.Nanma Jayan for the
stay of the Applicant in the said flat.
The CBI Court held the applicant guilty as the applicant has not paid any rent
for the said period nor he intended to vacate the said apartment, in-spite of
repeated demand to the applicant. The Court held that the act and conduct on
part the applicant, being a Public Servant, attract the provisions of section 11
of the P.C. Act.
On revision before the Bombay High Court, the Court made reference to Section 11
of the P.C. Act as it read before it's amendment in the year 2018 :-
11. Public servant obtaining valuable thing, without consideration from person
concerned in proceeding or business transacted by such public servant.- Whoever,
being a public servant, accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to
obtain for himself, or for any other person, any valuable thing without
consideration, or for a consideration, which he knows to be inadequate, from any
person whom he knows to have been, or to be, or to be likely to be concerned in
any proceeding or business transacted or about to be transacted by such public
servant, or having any connection with the official functions of himself or of
any public servant to whom he is subordinate, or from any person, whom he knows
to be interested in or related to the person so concerned, shall be punishable
with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than six months but which
may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.
The Court dealt with the said provision and observed thus:
From reading of the aforesaid provision, it is evident that the act of a public
servant, accepting or obtaining or attempting to obtain, either for himself or
for any other person, any "valuable thing", without consideration or for an
inadequate consideration, from any person whom he knows to have been or to be
likely to be concerned in any proceeding or business transacted or about to be
transacted by the public servant or has any connect with his official position,
then such an act would amount to an offence under Section 11.
However, the High Court after noting the facts of the case and elaborating
Section 11 of the P.C. Act as it read before its amendment in the year 2018,
gave benefit of doubt to the accused as the guilt of the applicant could not be
proved beyond and held thus:
I find the arguments, in the facts of the case, to be completely misplaced as
when I repeatedly inquired with Mr.Shirsat as to amongst thousands and thousands
of assessees in Thiruvananthapuram, where the Applicant was functioning as Chief
Commissioner of Income Tax, whether only on the premise that there is a
possibility of his assessment being either questioned or for any reason assessed
by the present Applicant in his capacity as Chief Commissioner of Income tax, it
is unfathomable to assume that at some future point of time, a business
connection could be established.
Mr. Shirsat has failed to consider the most important aspect of the provision,
being the "valuable thing is obtained or attempted to be obtained from any
person, which he knows to have been or to be likely to be concerned" in any
proceedings or business transacted or about to be transacted by such public
The charge-sheet falls short of this particular material, as Mr. Shirsat would
take me to a statement of Shri Ram Pillai Bhadra Kumar,Chartered Accountant and
working as an Income Tax Consultant and Representative of M/s Heera Builders,
who has stated that he was knowing Accused No.2- Mr.Sarath, the Income Tax
Officer for last 10 years.
He state that Mr. Sarath requested him to get guesthouse for Shri Anil Goel,
Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, who is recently posted in Thiruvananthapuram
for few days and he was told to talk to M/s Heera Builders, as he was aware that
he was looking after the income tax matters of M/s Heera Builders. Accordingly,
he spoke to the Managing Director of Heera
Builders for providing guesthouse to the CCIT and upon consulting the Finance
Manager, M/s Heera Builders agreed to provide their guesthouse to the Applicant,
for few days. While recording his statement, he told the Deputy Superintendent
Police that he was not aware that the Applicant was staying in the guesthouse
for long duration, without paying rent, as subsequently he did not play any role
in it, but later he came to know that Shri Anil Goel was not vacating the
The Court further explained the reason of exonerating the applicant thus:
9. Whether the Applicant had any knowledge about the requirement of payment of
rent is an important question and, since, he was asked to occupy the said flat
by the ITO, and was never apprised that he shall bear the rent for the same, it
cannot be accepted that he was aware about the rent to be paid and the flat is
leased out by the owner to M/s Heera Constructions.
Further, in absence of any material to show that there was any business
transacted or about to be transacted by him in respect of M/s Heera Builders as
an 'Assessee' and as Mr. Shirsat would submit sometimes in future, M/s Heera
Constructions would have been subjected to assessment or even if he was assessee,
he may have some dealing in future, in my considered opinion, is an
incomprehensible argument, as in Thiruvananthapuram, there may be large number
of assesses and it cannot be speculated that there is going to be a future
transaction or business connect with either of them.
In absence of this relevant material in the charge-sheet, which would constitute
as a ground for presuming that the Applicant has committed the offence, the
charge must be considered to be groundless, which is a same thing as saying that
there is no ground for framing the charge.
The impugned order, by relaying upon the statement of R. K. Babu and Ram Pillai
Bhadra Kuamr, has concluded that the Applicant occupied the flat, but has failed
to pay the rent and this act is suffcient to make out a prima facie offence
under Section 11 read with Section 12 of the P.C. Act though Accused No.2-Sarath
was refused sanction and he was not charge-sheeted and, hence, the offence under
Sections 34 and120-B of the IPC is not made out.
In absence of establishing that the flat has been enjoyed free of cost and it
has a connect with the duty to be discharged by the Applicant in relation to the
assessee, merely because an assessee fall within his jurisdiction, it cannot be
said that the ingredients of Section 11A are made out. Hence, the Applicant has
been wrongly charge-sheeted and deserve a discharge."
It should be borne in mind that the decision of the High Court may be challenged
by CBI in the Apex Court. Facts vary in all cases and the decisions of the Court
are subjective. More importantly, Section 11 of the PC Act has been since
amended in 2018. Post amendment the Section reads thus:
11. Public servant obtaining 1[undue advantage], without consideration from
person concerned in proceeding or business transacted by such public servant.
Whoever, being a public servant, accepts or obtains 2 or attempts to obtain for
himself, or for any other person, any 1[undue advantage] without consideration,
or for a consideration which he knows to be inadequate, from any person whom he
knows to have been, or to be, or to be likely to be concerned in any proceeding
or business transacted or about to be transacted by such public servant, or
having any connection with the 3[official functions or public duty] of himself
or of any public servant to whom he is subordinate, or from any person whom he
knows to be interested in or related to the person so concerned, shall be
punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than six months
but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine."
Post amendment the said section has become very stringent and the scope of this
section has enlarged manifold. On the same facts, after the said amendment Post
2018, it would not be easy to exonerate the applicant because post amendment,
the insertion of the phrase 'undue advantage' and 'having any connection with
the [official functions or public duty] of himself or of any public servant to
whom he is subordinate, or from any person whom he knows to be interested in or
related to the person so concerned,' have expanded the scope of Section 11 of
the PC Act.
These incidents/cases are an eye-opener for Government servants who are habitual
of use of complimentary private cars, hotel rooms, clubs/restaurants & gifts.
Because of transparency and use of Information Technology, every act of a
government official is under scanner. The movements, conversations, messages,
mails of any government officials can be retrieved anytime, whenever required.
The bank accounts & lockers of any official can easily be traced with the
mandatory identification provided by Aadhaar card.
With digitalization of immovable properties on the anvil, there are more chances
of exposure of unexplained investments. CC television Cameras have been
installed at strategic locations and movement of any individual can easily be
traced. Media throughout the world has also become very investigative and in
order to increase their TPA, they expose politicians, government officers,
film-stars, sports persons & big business tycoons.
It is therefore necessary for all government officials to be modest, honest,
maintain high integrity & character and their actions should be in accordance
with the Service rules. RTI has created transparency beyond imagination. They
should not take things for granted as with new technologies
"Uper wala sab dekhta hai-sab jaanta hai". Nobody would be able to elude from
Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Ph no: 8279945021, Email: [email protected]