High Court acquits two IPS officers in a 30-year-old alleged crime: one died already

[2/6, 13:23] Sekarreporter 1: High Court acquits two IPS officers in a 30-year-old alleged crime: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/high-court-acquits-two-ips-officers-in-a-30-year-old-alleged-crime/article30746188.ece
[2/6, 13:23] Sekarreporter 1: Judge records displeasure over 16-year delay in disposing of their appeals
The Madras High Court has finally given a quietus to two criminal appeals pending before it for the last 17 years in connection with an alleged crime that took place about 30 years ago. It set aside the conviction and sentence imposed by a trial court on two Indian Police Service (IPS) officers for having indulged in corrupt practices while procuring fire fighting centrifugal pumps for the Fire and Rescue Services Department between May 1989 and July 1992.
Justice M. Dhandapani began his verdict in the 2003 appeals with the prelude: “Two of the oldest cases on the file of this court, in the criminal side, which have been confined within the four walls serving their life imprisonment (generally undergone for a period of 14 years) and even beyond, are being released from incarceration by this judgement.” He also took note that one of the IPS officers E. Hariharane had died in the meantime but his wife had got impleaded since she wanted to prove his innocence.
[2/6, 13:24] Sekarreporter 1: Allowing her plea as well as that of the other IPS officer G. Veeraraghavan, the judge acquitted them of all charges levelled by Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department.
He held that a special court for hearing cases booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 had got carried away by figures portrayed by the prosecution instead of arriving at a reasonable and justifiable conclusion on the basis of materials available in black and white.
Recalling the history of the case, the judge pointed out that three government tenders were floated between 1989 and 1992 for purchase of high capacity portable pumps. While the first tender was floated by the now deceased IPS officer Hariharane during his tenure as Director of the Fire and Rescue Services department, the third tender was floated by Mr. Veeraraghavan who had succeeded to the post. However, the first tender was approved by the former and the other two by the latter.
After a Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption inquiry suspected foul play in the award of the three tenders, the CB-CID registered a case in September 1996 on the basis of a complaint lodged by the then Home Secretary.
Though a chargesheet was filed against four accused, the special court convicted only three, including the appellants and the contractor to whom the tender was awarded, and sentenced them to two to four years of rigorous imprisonment on April 4, 2003.
Completely in disagreement with the judgement passed by the trial court, Justice Dhandapani said, the tenders had been awarded only on the basis of a report of a technical committee which had evaluated the test pumps supplied by all four bidders. “Therefore, the stand of the respondent (CB-CID) that the pumps did not meet the requisite specification is contrary to materials available on record.” He also pointed out that those pumps were working well even after 10 years since purchase.
The judge also refused to give credence to the prosecution’s claim that members of the technical committee were coerced to give a positive report with respect to the test pumps submitted by a particular bidder. “May be the appellants, as head of the department, may have used a bit harsher way to accomplish the task of purchase at an early date. However, what should be borne in mind is that the purchase is for a department which has to be ready round-the-clock to save lives.
“In such a situation, the appellants stamping their administrative authority in a legal manner to get the work done at the earliest from the support staff could in no way be said to be a one man show to purchase an equipment of their choice to the detriment of the finance of the exchequer,” the judgment, running to 92 pages, read.

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