Judgment on ‘corrupt’ spouse divides lawyers
Lawyers are divided over the judgment of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, which states that spouse of a public servant being tried in a corruption case who has benefited from hisher ill-gotten wealth is equally guilty.
Recently, Justice VR Kingaonkar rejected the appeal filed by Dhule-based couple who had challenged their conviction in a disproportionate assets case.
Bhaskar Wagh, cashier in the minor irrigation department of the Zila Parishad, was sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 3 lakh. His wife, Mangala Wagh was also convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act for aiding and abetting the crime and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment and Rs 12 lakh fine.
Justice Kingaonkar held that Mangala was guilty of abetment in a disproportionate assets case for allowing her husband to acquire properties in her name.
Referring to a Supreme Court judgment, which stated that there was no bar to prosecute a non-public servant for abetment of the offence, Justice Kingaonkar upheld that even Mangala, who was not a government officer, can be charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Special public prosecutor of the CBI Ejaz Khan welcomed the judgment and said corrupt officers usually purchase property in the name of their spouse. “Such punishment would act as a deterrent,” said Khan.
Senior defence advocate Dipesh Mehta fears the judgment could be “grossly misused” by authorities.
The Supreme Court ruling cannot be generalised, as it was specific to that particular case, Mehta said. In a male-dominated society, several women are still expected to obey their husbands’ orders, especially when it comes to signing documents. “If the judgment is generalised then it would be misused by the authorities to harass women who may not even be aware of their husbands’ deeds. After examining all the cases, it would have to be decided whether to book the spouse as a co-accused,” added Mehta.