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Bribe case falls through, six years after goof-up

Posted on August 11, 2017 from Karnataka ι Report #140168

A corruption plaint was lodged with the lokayukta police against an officer, Kavitha, at the Bengaluru Deputy Commissioner’s office. They, in turn, registered an FIR against Kavitha. The entrustment mahazar (the mahazar conducted before a trap) too was in the name of Kavitha. But the cops ended trapping a person named Sujatha, instead.

After a good six years, recently a Lokayukta Special Court finally acquitted Sujatha. Interestingly, the entire goof-up was over a bribe accusation of Rs 300, and the police couldn’t prove it against Sujatha or Kavitha. In the case, they saw five Lokayukta Special Court judges hear the case between 2011 and 2017. A complaint had been lodged by one Anegundi Mohammed Azam, alleging that Kavitha, a case worker at the DC’s officer, was demanding Rs 300 to issue certificate of pharmacy licence.

A trap had been laid to catch her red-handed. On 29 January, 2011, a team of lokayukta police officials carried out the ‘trap’ and called it successful. They had recovered the money from a table, which was of reportedly of Sujatha. From thereon, Sujatha was shown as an accused even as the complaint, FIR and entrustment mahazar were all in the name of Kavitha.

The trial and acquittal

However, the trial exposed the dark side of the probe.

The trial found that there was no pending work to charge Sujatha in the case. Then deputy commissioner, MK Ayyappa, who was the sanctioning authority, told the court that there was no delay in issuing authentication of diploma in pharmacy and registered pharmacy certificate from his officer. He had said that the file had been put up the same day and the certificate was ready by 3 45 pm. The trap had taken place at 5.05 pm. He had denied charges of misuse of office too. Then, the demand charge too was not proved. Though a video recorder, a tape recorder had been issued, it remained inconclusive if the demand had been made by Kavitha or Sujatha.

Further, the lokayukta police’s claim of the trap occurring at 5.05 pm too came under the court’s scanner. It was found that the team had started from lokayukta headquarter in MS Building at 4.50 pm. The IO had claimed that it had taken 10 minutes for him to read the entrustment mahazar copy. If the same was with the complainant, shadow witnesses, the time to complete initial formality would have been at least 5.30 pm (30 minutes from 4 50 pm), the defense had argued.

Besides reading the entrustment copy, the team which had left at 4.50 pm was to come down from 4th floor of the building to ground floor, then gather trap vehicles and parties, travel to civil court complex and from there, were to walk to DC’s office. With all these, the 5.05 pm claim had been contradicted.

Further, the complainant had passed away during the trial. With this, the issue - if the accused officer was Kavitha or Sujatha – remained inconclusive.

The court finally acquitted Sujatha on Saturday in the Rs 300 bribe case. The court observed that the prosecution had failed to prove the case and had said that the case had suffered from non-application of mind by the sanctioning authority in granting sanction to prosecute Sujatha.

“It is a classic case of misconceived trap. The DC, who accorded sanction himself gives a report that there was no delay, misuse of office or misconduct, yet blindly accorded sanction to prosecute Sujatha, knowing fully well that the complaint was against Kavitha, and there was no misconduct against any of the official in his office. The investigating officer, even after such report closes his eyes and had blindly presented his chargesheet. Diligent work from the police could have avoided hardship, the official faced for no fault of hers,” CG Sundar, Sujatha’s advocate told after acquittal.

Lokayukta police sources said that a decision to challenge would be taken after seeking a legal opinion in the case.