The conviction of two public servants, who were booked for alleged fraud more than 30 years ago, and convicted 20 years ago, was upheld by the Bombay high court on Friday.
Twenty years ago, a designated Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) court in Pune had convicted and sentenced two former employees of the Sales Tax Department, Vitthal Pawar and Ramesh Kharat, to three years imprisonment. They were convicted for creating Government Provident Fund accounts in the name of fictitious employees of the department, and preparing false bills for drawing money from these accounts, thus cheating the state exchequer of Rs62, 120. The same year, they moved the court, appealing their conviction.
The designated ACB court had also convicted Ravindra Gaikwad and Rajendra Wagh from the Social Welfare Department, who had allegedly committed a similar fraud in that department. Proceedings against Gaikwad were dropped, as he expired during the pendency of their appeal.
The HC upheld the conviction and sentences handed over to Pawar and Kharat. Justice RC Chavan, however, reversed Wagh’s conviction, after finding evidence connecting him to the crime was deficient.
The main grounds for argument of the petitioner’s counsels, Revati Mohite-Dere and Prakash Naik, was that the prime witness in the case was a handwriting expert, the reliability of which they questioned. They contended that his evidence could not be the sole basis for conviction and argued that the science of handwriting identification was not perfect, and had received conflicting opinions.
Chavan, however, said that there were no grounds to deem the expert’s opinion invalid. The judge found that his evidence was corroborated by other evidence, which proved beyond doubt that Pawar had forged entries on orders and endorsement on cheques, whereas Kharat had presented the cheques for withdrawing amounts. The two will now have to complete their sentences.