whether the respondent­ who is allegedly a trustee in the Sumandeep Charitable Trust which established and sponsors the said University (‘Deemed to be University’) is a ‘public servant’ covered under Section 2(c) of the PC Act, can be broken up into two parts: first, whether the 7 8 ‘Deemed University’ is covered under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and secondly, whether the ‘respondent­trustee’ can be termed as ‘public servant’ under Section 2(c)(xi) of the PC Act? ii. Whether the accused­respondent can be discharged under Section 227 of CrPC?

1
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL No.989 OF 2018
State of Gujarat …APPELLANT
Versus
Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah …RESPONDENT
JUDGMENT
N. V. RAMANA

  1. Corruption is the malignant manifestation of a malady menacing
    the morality of men. There is a common perception that
    corruption in India has spread to all corners of public life and is
    currently choking the constitutional aspirations enshrined in the
    Preamble. In this context, this case revolves around requiring
    this Court to facilitate making India corruption free.
  2. This Appeal is from the impugned judgment and final order
    dated 02.02.2018, passed by the High Court of Gujarat at
    Ahmedabad in Criminal Revision Application (against Order
    passed by Subordinate Court) No. 1188 of 2017.
  3. The respondent herein is allegedly a Trustee of a trust called the
    Sumandeep Charitable Trust, which established and sponsors
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    REPORTABLE
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    ‘Sumandeep Vidyapeeth’, a deemed University, which is the
    institution concerned herein.
  4. Brief facts necessary for the disposal of the case are that an FIR,
    being I­ER No. 3 of 2017, dated 28.02.2017 was filed by one Dr.
    Jasminaben, wife of Dilipbhai Devda, before the Vadodara City
    A.C.B. Police Station against four accused persons including the
    present respondent. Broadly, the allegations were that the
    complainant’s elder daughter was admitted to the MBBS Course
    in the above­mentioned Deemed University in the year 2012. Her
    daughter’s course fee was completely paid up as per the annual
    fee slab. In the year 2017, her elder daughter while filling up her
    final examination form, was asked to meet the respondent
    herein. On meeting, the respondent, in conspiracy with others,
    had communicated that the complainant’s husband had to
    further pay Rupees Twenty Lakhs for allowing the complainant’s
    daughter to take the examination. Further, it is alleged that the
    accused­respondent had communicated that they can deposit a
    cheque and the same would be returned on payment of cash,
    considering that demonetization had recently taken place. In lieu
    of the same, cheques were deposited with the accused2
    3
    respondent herein. Thereafter, the complainant, who was
    unwilling to pay the amount, filed the FIR.
  5. After following the necessary procedure, phenolphthalein powder
    was applied to the currency notes and were delivered to accused
    Vinod alias Bharatbhai Savant (the alleged companion/agent of
    respondent through whom the demand was facilitated).
    Thereafter, accused Vinod confirmed the receipt of money to the
    respondent over the telephone. The aforesaid incriminating
    conversation stood intercepted in an audio video camera set up
    by the complainant. Further, separate raids were conducted
    whereupon several undated cheques drawn in the name of the
    institution worth more than Rs. 100 crores and certain fixed
    deposits were recovered.
  6. The chargesheet came to be filed on 25.04.2017 against several
    accused persons, including the present respondent for various
    offences under Sections 7, 8, 10 and 13 (1)(b) and 13(2) of the
    Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 [hereinafter referred to as the
    ‘PC Act’] read with Section 109 of Indian Penal Code, 1860
    [hereinafter referred to as the ‘IPC’],.
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  7. The respondent herein filed a discharge application under
    Section 227 of CrPC before the District and Sessions Court in
    Special ACB Case No. 2 of 2017. The District and Sessions Court
    by an order dated 29.11.2017, rejected the application.
  8. Aggrieved by the rejection of the aforesaid application, the
    respondent herein filed a criminal revision application, being
    Criminal Revision Application No. 1188 of 2017, before the High
    Court of Gujarat, at Ahmedabad. The High Court, by the
    impugned judgment and order dated 02.02.2018, allowed the
    revision and discharged the accused­respondent herein.
  9. Aggrieved by the impugned order, the State of Gujarat is in
    appeal before this Court.
