New Delhi, May 22 (PTI) In a setback to former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, the Delhi High Court on Friday declined to stay his conviction in a coal scam case to enable him to contest elections, saying it would not be apt to facilitate him to contest polls for any public office, till he is finally acquitted. Justice Vibhu Bakhru said the wider opinion was that persons charged with crimes ought to be disqualified from contesting elections to public offices and therefore, it would not be apt to stay Koda's conviction to overcome the disqualification incurred by him. Koda was held guilty of corruption and conspiracy, by a trial court in 2017, in allocation of a Jharkhand-based coal block to Kolkata-based company Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL).
He had moved the plea for stay of conviction to contest in the 2019 Jharkhand state assembly polls and the high court had reserved its verdict on his application on March 19. The high court said,'It would not be apposite to facilitate the appellant (Koda) to contest elections for any public office, till he is finally acquitted.' Justice Bakhru further said that Koda had a prima facie case for seeking stay but 'this Court is not persuaded to accept that his conviction is liable to be stayed on this ground alone'.
'The appellant (Koda) has been convicted of an offence after trial. One of the consequences of the conviction is that the appellant is not qualified to run for public office. While it is contended that this would lead to injustice and irreversible consequences, the Court must also consider wider ramifications of the same,' the high court said.
It further said that in recent times there has been an increasing demand that steps be taken for decriminalization of politics as 'a large number of persons with criminal antecedents or who are charged with heinous crimes stand for and are elected to Legislative Assemblies and the Parliament'. 'This has been a matter of some concern,' it said and added that even the 244th Law Commission report had recommended that a person against whom the charges have been framed be disqualified from standing for elections. 'Clearly, if the wider opinion is that persons charged with crimes ought to be disqualified from contesting elections to public offices, it would not be apposite for this Court to stay the appellant's conviction to overcome the disqualification incurred by him,' the high court said.
Koda had sought stay of his conviction on several grounds on of which was that the Prevention of Corruption Act was amended with effect from July 26, 2018 and as section 13(1)(d) of the statute has been deleted, the allegations of graft against him no longer constitute an offence and, therefore, he is 'entitled to be acquitted by virtue of the doctrine of beneficial construction'. On this, the high court said it 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'.
'Thus, there is no reason to assume that the legislative intent of repealing section 13 of the PC Act was to exclude the said offence from the scope of PC Act with retrospective effect,' it added.
The high court further said in the present circumstances, 'section 6(d) of the General Clauses Act is applicable and persons convicted of committing the offence of criminal misconduct under Section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act would not be absolved of their offences or the liability incurred prior to the PC Act coming into force'. 'It is also relevant to note that the offence of criminal misconduct as falling under the provisions of Section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act prior to its amendment, is not the same offence as is now covered under the amended provision,' it added.
Section 13(1)(d) of the law lays down the acts which would constitute criminal misconduct by a public servant.
Senior advocate R S Cheema and advocate Tarannum Cheema, appearing for CBI, opposed the plea and had said that the provisions of section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act did not necessarily require establishing that any illegal gratification had been demanded or paid to the public servant. The high court agreed with the CBI's submission, saying' demand of an illegal gratification is a necessary condition for convicting a public servant for an offence of misconduct'.
It also said that an offence under section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act 'could also be established as a standalone offence'. PTI HMP SKV RKS RKS RKS