New Delhi: Two accused, who in a sting operation in November 2003, caught on camera then Minister of State for Environment and Forest Dilip Singh Judev (since dead) accepting money for facilitating a work will face trial on the charge of criminal conspiracy and abetment of corruption.
Judev, then minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee led-NDA government, while accepting the money from those who carried the sting operation, had famously said: “Paisa Khuda Toh Nahi Par Khuda Ki Kasam Khuda Se Kam Nahi (Money is not god but by god, is no less than god)”. The report of this sting operation was published in a national English newspaper Nov 16, 2003.
The sting operation was allegedly inspired by Amit Jogi, son of the then Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi. The trial of other accused is already going on.
The deck for the trial of two accused – Rajat Prasad and Arvind Vijay Mohan – was cleared after apex court bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice N.V.Ramana said: “A crime does not stand obliterated or extinguished merely because its commission is claimed to be in public interest.”
Speaking for the bench, Justice Gogoi said: “Any such principle would be abhorrent to our criminal jurisprudence.”
“At the same time the criminal intent behind the commission of the act which is alleged to have occasioned the crime will have to be established before the liability of the person charged with the commission of crime can be adjudged.”
Whether the operation was really an exercise in public interest to expose graft, or giving of the bribe was with “expectation of favours in connection with mining projects, are questions that can only be answered by the evidence of the parties which is yet to come. Such facts cannot be a matter of an assumption”, the court said.
The court also cautioned to the dangers of such sting operations being misused as it said: “The inherent possibilities of abuse of the operation as videographed, namely, retention and use thereof to ensure delivery of the favours assured by the receiver of the bribe has to be excluded before liability can be attributed or excluded. This can happen only after the evidence of witnesses is recorded.”
The court said this while holding justified the Delhi High Court’s May 30, 2008 order refusing to interfere in the trial court order to frame charges against the accused.