  10. The senior counsel on behalf of the appellant submitted that the
    PC Act is a comprehensive statute which was passed to prevent
    corruption and therefore, should be construed liberally as the
    legislature intended to include the abovementioned acts, which
    harm the public at large, within the ambit of the PC Act. The PC
    Act is a social legislation intended to curb illegal activities of
    public servants and is designed to be construed so as to advance
    its objectives. The Courts, while keeping the public interest in
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    mind, must ensure that technicalities should not defeat the
    object sought to be achieved.
  11. The counsel further argued that public function need not be the
    exclusive domain of the State; private institutions such as
    universities may also perform a public function. The counsel
    placed reliance upon Modern Dental College & Research
    Centre v. State of Madhya Pradesh., (2016) 7 SCC 353 and
    Janet Jeyapaul v. SRM University., (2015) 16 SCC 530 to state
    that imparting education to the public is a welfare activity and
    hence can be called as an activity done for public good.
    Considering the UGC guidelines, the counsel submitted that
    Deemed Universities effectively discharge the public function of
    imparting education to the public.
  12. Moreover, the counsel placed reliance upon the case of K.
    Veeraswami v. Union Of India, (1991) 3 SCC 655 to submit
    that there is no requirement of having a master­servant
    relationship between the competent authority and the public
    servant. The PC Act does not define public servant, rather, it
    provides categories of the same. The counsel further stated that
    the lack of any authority to grant the sanction cannot result in
    non­prosecution. In such situations, there is no necessity for
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    obtaining sanction. In any case, the sanction was obtained from
    the Charity Commissioner out of abundant caution.
  13. Lastly, the counsel submitted that the respondent was
    discharging a public duty. In the present facts, it was a precondition to pay the respondent before obtaining an examination
    pass, although he was never formally assigned this task or role.
    The counsel therefore concluded that there need not be a
    requirement of positive command under the law to discharge his
    public duty. In fact, there may not be any formal requirement of
    providing remuneration or payment in lieu of the service
    rendered.
  14. On the contrary, the counsel on behalf of the respondent
    submitted that it is a settled principle of law that a criminal
    statute has to be construed strictly. In cases where two
    interpretations are possible, the Courts must lean towards the
    construction which exempts the subject from penalty rather than
    the one which imposes the same.
  15. The counsel further vehemently argued that the respondent,
    being a trustee, cannot be termed as a Public Servant. There is
    no allegation in the charge sheet that the respondent was holding
    any position or post in the institution which was Deemed to be
    University or that he was engaged by the institution for rendering
    6
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    any service. In light of the above fact, the High Court was correct
    in discharging the respondent as he does not qualify within the
    ambit of Section 2 (c)(xi) of the PC Act.
  16. Moreover, the counsel argued that the High Court has correctly
    held that the relevant provision as laid down under Section 2 (c)
    (xi) is inapplicable in the present case as the said Institution was
    a “deemed to be university”. Finally, the counsel argued that no
    valid or proper sanction was obtained for prosecuting the
    respondent. The sanction obtained from the Charity
    Commissioner is not valid as he cannot be considered as a
    Competent Authority, since he does not have the power to remove
    or appoint a Trustee.
  17. Having heard the learned counsel for the parties, the questions to
    be answered herein arei. Whether the respondent­trustee is a ‘public servant’
    covered under Section 2(c) of the PC Act?
    ii. Whether the accused­respondent can be discharged
    under Section 227 of CrPC?
  18. The first question before us, that is, whether the respondent­who
    is allegedly a trustee in the Sumandeep Charitable Trust which
    established and sponsors the said University (‘Deemed to be
    University’) is a ‘public servant’ covered under Section 2(c) of the
    PC Act, can be broken up into two parts: first, whether the
    7
    8
    ‘Deemed University’ is covered under the provisions of the
    Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and secondly, whether the
    ‘respondent­trustee’ can be termed as ‘public servant’ under
    Section 2(c)(xi) of the PC Act?
  19. Before we proceed further, we need to observe the relevant
    provisions under the PC Act:
    2(c.). “public servant” means­

    (xi) any person who is a Vice­Chancellor
    or member of any governing body,
    professor, reader, lecturer or any other
    teacher or employee, by whatever
    designation called, of any University and
    any person whose services have been
    availed of by a University or any other
    public authority in connection with
    holding or conducting examinations;
  20. Simply speaking, any person, who is a Vice­Chancellor, any
    member of any governing body, professor, reader, lecturer, any
    other teacher or employee, by whatever designation called, of any
    University, is said to be a public servant. Further, the definition
    inter alia, covers any person whose services have been availed of
    by a University, or any other public authority in connection with
    holding or conducting examinations.
