Corruption is malignant magnification of a malady menacing the morality of
men - Hon'ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana
(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.
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
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:
- Whether the ‘deemed university’ is covered under PC Act?
- Whether the respondent trustee is a public servant?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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