The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by the CBI challenging a Delhi High Court order that had quashed charges of alleged corruption and conspiracy against a former central excise commissioner posted here. The apex court upheld the November 2013 judgment of the high court which had discharged former excise commissioner Anup Kumar Srivastava from the case after allowing his plea against the alleged charges framed against him by the trial court in a graft case. A bench, comprising Justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal, said that intercepted telephonic conversations, on which CBI was heavily relying, lacked object and purpose to prove his complicity in the alleged offense and there was no evidence that he had demanded or accepted a bribe.
“The high court was well within its powers while quashing the order framing charge as there was no material on record to connect the respondent (Srivastava) with the offence in question,” the bench said while dismissing CBI’s appeal. The CBI had in February 2012 charge-sheeted Srivastava and others for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy under the IPC and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, claiming they had obtained “illegal gratification” by corrupt means in a raid conducted here in 2011. Srivastava had denied the allegations leveled against him by the probe agency.
The agency had alleged that a team of Delhi Central Excise had conducted an illegal raid at the premises of Dilip Aggarwal and Anand Aggarwal here and Srivastava, through a private person, had negotiated for the illegal gratification of Rs 60 lakh in lieu of not taking any action against them. It had claimed that the private person, who had acted as a middleman, was in regular touch with the officials of the excise department as well as owners of the premises and had received Rs 20 lakhs in cash along with a cheque of Rs 20 lakhs as security for the remaining bribe amount. The CBI had also alleged that Srivastava was in touch with the alleged middleman as well.
While assailing the high court’s verdict, CBI had argued in the apex court that the order was based on “assumption and hypothesis” and ignored the crucial evidence in the form of intercepted telephonic conversations which proved the involvement of Srivastava in the alleged offence. Srivastava’s counsel had contended before the top court that there was no evidence against the former officer and he was falsely implicated in the case. “There is no direct or circumstantial evidence to prove that the respondent (Srivastava) has demanded any illegal gratification and has accepted or obtained any such illegal gratification,” the apex court said.