New Delhi: Observing that corruption corrodes the nation`s spine and makes its economy sterile, the Supreme Court has held that corrupt officials do not deserve any leniency even if the bribe amount is as low as Rs 50.
A bench of justices BS Chauhan and Dipak Misra said it would not be appropriate even for the Supreme Court to reduce the minimum punishment of six months prescribed for corrupt officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"The amount may be small but to curb and repress this kind of proclivity the legislature has prescribed the minimum sentence. It should be borne in mind that the corruption at any level does not deserve either sympathy or leniency.
"In fact, reduction of the sentence would be adding a premium. The law does not so countenance and, rightly so, because corruption corrodes the spine of a nation and in the ultimate eventuality makes the economy sterile," said Justice Misra, who wrote the judgement.
The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal of two Gujarat civic body officials - Narendra Champaklal Trivedi and Harjibhai Devjibhai Chauhan convicted for demanding and accepting Rs 50 as bribe from complainant Gajendra Jagatsinh Jadeja.
The convicts had sought a lenient view on the ground that the incident occurred 18 years ago and they had suffered tremendously, including the loss of their jobs. They urged the apex court to exercise its special powers under Article 142 to reduce the sentence.
The amount had been demanded by the duo at City Survey Office, Bhavanagar in Gujarat on March 15, 1994 for issuing certain property records.
The trial court convicted the duo and sentenced them to six months in jail. The sentence had been affirmed by the Gujarat High Court and the duo had come to the apex court challenging it.
Interpreting the Prevention of Corruption Act, the apex
court said under Section 7(1) of the Act, when an offence is proved, the public servant "shall be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine."
"Where the minimum sentence is provided, we think it would not be at all appropriate to exercise jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India to reduce the sentence on the ground of the so-called mitigating factors as that would tantamount to supplanting statutory mandate and further it would amount to ignoring the substantive statutory provision that prescribes minimum sentence for a criminal act relating to demand and acceptance of bribe.
"The appeals, being sans substratum, stand dismissed," the bench added.