Is the offer to bribe a RTI applicant covered under Prevention of Corruption Act?
Special Judge Dharmesh Kumar Sharma has rejected a CBI closure report in a case involving two Delhi Jal Board (DJB) engineers. DJB Assistant Engineer Sushil Kumar Jain and Junior Engineer P. K. Sharma were accused of bribing an RTI activist to prevent him from seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The applicant had knowledge of alleged irregularities in the installation of pumps and that the engineers reportedly called him several times and insisted on his withdrawing his application and also purportedly offered to pay him Rs.1 lakh. A CBI team laid a trap following the complaint by the applicant and arrested the two engineers on 29 September, 2012 while allegedly giving the bribe to the complainant.
The applicant sought information on submersible and mono-block pumps installed from 2004 to 2011 and later produced a note from the applicant conceding that he had received the RTI information as sought for.
In its closure report, the CBI claimed that the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) was not applicable in the case since the bribe was paid to a private individual and not a public servant. Quoting Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act which prescribes punishments for public servants taking bribe, the CBI claimed that Sections 7 and 11 of the PCA would not apply as the applicant was not a public servant although performing public duties.
Special Judge Dharmesh Kumar Sharma rejected the closure report filed by CBI holding that the acts of commission and/or omission attributed to the accused persons prima facie touch the sphere of section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC read with section 13 (1) (d) of the PC Act. The Court directed the CBI to continue the probe.
It is a case of reverse trap where public servants allegedly paid bribed a private individual as disclosure might have opened up their misdeeds.