Systematic corruption is a rights violation leading to economic crimes, says Supreme Court

Corruption is not only a punishable offence but it also undermines human rights. Systematic corruption is a human rights violation in itself as it leads to systematic economic crimes, the Supreme Court has observed, cautioning courts against mechanically staying or quashing corruption cases.

“The appellate court in an exceptional case may put the conviction in abeyance along with the sentence, but such power must be exercised with great circumspection and caution. For this, the applicant must satisfy the court as regards the evil that is likely to befall him if the conviction is not suspended,” said a Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Ibrahim Kalifulla.

Writing the judgment, Justice Chauhan said: “The court has to consider all facts as are pleaded by the applicant in a judicious manner and examine whether the facts and circumstances are such that they warrant such a course of action by it. Additionally, the court must record in writing its reasons for granting such relief.” Conviction could not be stayed only on the ground that an employee might lose his job if the relief was not given.

In the instant case, Balakrishna Dattatrya Kumbhar of Maharashtra was convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under the Prevention of Corruption Act. It was alleged that he possessed assets disproportionate to the disclosed source of his income — Rs. 7, 64,368. The Bombay High Court stayed the conviction and sentence after he pleaded that he might lose his job if the conviction was sustained. The Maharashtra government, through the CBI, filed the present appeal challenging the High Court order.

No merit in respondent’s plea

Allowing Maharashtra’s appeal, filed through the CBI, and setting aside the High Court order, the Bench said the ruling would certainly not be sustainable in law if examined in the light of a catena of judgments of this court. The High Court should not have suspended sentence in a corruption case. It was certainly not the case where damage, if done, could not be undone as the employee could claim all consequential benefits if he ultimately succeeded. “The submission made on behalf of the respondent that this court should not interfere with the impugned order at such a belated stage has no merit. For, this court, by its order on July 9, 2009, has already stayed the operation of the impugned order.”

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