Twenty-four years after a branch manager of a cooperative bank in Raigad and his accomplice set on fire a branch of the bank to cover up a fraud, the Bombay High Court last week set aside probation granted to them.
The division bench of justice BH Marlapalle and justice UD Salvi said benefit under Probation of Offenders Act cannot be given to an accused convicted for an offence punishable with imprisonment for life.
The bench set aside the probation given to branch manager Vinod Vaidya, 60, and his accomplice Abdul Halim Ahmed Taj, because they were convicted for committing mischief aimed at destroying property, which attracted maximum punishment of life sentence.
In September 1986, while conducting audit of Poladpur branch of Mahad Cooperative Bank, the auditor found files pertaining to six loan disbursements missing.
Vaidya, who was the branch manager then, had sought time to produce the missing files.
On October 9, 1986, Vaidya asked the bank’s peon to keep the office door unlatched. His accomplices entered the office at night and set it on fire causing loss of Rs. 85,000.
Police complaints were filed and six persons, including Vaidya and the peon, were booked for various offences. The peon and another accused turned approver and testified against the rest of the accused.
On May 10, 1991, the Alibaug sessions court convicted three accused, including Vaidya and Taj, and acquitted one. Vaidya and the state government had approached the high court. While Vaidya challenged his conviction, the state sought enhancement of sentence awarded to the convicted accused and the benefit of probation.