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  21. However, the interpretative necessity arises in this case due to
    the fact that the ambit of the term ‘University’, as occurring
    under Section 2(c)(xi) of the PC Act, has not been clearly defined
    and the question arises as to whether the same covers ‘deemed to
    be University’ as well. In this regard, we need to observe certain
    ground rules on interpretation, concerning the PC Act.
  22. There is no gainsaying that nations are built upon trust. It is
    inevitable that in a democracy one needs to rely on those with
    power and influence and to trust them of being transparent and
    fair. There is no doubt that any action which is driven by the selfinterest of these powerful individuals, rather than the public
    interest, destroys that trust. Where this becomes the norm,
    democracy, the economy and the rule of law, all take a beating,
    ultimately putting the whole nation at risk. Corrupt societies
    often spring from the examples set at the highest levels of
    government, but small­scale corruption can be equally insidious.
    In this regard, the PC Act was formulated to bring about
    transparency and honesty in public life, as indicated by its
    objects and reasons. We need to keep the aforesaid legislative
    intention in mind while interpreting the provisions of the PC Act.
    9
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  23. Learned senior counsel for the appellant­State, vehemently
    contended that the PC Act, being a welfare legislation, cannot be
    narrowly interpreted, and rather, that a broad interpretation
    needs to be provided for the same [refer State of Madhya
    Pradesh v. M. V. Narasimhan, (1975) 2 SCC 377; M.
    Narayanan Nambiar v. State of Kerala, (1963) Supp. (2) SCR
    724].
  24. The golden rule of interpretation for any penal legislation is to
    interpret the same strictly, unless any constitutional
    considerations are involved, and in cases of ambiguity, the
    benefit of the same should enure in favour of the accused. Having
    said so, we need to clarify that strict interpretation does not
    necessarily mean literal interpretation in all cases, rather the
    interpretation should have regards to the genuine import of the
    words, taken in their usual sense [refer Commissioner of
    Customs (Import), Mumbai v. Dilip Kumar & Company, (2018)
    9 SCC 1].
  25. However, we are concerned herein with interpreting the
    provisions of the PC Act. There is no dispute that corruption in
    India is pervasive. Its impact on the nation is more pronounced,
    due to the fact that India is still a developing economy. Presently,
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    11
    it can be stated that corruption in India has become an issue
    which affects all walks of life. In this context, we must state that
    although anti­corruption laws are fairly stringent in India, the
    percolation and enforcement of the same are sometimes criticized
    as being ineffective. Due to this, the constitutional aspirations of
    economic and social justice are sacrificed on a daily basis. It is in
    the above context that we need to resolve the issues concerned
    herein.
  26. In Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh, (2012) 3 SCC
    64, this Court observed:
    “68. Today, corruption in our country not only
    poses a grave danger to the concept of
    constitutional governance, it also threatens the
    very foundation of Indian democracy and the
    Rule of Law. The magnitude of corruption in
    our public life is incompatible with the concept
    of a socialist, secular democratic republic. It
    cannot be disputed that where corruption
    begins all rights end. Corruption devalues
    human rights, chokes development and
    undermines justice, liberty, equality, fraternity
    which are the core values in our preambular
    vision. Therefore, the duty of the Court is
    that any anti­corruption law has to be
    interpreted and worked out in such a
    fashion as to strengthen the fight against
    corruption. That is to say in a situation
    where two constructions are eminently
    reasonable, the Court has to accept the one
    that seeks to eradicate corruption to the
    one which seeks to perpetuate it.”
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    12
    (emphasis supplied)
  27. We shall accordingly have due regard to the aforesaid principles
    while interpreting the provisions herein. The point of contention
    relates to whether a deemed University would be included within
    the ambit of the PC Act, particularly under Section 2(c)(xi) of the
    same, where the word used is “University”. The learned senior
    counsel for the appellant­State submits that the word
    “University” as used in Section 2(c)(xi) of the Act, must be
    purposively interpreted. An institution which is “deemed to be a
    University” under the University Grants Commission Act, 1956
    [UGC Act] plays the same role in society as a “University”. These
    institutions have the common public duty of granting degrees,
    which are ultimately qualifications recognized in society. As such,
    an institution which is “deemed to be University”, such as the
    institution in the present case, is included within the ambit of the
    term “University” used under the Act.
