New Delhi, Oct 20: The Supreme Court has said that the menace of “systemic corruption” violates human rights and only in exceptional circumstances should the courts put on hold convictions in such cases, even as the civil society battles graft by the high and mighty.
“Corruption is not only a punishable offence but also undermines human rights, indirectly violating them,” said the apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla in a judgment that has only now been made available.
Justice Chauhan said: “Systemic corruption is a human rights’ violation in itself, as it leads to systematic economic crimes.”
The appellate courts, the judgment cautioned, should exercise their power of putting a sentence and conviction in abeyance only in exceptional circumstances and exercise such powers “with great circumspection and restraint”.
Even in exceptional circumstances, the court said that the power to suspend sentence and conviction should be exercised only when the convicted person satisfies the court “as regards the evil that is likely to befall him, if the said conviction is not suspended”.
“The (appellate) court has to consider all the facts as are pleaded by the applicant, in a judicious manner and examine whether the facts and circumstances involved in the case are such, that they warrant such a course of action by it,” the judgment said.
In the event of court staying the conviction then it must record its reasons for granting such a relief, the judgment said.
However, it made it clear that the conviction could not be stayed merely because, if it was not done, then an employee may lose his job.
The court said this while setting aside an Apr 8 order of Bombay High Court staying the conviction of Balakrishna Dattatray Lumbar who was convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act for possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. Kumbhar was Superintendent of Central Excise in Mumbai.
Reading the Bombay High Court order, the apex court said that the high court should not have passed the said order of suspension of sentence in a case involving corruption.
“It was certainly not the case where damage if done, could not be undone as the employee/respondent (Balakrishna Dattatray Kumbhar) if ultimately succeeds, could claim all consequential benefits,” the judgment said.