Delhi HC ruling on repealed graft law provision may affect CBI case against Hooda
A Delhi high court ruling on a repealed provision of the Prevention of Corruption Act could have a bearing on the corruption charges being heard by a CBI court against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru of the HC in a May 22 judgment ruled that persons convicted of committing the offence of criminal misconduct under Section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act would not be absolved of their offences or the liability as the legislative intent of repealing this section was not to exclude the said offence from the scope of Act with retrospective effect.
The HC gave its verdict on an appeal by former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda convicted of criminal misconduct under Section 13 in the coal scam who argued that he was liable to be acquitted in view of the enactment of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018. Since the misconduct as contemplated under Section 13 (1) (d) is no longer an offence punishable under the Act due to an amendment, the benefit of the same ought to be extended to him, the appellant contended.
CASE AGAINST HOODA
The CBI court hearing charges against Hooda and others in the Manesar land release case had stopped short of framing charges after the accused filed discharge applications disputing CBI’s move to bring into play Section 13 (1) (d) of Act which was repealed in 2018 when the law was amended by the Parliament. The court has not been able to frame charges against the accused and commence trial despite the fact that arguments on the charges got concluded in February.
HC RULING SIGNIFICANT
While the Supreme Court is yet to adjudicate the contentious issue of legitimacy of the repealed Section 13, the HC ruling is significant, legal experts say.
“This court is unable to accept that the PC (amendment) Act, 2018 seeks to repeal the provisions of Section 13 (1)(d) of the Act as it existed prior to July 26, 2018 ab initio. Mens rea (the intention and knowledge of wrongdoing) is an integral part of the offence under section 13(1)(d). There is no reason to assume that the legislative intent of repealing this section was to exclude the said offence from the scope of PC Act with retrospective effect,” the HC ruled. This court is unable to accept that if it is established beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had abused his position for securing a pecuniary advantage to Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Limited, the benefit of any beneficial construction of the PC (Amendment) Act, 2018 could be extended to him, the judge said.
MANESAR LAND RELEASE CASE
2007: About 600 acres acquired for HSIIDC for creating residential and recreational utilities in the Industrial Model Township (IMT), Manesar, was dropped from the acquisition process in 2007 on the orders of Hooda
2015: CBI registered a case under Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC against unknown persons
2018: CBI files charge-sheet in court, accuses Hooda, three former IAS officers, besides others of dropping acquisition proceedings to help real estate builders.