  28. On the other hand, the learned senior counsel for the
    respondent, supporting the decision of the High Court in the
    impugned judgment, submits that the term “University” as used
    in Section 2(c)(xi) of the PC Act, does not include an institution
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    which is “deemed to be a University”. The learned senior counsel
    submitted that the inclusive definition of a “University” under the
    UGC Act is only for the limited purpose of funding, and an
    institution which is “deemed to be a University” is not a
    University for any other purpose. The learned senior counsel
    submitted that the same is abundantly clear from the provisions
    of the UGC Act, which makes a distinction between a
    “University”, and an institution “other than a University” which is
    “deemed to be a University”.
  29. At this juncture, it would be apposite to look to the holding of the
    High Court in the impugned judgment on this point:
    “27.…However, the fact remains that either as a
    trustee or in any other capacity, even if applicant is
    connected with Sumandeep Vidyapith, which is not
    a regular University getting Government grant in
    any manner whatsoever and thereby, when there is
    no dispute that it is only a Deemed University, the
    submissions recorded herein above on behalf of the
    applicant makes it clear that such Deemed
    University cannot considered as a regular
    University and thereby, applicant cannot be
    termed as a public servant and therefore,
    irrespective of such change report after the
    complaint, it is clear and obvious that applicant
    cannot be termed as a public servant.”
    (emphasis supplied)
  30. The counsel for the respondent has contended that the term
    “University” needs to be read in accordance with the Section 2(f),
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    3 and 23 of the UGC Act, wherein a “deemed University” is
    different from a “University”, stricto sensu. However, we do not
    subscribe to such contention for the reasons provided below.
  31. The contention of the respondent is that the term “University”
    needs to be read in accordance with the UGC Act, wherein only
    those Universities covered under the Section 2(f) of the UGC Act
    are covered under the PC Act. Such an interpretation, by
    importing the technical definition under a different Act may not
    be feasible herein. It is a settled law that technical definitions
    under one statute should not be imported to another statute
    which is not in pari materia with the first. The UGC Act and the
    PC Act are enactments which are completely distinct in their
    purpose, operation and object. The preamble of the UGC Act
    states that it is ‘an Act to make provision for the co­ordination and
    determination of standards in Universities, and for that purpose, to
    establish a University Grants Commission’. On the other hand,
    the PC Act is an enactment meant to curb the social evil of
    corruption in the country. As such, the extension of technical
    definitions used under one Act to the other might not be
    appropriate, as the two Acts are not in pari materia with one
    another.
    14
    15
  32. The above principle of law was recently applied by a 3­Judge
    Bench of this Court in Bangalore Turf Club Ltd. v. Regional
    Director, ESI Corporation, (2014) 9 SCC 657, where an
    argument was advanced by counsel that the interpretation of the
    term ‘shop’ under the ESI Act should be determined in light of
    the definition of the same under the relevant Shops and
    Commercial Establishments Act. Negativing this contention of the
    counsel, the Court went on to hold that:
    “52. An argument raised by the appellants herein is
    the issue relating to the “doctrine of pari materia”. It is
    contended that since the ESI Act does not define the
    term “shop”, the said definition may be ascertained in
    the light of the definitions under the relevant Shops
    and Commercial Establishments Act as enacted by
    the respective State Legislatures, since the purpose
    and object of both the enactments are one and the
    same.
  33. For the above purpose, it would be necessary to
    look into the concept of “doctrine of pari materia” and
    further ascertain whether the given statutes are in
    fact pari materia with the ESI Act. It is settled law
    that two statutes are said to be in pari materia with
    each other when they deal with the same subjectmatter. The rationale behind this rule is based on the
    interpretative assumption that words employed in
    legislations are used in an identical sense. However,
    this assumption is rebuttable by the context of the
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    statutes. According to Sutherland in Statutes and
    Statutory Construction, Vol. 2, 3rd Edn.:
    “Statutes are considered to be in pari
    materia to pertain to the same subjectmatter when they relate to the same
    person or things, or to the same class of
    persons or things, or have the same
    purpose or object.”
