Under this judgement, deemed universities will now be covered under the PCA. It has also widened the scope of the definition of public servant.
It is a matter of pride for the Gujarat Government to inform about a path-breaking judgement of the Supreme Court, having wide ramifications in the field of higher education. It was pronounced due to the litigation initiated by the Gujarat Government. It is as a result of a criminal case registered by the Anti-Corruption Bureau Gujarat, vide Prevention of Corruption Act, against the Trustee of Sumandeep Vidhyapith a “Deemed to be University”, Vadodara.
Vide this judgement, “Deemed Universities” will now be covered under the ambit of Prevention of Corruption Act. No distinction has been carved out between the University and “Deemed to be University”, so far as it relates to the term “Public Servant” as defined under Section – 2(c) (xi) of the Act 1988. It has also widened the scope of the definition of the “Public Servant” and has defined that even if they are not Public Servants; such persons are discharging “Public Duty” by providing and imparting education.
The respondent Trustee in the Board of “Deemed to be University” has also been categorised as a “Public Servant” under Section 2 (c)(xi) of the Prevention of Corruption Act-1988. It is also settled that the Trustee performs “Public Duty” within the meaning of Section – 2(b) of PC Act and is also a “Public Servant”. Public good is emphasised for defining “Public Servant”.
Subject to the incisive legal appraisal of the judgement, following organisations may henceforth, fall under the definition–Schools, Colleges, Hospitals (both Private and Public funded) and University including the Deemed Universities. Any academic, training skill or any type of institutes providing education services, NGOs which claim providing Public Services as part of their preamble (may be depending on the character of service).
The Supreme Court judgement is a sequel to a protracted legal battle that ensued after an offence got registered in 2017, against Sumandeep Vidhyapith (Deemed University, Vadodara, Gujarat) vide Prevention of Corruption Act -1988 under Section 7, 8, 10, 12, 13(1)(d), 13(2) against Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah, who is the President of the Sumandeep Vidhyapith University Trust and other officials. The University imparts Medical Education.
The accused were trapped red-handed with a bribe amount of Rs 20 lakh for permitting an MBBS student for appearing in the fourth semester exam. The accused were arrested on 28-02-2017.
During the search of the office chamber of the main Trustee of Sumandeep Vidhyapith, Mansukh Shah; post-trap, undated and unaccounted cheques worth Rs 1,01,57,42,360 of the parents of the students, Account Payee Cheques worth Rs 93,32,550 and personal Fixed Deposits worth Rs 43,63,70,961 were seized from the office chamber.
The matter has been reported to the Income Tax authorities and the Enforcement Directorate for enquiring into the financial violations and money laundering. ED Gujarat has attached property worth Rs 10.08 crore vide Prevention of Money Laundering Act. UGC and MCI have also been informed about the case. Two other criminal offences have been registered against Mansukhlal Shah vide Waghodia PS Cr 36/2017 and 118/2017 under PC Act and IPC Sections. The investigation is under progress.
The said case was charge-sheeted in the Sessions Court. The respondent, Mansukh Shah, challenged the charge-sheet in the Sessions Court on the grounds that he was not a “Public Servant”. The Sessions Court rejected the contention. The respondent challenged it in the Gujarat High Court and the High Court discharged Mansukh Shah.
Thereafter, the Anti-Corruption Bureau filed a SLP in the Supreme Court of India vide Cr. Appl. No. 989 of 2018, State of Gujarat Vs Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah. The said judgement setting aside the Gujarat High Court Judgement was pronounced on 27.04.2020 by Justice N V Ramana, Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Justice Ajay Rastogi. The Supreme Court has directed to commence the trial expeditiously.
The landmark judgement of the Supreme Court in the field of education will set the ball rolling in cleansing corrupt practices undertaken by such universities and various educational institutions of the country.
Keshav Kumar, IPS, is Director, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Gujarat