Death of main accused under Prevention of Corruption Act does not result in abatement of trial

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Prakash D. Naik, J. answered a reference made by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in a case where the co-accused, who were not public servants, were tried under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 (PC Act) even after the death of main accused, a public servant.

The main accused (now deceased) was a postman in the Post office, and thus a public servant. He was alleged to have misappropriated to his own use, along with other co-accused, several shares of a private company which he was to deliver in furtherance of his official duty. The main accused died before framing of charges and hence criminal proceedings against him stood abated. The remaining co-accused (not public servants) were however tried by the Sessions Judge for the charges framed under PC Act along with charges under Penal Code. The main issue inter alia contended by the respondents was that since the main accused was dead, the Sessions Court was divested of the powers of the trial of the co-accused under PC Act.

The High Court referred to various decisions of the Supreme Court and other High Courts and finally reached a conclusion that there was no infirmity in the trial of the co-accused under the Act even after the death of the main accused who was the public servant. The Court perused Section 4(3) of the PC Act which provides that a Sessions Judge was vested with powers of trying non-public servants for charges under the Act along with charges framed under other statutes. The Court noted the fact that none of the co-accused being tried under PC Act was a public servant and the main accused who was the only public servant was dead. However, having noted thus, the Court observed that death of the main accused does not result in abatement of trial as regards the other co-accused. While answering the reference in affirmative, the Court directed the learned Sessions Judge to proceed with the case in accordance with the law. [State of Maharashtra, In re, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1125, dated 04-06-2018]

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