In a money laundering case, two former Delhi Jal Board officers were sentenced to three years in prison

In a money laundering case, two former Delhi Jal Board officers were sentenced to three years in prison

In a money laundering case brought by the Enforcement Directorate, a court in this city sentenced two former Delhi Jal Board officers to three years of hard labour. The court said it was adopting a "lenient perspective" in the case.

In December 2012, a CBI court sentenced Raj Kumar Sharma and Ramesh Chand Chaturvedi to five years and four years in prison, respectively, for stealing approximately Rs 47.76 lakh from the DJB, and the ED had filed a case against them in December 2009. The case was being heard by Special Judge Ashwani Kumar Sarpal.

Nevertheless, the anti-money laundering agency didn't submit the complaint in the current court until March 2021, more than 11 years after the CBI case's defendants had served their sentences.

After being found guilty of scheduled offences by the CBI court, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, the accused persons realised they had no defence in this prevention of money laundering Act (PMLA) matter, according to Special Judge Sarpal's ruling on Saturday. "The accused persons have pleaded guilty voluntarily," she added. The judge continued, "Taking a lenient view, both the accused persons are hereby sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment of three years and are also liable to pay a fine of Rs 5,000 each. They have already served sentences of five and four years, respectively, in connection with scheduled offences and have already used the misappropriated or cheated money for their defence in the CBI case and other circumstances.

Atul Tripathi, a special public prosecutor, participated in the case on behalf of the ED.

The judge noted that the accused's arguments—that they lost their government employment, had family responsibilities, had meagre incomes, and would be reformed after serving their sentences—could be "real grounds," but the court was "helpless" to impose a term less than three years.

The judge said that the applicable PMLA provision's three-year minimum sentence meant that even if the court adopted a "very liberal approach," at least three years of jail would still need to be imposed.

The judge said that when a minimum penalty is set down by a statute, the accused is not eligible for the benefits of the Probation of Offenders Act and the court has no authority to impose a sentence that is less than the minimum.

The court said that the defendants had essentially no defence left following their conviction in the CBI-registered case, which the Supreme Court supported, and that is why they opted to enter a guilty plea in the current complaint.

The court rejected the accused's claims that being imprisoned in the PMLA complaint case would constitute double jeopardy, stating that for double jeopardy to be prohibited, both the second prosecution and the resulting sentence must be for the same offence.

"The CBI case concerned crimes like fraud, misappropriation, and criminal misconduct committed by public servants while performing their duties, whereas the current complaint concerns the use, acquisition, concealment, or claiming of the proceeds of the same crimes, which amounts to money laundering and thus constitutes a different crime.

"The issue of double jeopardy does not come up in this circumstance, the court added.

Also, the court declined to modify the sentence that was given and endured in the CBI issue in the current complaint case.

There was no deadline for filing the current complaint case, so the court stated that the mere fact that ED has woken up after several years is not a ground to impose any sentence less than three years or to adjust this sentence with the earlier sentence endured in CBI matter. "No doubt this strong possibility of awarding concurrent sentences now has been snatched from the accused persons due to delayed complaint filed by ED, but there was no limitation for filing the present complaint case," the court said.

In 2008, Chaturvedi was the assistant metre reader and Sharma was a cashier for the Delhi Jal Board's west zone.

The two conspired between February 2008 and December 2008, the prosecution claims, distorting and fabricating the records before misappropriating money or defrauding DJB by failing to deposit around Rs 47.76 in the bank.

In June 2009, the CBI filed a FIR against the pair.