General Assam Rifles Court Has The Jurisdiction To Try The Offences Under Prevention Of Corruption Act Regarding Its Members: SC
In the instant case, the respondents are members of the Assam Rifles. A sting operation was carried out by Mr. C.C. Mathew, a contractor. It was also followed by a telecast in Matrabhumi News, a Malayalam Television channel and ‘Tehelka.com’ on 24/25th September, 2014 alleging corruption in the Assam Rifles. Based on such allegations, a court of inquiry was convened at Srikona, Silchar, Assam by the Headquarters, East, Assam Rifles. A charge sheet was filed against the respondents by the convening authority for offence punishable under section7 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 with an alternate charge under section 49 of the 2006 Act. The complainants raised the following issues before the General Assam Rifles Court –
- No opportunity to cross examine the complainant was given to respondents during the Court of Inquiry or Summary of evidence.
- The composition of the General Assam Rifles Court was not in compliance with section 90 of the 2006 Act as the members did not have required qualifications to be the members of the GARC.
- The GARC cannot try a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The GARC, however, dismissed the preliminary objections. Aggrieved , the respondents filed a writ petition in Guwahati High Court , which ruled that GARC cannot decide on a matter under the PC Act involving a person who is governed by 2006 Act. Appeal against this judgment was dismissed by the division bench of Guwahati High Court, aggrieved by which the appellants have filed this appeal.
Dealing with the said matter, in the case UNION OF India Vs. RANJIT KUMAR SAHA AND ANR , the Supreme Court has held that the GARC has the jurisdiction to try cases under the PC Act against the members of Assam Rifles. The Supreme Court also noted that even though the Statutes appear to be in apparent conflict with each other pari materia, but should be construed harmoniously so far as possible. The Jurisdiction of GARC was under the section 55 of the 2006 Act should be treated as an exception to the Provisions of Corruption Act.