In a landmark judgment that puts corruption on par with heinous offences like murder, rape, dacoity, etc, the Supreme Court has ruled that FIRs registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) cannot be quashed by high courts even if the accused and the victim reach a compromise and the offender will have to face trial after completion of investigations. In some recent cases, persons accused of rape charges had offered to marry the victim to escape imprisonment. Such a settlement cannot be a valid ground for the rape accused to seek quashing of criminal proceedings against him, the court held while providing clarity on a raft of rulings on this issue. Similarly, any compromise between the victim and offender in relation to the offences under special statutes like PCA or the offences committed by public servants while working in that capacity, etc, cannot provide for any basis for quashing criminal proceedings involving such offences, the top court said, adding that the criminal cases having an overwhelmingly and pre-dominantly civil flavour stand on a different footing for the purposes of quashing, particularly the offences arising from commercial, financial, mercantile, civil, partnership or such like transactions or the offences arising out of matrimony relating to dowry, etc, or family disputes where the wrong is basically private or personal in nature and the parties have resolved their entire dispute.
Even companies must obey caste laws
In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has held that land belonging to scheduled castes or tribes (SC/ST) cannot be bought by companies and non-Dalits as such transactions are illegal and unconstitutional. The judgment came on a petition filed by the Rajasthan government challenging the state high courts view holding that such sale to a company was legal. The Rajasthan HC had allowed the Aanjaney Organic Herbal Pvt Ltds plea seeking a direction to the state authorities to recognise or grant mutation to a plot purchased by the company in 2005 from a person belonging to Scheduled Caste for R60,000. The HC had held that such a transfer was valid as the company being a juristic person does not have a caste and, therefore, any transfer made by a Scheduled Caste person would not be hit by Section 42(b) of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act that bars such transactions. However, the apex court set aside the HC order by observing that the reason for such general restrictions is not only to safeguard the interest of the members of SC/ST, but also to see that they are not being exploited by the members of non-Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. We are, therefore, of the view that the reasoning of the high court that the respondent being a juristic person, the sale effected by a member of Scheduled Caste to a juristic person, which does not have a caste, is not hit by Section 42 of the Act, is untenable, it said.
Call for fresh bid quashed
Setting aside the Orissa High Court judgment in the case of M/s Micro Hotel Pvt Ltd vs M/s Hotel Torrento Ltd, the Supreme Court has flayed the high court for directing the Orissa State Financial Corporation (OSFC) and Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Ltd to offer afresh the benefit of One-Time Settlement Scheme to M/s Hotel Torrento Limited (HTL), a defaulter of loans. The high court had also ordered dispossession of Micro Hotel Ltd (MHL), the auction purchaser, which had bought the mortgaged property under the procedure followed by the State Financial Corporation Act. OSFC had disbursed a term loan of R51.27 lakh in lieu of a subsidy of R23.30 lakh to HTL for establishing a hotel project at Janugarji, Balasore in Odisha. While HTL had defaulted in loan repayment, it was offered one-time settlement scheme number of times since 2006, but it did not avail it. Meanwhile, possession of the hotel was taken by OSFC in 2010 and the same was advertised for sale. The offer of MHL was found to be the highest at R7.74 crore and the company was given the possession of the land, building and machinery/furniture and fixtures in October 2010. HML then approached the HC seeking quashing of the cancellation of the OTS and sale letter, which were granted by the Division Bench (DB) of the Orissa High Court. This led HML to move the Supreme Court, which flayed the HC for overlooking 13 vital facts. We express our strong disapproval of the manner in which the DB of the HC has virtually sat in judgment over the judgment of another co-ordinate bench. We are of the view that the DB of the HC overlooked some vital facts reopened a list which has attained finality, due to non-compliance of the various directions issued by the co-ordinate Bench of the HC, the Supreme Court said.