New Delhi: No leniency should be shown to those involved in diversion and misappropriation of essential commodities meant for public distribution in the country, said the Supreme Court on Friday.
"The courts cannot take lenient view in awarding sentence on the ground of sympathy or delay, particularly, if it relates to distribution of essential commodities under any scheme of the government intended to benefit the public at large," said a bench of justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi in a judgement.
The apex court gave the ruling while dismissing the appeal of a fair price shop owner, Sadhupati Nageswara Rao, of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, against his conviction and 6-month jail term under the section 409 (breach of trust) of the IPC for misappropriating 67.65 quintals of rice meant for public distribution under the "Food For Work Scheme (FFWS) in 2002.
He was also imposed a fine fine of Rs 1,000, failing which he was sentenced to further simple imprisonment for a month.
The sessions court had upheld the sentence and the state high court had refused to interfere with it, following which he had come to the apex court.
"The evidence also proves that there was entrustment of property to the accused. Considering the fact that the appellant was awarded imprisonment for 6 months along with a fine of Rs 1,000 only, we feel that the same is not excessive.
"On the other hand, we are of the view that persons dealing with the property of the government and entrusted with the task of distribution under FFWS, it is but proper on their part to maintain true accounts," said Justices Sathasivam, writing the judgement for the bench.