Stating that “nothing moves without money”, the Supreme Court has expressed concern over the growing corruption in government machinery, particularly in the Income Tax, Sales Tax and Excise departments.
“It is very unfortunate that there is no control over corruption in the country. There is rampant corruption particularly in the department of Income Tax, Sales Tax and Excise Department. Nothing moves without money,” a Bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and T. S. Thakur said.
The apex court made the remarks while admitting an appeal filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) challenging the acquittal of an Income Tax Inspector Mohanlal Sharma by the Punjab & Haryana High Court.
Additional Solicitor General P. P. Malhotra, appearing for the CBI, submitted that Sharma was acquitted by the High Court despite the trial court holding him guilty of demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs. 10,000 from a person. He was earlier sentenced to one year RI by the trial court.
In a sarcastic vein, the Bench said “why not government legalise corruption so that a specific amount is fixed for every case. Let us say if a man wants his case to be settled, he can be asked to pay Rs. 2,500. That way every individual will know how much bribe he has to pay. There is no need for any bargaining by the official and the people will also know beforehand how much they have to pay without any worry.”
“Poor Government officials, we can’t blame them also because of the growing inflation,” the Bench said.
Sharma, who appeared in person, denied the allegation and said he was innocent and had been falsely implicated.
The Bench was not impressed with the argument and reiterated that corruption, particularly, was more rampant in the Income Tax, Sales Tax and Excise Departments.
The Bench then sought the views of senior counsel K. K. Venugopal on its suggestion to legalise corruption in the country.
However, the senior counsel said that it would be better if good moral values are imparted in every school of the country as part of their curriculum so that at least the future generation is free from the menace of corruption.
The case of the CBI was that Sharma had initially demanded an amount of Rs. 25,000 from the person failing which he threatened to re-open his assessment. The deal was allegedly struck finally for Rs. 10,000, when he was caught by the officials, the agency claimed.
In another case, the Bench also ticked off Senior Counsel Venugopal after he appeared in a cheque bounce case for an accused.
“Mr Venugopal we did not expect at least a counsel of your stature to appear for such people. Mahatma Gandhi was also an advocate, but he never appeared for such people,” Justice Katju observed.
The senior counsel initially shot back, saying, “My Lord, in that case I would be losing most of my clients!” a remark that sent the entire court hall into a burst of laughter.
Later, Mr. Venugopal said he would definitely keep the court’s suggestion in mind while appearing in future cases.