Karnataka High Court
The Karnataka High Court recently refused to quash proceedings against former Karnataka Minister MR Seetharam, son of renowned educationist MS Ramaiah, for allegedly abetting the unaccounted routing of ₹50 lakh. [MR Seetharam v. State of Karnataka and Ors]
Justice M Nagaprasanna noted that the former Minister was not able to furnish a satisfactory explanation. The Court, therefore, decided against using its inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to quash the case.
In 2016, the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) registered a crime against TN Chikkarayappa, former managing director of Cauvery Neeravari Nigam, alleging offences punishable under Sections 13(1)(d), 13(1)(e) read with 13(2) of the of Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly possessing assets worth ₹3.58 crore disproportionate to his known sources of income.
During the course of the investigation, it was found that MS Ramaiah Education Society, of which Seetharam was the President, had issued a cheque worth ₹50 lakh in favour of MS Ramaiah Medical College. This, according to the Society’s reply to ACB’s notice, was an educational loan granted to Chikkarayappa’s daughter.
However, when the ACB sought details of the loan via another notice, the reply by the Society stated that it had become defunct and hence the records were unavailable.
Accordingly, the ACB filed a chargesheet against Seetharam. After a special court took cognisance of the offences against him, he moved the High Court challenging the same.
He contended that although he had signed the cheque as President of the Society, it was ultimately the Society that was responsible for issuing the cheque. Therefore, he argued that there was no fault on his part.
Further, he contended that by the time the second notice was sent by ACB, the Society had become defunct and, therefore, its records were untraceable.
On these grounds, he sought quashing of the proceedings against him.
On the other hand, the State contended that if a loan was granted by the Society to Chikkarayappa’s daughter, it would have found a mention in the returns filed by the Society, which it did not.
Further, it underlined that no documents were produced by the Society upon being issued notice. Calling the reply by the Society evasive, it contended that whether or not documents were unavailable due to the Society being defunct was a matter of trial.
Firstly, the Court said that the defence of the Society becoming defunct was taken only after the ACB sought details of the loan and not when the first notice was sent. It remarked that the records could not have vanished between the two notices that were only a week apart.
“The defence was never that the Society had become defunct when the reply was submitted on 26-04-2018 but when all the details were sought, a new swan song is sought to be sung, by the Society of which the petitioner was the President,” the Court said.
The Court then noted that the cheque was drawn in the name of the College with Seetharam’s signature, thus attracting the ingredients of Section 109 (punishment for abetment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against him.
Further, the Court said that when a case is shrouded with seriously disputed questions of fact, it would would not interfere in its jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC.
Accordingly, the Court rejected all the grounds urged by Seetharam and dismissed his plea.
Seetharam was represented by Advocate Prasanna Kumar.
The State was represented by Special Public Prosecutor BB Patil.