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Whether Deemed To Be University Is Covered Under The PC Act In Light With The Case State Of Gujarat v/s Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah

Corruption is malignant magnification of a malady menacing the morality of men - Hon'ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana

Background
(In The Supreme Court Of India, criminal appeal no.989 of 2018, decided on 27-04-2020, by Hon'ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana, Hon'ble Mr. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Hon'ble Mr. Justice B.R. Gavai)

An FIR was filed against the four accused person including the current respondent. Allegation was that the daughter of the complainant was admitted in the college that was Sumandeep Vidyapeeth in year 2012 for the MBBS course. In 2017 prior to the filing of her final examination form daughter of complainant was asked to pay 25 lakhs rupees to sit for examination. In lieu of the same cheque was deposited with the accused respondent herein. Thereafter complaint was filed.

Charge sheet was filed against the various accused for the offence under section 7, 8, 10 and 13(1)(C), 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption act, 1988 read with section 108 of IPC.
Therefore, respondent was discharged under section 227 of CrPC by the order of High Court of Gujarat and thus this appeal lies.

Issues Raised:
There was too many issues which has to be answered i.e.

  • Whether the respondent trustee is a ‘public servant’ covered under Section 2(c) of the PC Act?
  • Whether the accused respondent can be discharged under Section 227 of CrPC?


Observation

1. Whether the respondent trustee is a ‘public servant’ covered under Section 2(c) of the PC Act?


To answer this question it was further divided into 2 different parts:

  1. Whether the ‘deemed university’ is covered under PC Act?
  2. Whether the respondent trustee is a public servant?
  1. In order to move forward, we shall follow the definition of a public servant in accordance with section 2(c), which essentially means that any person who is a Vice-Chancellor, any member of any governing body, professor, reader, lecturer, any other teacher or employee of any university, by whatever designation, is said to be a public servant. Further, the definition inter alia, covers any person whose services have been availed of by a University, or any other public authority in connection with holding or conducting examinations.
     
  2. The need arose here because the word 'university' under section 2(c) was not clearly developed by the legislative authority and the question arises whether the word 'university' also includes 'deemed to be university.' Therefore, we need to follow some ground rules about interpretation of the PC Act.
     
  3. To begin with we shall keep in mind the legislative intent while interpreting the provisions of the PC Act. In this regard, the PC Act was formulated to bring about transparency and honesty in public life, as indicated by its objectives and reasons. Furthermore, the intent of the PC Act is to eliminate corruption at different levels, either in public services or in corporate or in government services, and the PC Act is a social law, its provisions must be constructed in a liberal manner to advance the aim of the act. However, it can be said that the purpose of the act is to prevent corruption among public servants and to prevent exploitation of the honest among them. The PC Act is also a welfare statute which is thus not to be viewed in a derogatory way and should be given a wider definition.
     
  4. For any criminal law, the cardinal rule of interpretation is to apply the same strictly, unless there are any constitutional issues involved, and in cases of confusion, the advantage of the same will be in favor of the accused. Having said that, we must make it clear that strict interpretation does not automatically imply literal interpretation in all situations, but rather that the interpretation will involve the true importation of the terms in their normal context. Therefore, the duty of the court is when any anti-corruption law is being interpreted, then it should be worked out in such a fashion as its strength in the fight against the corruption. Thus, when there are two different situation, the court has to except the one that seeks to eradicate corruption to the one which seeks to perpetuate it.
     
  5. In the present case court has emphasised on this particular principle discussed above and the point of contention relates to whether ‘deemed to be university’ would be included within the ambit of the PC act. In this regard, the enactment of the PC act was meant to curb the social evils of the society. There is no dispute that the education sector, which is a very important service sector in the country has seen various scandals. In this content we have to interpret the meaning of university under section 2(c) of the PC Act. Further, the purpose of the PC act was to shift the focus from those who are traditionally called public officials, to those individuals who performed the public duty. Keeping this in mind it won't be wrong to say that a deemed university performance any less or any different public duty, than those performed by universities simplicitor.
     
  6. Coming to external reading helps the word University is etymologically derived from the Latin, universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means community of teachers and scholars. Black’s Law dictionary defines University as:
    An institution of higher learning, consisting of an assemblage of colleges united under one corporate organization and government, affording instruction in the arts and sciences and the learned professions. and conferring degrees.
     
  7. In Words and Phrases, the word Universities is defined as follows: Universities: Bodies politic and corporate have been known to exist as Far back at last as the time of Cicero, and Gaius traces them even to the laws of Solon of Athens, who lived some 500 years before.... And from time immemorial, as at the present day, this privilege of being a corporation or artificial body of individuals, with power of holding their property, rights, and immunities in common as a legally organized body and of transmitting the same in such body by an artificial succession different from the natural succession of the property of individuals has been considered a franchise which could not be lawfully assumed by any associated body without a special authority for that purpose from the government or sovereign power.
     
  8. Under the UGC Act, University is defined and recognized under Section 2(f) in the following manner: University means a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act, and includes any such institution as may, in consultation with the University concerned, be recoginsed by the Commission in accordance with the regulations made in this behalf under this Act.
     
  9. Coming to the conclusion of first question of the present case the question, whether trustee of the deemed university is a public servant or not. This, could be finally be answered with the help of the recent judgement of the Supreme Court, CBI vs Ramesh Gelli, when the question was that whether chairman, director and officers of a private bank can be classified as a public servant for prosecution under the PC Act. The court held that the act was introduced to widen the scope of the definition of public servant. Thus, any person who holds an office by virtue of which he is authorised or required to perform any public duty is a public servant. Whereas, public duty under PC act simply means to any duty discharged in which state, the public or community at large has any interest is called a public duty.
     
  10. As the fact of the present case clearly shows that the respondent allegedly was collecting certain extra amount over the prescribed fees on the pretext of allowing the students to fill up their examination forms. Therefore, paying the respondent the alleged amount was a condition precedent before filling up the forms, to appear for the examinations. Prima facie, a grave suspicion is made out that the respondent was rendering his service by dealing with the students and the examination aspect of the University. But a detailed appreciation of evidence is called for before one can reach a conclusion as to the exact position of the respondent vis-à-vis the University.

2. Whether the accused respondent can be discharged under Section 227 of CrPC?

  • Therefore, in this regard court observed that this case is not an appropriate one to have exercised the power under Section 227 to discharge the accused respondent herein, having regards to the facts and circumstances of the case.


Conclusion
Considering the scope and legislative intent behind enactment of the PC Act, the present judgment has been passed correctly without any doubts. As in India, there are 12,206 Universities under Section 2(f) and 12B of the UGC Act, as of 31.07.2019. While there are about 124 deemed universities across India, as of 23.06.2008 and the education sector in India has seen a general rise.

Further, there is no dispute that the education sector, which is a very important service sector in the country, has seen various scandals and in this context widening the scope of the PC Act was must required and was a necessity at this juncture of time as to protect the most sacred and most valuable institute of all the time from such high levels of corruption.

Thus, considering deemed to be university into the term university of the PC Act is a great step forward taken by the Indian judiciary. Further, widening the scope of the public servant by shifting the focus to the duty delivery by any officer that is of public nature must be seen as a pubic servant under the PC Act was also a great step forward.

Written By: Ayush Mittal
Email: [email protected] / Phone No.: +91-8700319650

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