Manoj Mitta, TNN Apr 1, 2012, 06.13AM IST
NEW DELHI: Defence minister A K Antony had better come up with a “reasonable excuse” for waking up to corruption allegations in the Tatra deal two years after they had been brought to his notice. For, he would otherwise be liable for a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to six months.
The belated registration on Friday of a CBI case related to Tatra indicates Antony violated a legal duty when the bribery allegations had first been brought to his notice in writing by his party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad in 2009 and then verbally by Army chief Gen V K Singh in 2010.
His prolonged failure to take action on the issue till it came out in the open flies in the face of the duty cast on “every person” by Section 39 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
When anybody becomes “aware of the commission of or of the intention of any other person to commit” any of the range of offences listed in Section 39 CrPC, he “shall … forthwith give information” to the nearest magistrate or police officer of “such commission or intention”.
The offences which every person is thus required to report immediately include those related to “illegal gratification”, which come under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Violations of Section 39 CrPC are punishable under Section 176 of the IPC, which prescribes a maximum six months is jail. It penalizes whoever is “legally bound” to give any information relating to “the commission of an offence or… for the purpose of preventing the commission of an offence”.
The only loophole available to Antony is to cite some “reasonable excuse” for his failure to refer the Tatra issue immediately to the CBI. But then, Section 39 CrPC is so stringently worded that it casts a “burden” on the person concerned to prove the reasonableness of his excuse for not performing his duty.
It is doubtful whether Antony can cite the absence of written complaint by Singh as a “reasonable excuse” for not acting promptly. The Army chief, too, is liable under Section 39 CrPC for assuming he can leave it to Antony to initiate the legal process. Since the law requires him to report the matter, he cannot cite his communication to his superior as a “reasonable excuse”.