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SC clears Sharief

New Delhi, Nov. 9: The Supreme Court today quashed corruption cases against C.K. Jaffer Sharief for allegedly violating rules in taking four personal staffers to London during his visit there for treatment and causing losses to the exchequer.

A bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said the former railway minister’s conduct, even if established, could at best be termed “improper” and contrary to departmental rules but could not be termed corrupt.

“As a minister, it was for the appellant to decide on the number and identity of the officials and supporting staff who should accompany him to London….

“If in the process, the rules or norms applicable were violated or the decision taken shows an extravagant display of redundance, it is the conduct and action of the appellant which may have been improper or contrary to departmental norms.

“But to say that the same was actuated by a dishonest intention to obtain an undue pecuniary advantage will not be correct,” Justice Gogoi said.

Sharief, who was rail minister from June 1991 to October 1995, had moved the apex after Delhi High Court rejecting his application for discharge in April this year.

In a June 1998 FIR, the CBI had alleged that Sharief pressured the MDs of Rail India Technical & Economics Services Ltd and Indian Railway Construction Co. Ltd. to approve the trips of his additional personal secretary B.N. Nagesh, stenographers S.M. Mastan and Murlidharan and domestic help Samaullah during his visit to London for treatment.

In July 2008, a trial court took cognisance of the “offence” punishable under Section 13 (2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Soon after, Sharief moved two subordinate courts for quashing the charges.

Interpreting the provisions of the act, the apex court said the “offence” is committed if a public servant obtains for himself or any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage by corrupt or illegal means, by abusing his position as a public servant or without any public interest.

The bench said Sharief, besides being minister, was head of the two PSUs at that time. “It also appears from the materials on record that the four persons while in London had assisted the appellant in performing certain tasks connected with the discharge of duties as a minister.

“It is difficult to visualise as to how… pecuniary advantage by any corrupt or illegal means or by abuse of the position of the appellant as a public servant can arise,” the bench said.

According to the court, it was for the appellant to decide on the number and identity of the officials and supporting staff who should accompany him if it was anticipated that he would be required to perform his official duties while in London.

“For the aforesaid reasons, we… quash the proceedings registered against the accused-appellant,” the apex court said.