  34. It can be concluded that though the ESI Act,
    the 1948 Act and the 1961 Act deal with labour
    and workmen, in essence and spirit they have a
    different scope and application. The Acts do not
    appear to have any overlap in their fields of
    operation and have mutually exclusive schemes.
    Therefore, the argument that the Acts are pari
    materia with each other, must fail.
  35. This Court must also address the issue that
    arose in the course of the arguments that the
    word “shop” has been used in the impugned
    notifications as well as the 1948 Act and the 1961
    Act and therefore assistance may be taken from
    the latter statutes to interpret the notification.
    This argument, in light of the above discussion,
    does not appeal to us…”
    (emphasis supplied)
    It is for the same reasoning that we are of the opinion that the
    High Court’s reliance on the judgment of this Court in Orissa
    16
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    Lift Irrigation Corporation Ltd. v. Rabi Sankar Patro, (2018)
    1 SCC 468 was not appropriate, as the same was with reference
    to enactments relating to administration/regulation of
    universities, and is unconnected with the objects of the PC Act.
  36. This brings us to the conclusion that purport of UGC Act cannot
    be borrowed under the PC Act, and that an independent meaning
    needs to be provided for the term “University” as occurring under
    the PC Act. In India, there are 12,206 Universities under Section
    2(f) and 12B of the UGC Act, as of 31.07.2019. While there are
    about 124 deemed universities across India, as of 23.06.2008.
    The education sector in India has seen a general rise. There is no
    dispute that the education sector, which is a very important
    service sector in the country, has seen various scandals. In this
    context, we need to understand whether a deemed university
    would be covered within the ambit of the Section 2(c)(xi) of the PC
    Act.
  37. On a perusal of Section 2(c) of the PC Act, we may observe that
    the emphasis is not on the position held by an individual, rather,
    it is on the public duty performed by him/her. In this regard, the
    legislative intention was to not provide an exhaustive list of
    authorities which are covered, rather a general definition of
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    ‘public servant’ is provided thereunder. This provides an
    important internal evidence as to the definition of the term
    “University”.
  38. The use of ‘any’ is critical in our understanding as to the term
    University. We are aware of the line of authorities, wherein this
    Court has reduced the impact of term ‘any’ to not mean ‘every’
    [See Hira Devi v. District Board, Shahjahanpur, (1952) S.C.R.
    1122]. However, we cannot accept such a view as the context in
    which the present dispute emanates, differs from the above.
  39. Our attention was also drawn to the notes on clauses of
    Prevention of Corruption Bill dated 20.02.1987. Clause 2 of the
    Notes on Clauses in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part II,
    Section 2, clarifies the legislative intent, wherein it was
    commented as under:
    “2. This clause defines the expressions used in the
    Bill. Clause 2(c) defines ‘public servant’. In the
    existing definition the emphasis is on the
    authority employing and the authority
    remunerating. In the proposed definition the
    emphasis is on public duty. The definition of
    ‘election’ is based on the definition of this expression
    in the Penal Code, 1860.”
    (emphasis supplied)
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  40. Additionally our attention is drawn to the legislative debates
    which took place prior to the enactment of the PC Act. It was
    uniform across the party line that the purpose of preventing
    corruption in educational institutions was emphasised.
  41. Coming to external aids of interpretation, the word “University” is
    etymologically derived from the Latin, universitas magistrorum et
    scholarium, which roughly means “community of teachers and
    scholars”. Black’s Law dictionary defines “University” as:
    “An institution of higher learning, consisting of an
    assemblage of colleges united under one corporate
    organization and government, affording instruction in
    the arts and sciences and the learned professions.
    and conferring degrees. See Com. v. Banks, 198 Pa.
  42. 48 Atl. 277.”
  43. Law Lexicon, defines the same as:
    “A corporation of teachers or assemblage of learned
    men or colleges for teaching the higher branches of
    learning: ;and having power to confer degrees.
    University. A place where all kinds of literature are
    universally taught. (Tomlin’s Law Dic.) See also Act
    VIII of 1904, S.2, Cl. (2)(c).
    A University, of normal type, may be described in
    popular language as an organization of teachers and
    learners, settled in a fixed locality, for the purpose of
    nature study, in which the body of teachers has
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    authority to attest the proficiency of the learners, by
    bestowing upon them titles, signifying that they also
    possess the qualifications and are admitted to the
    rank of those that are learned in the particular
    branch of knowledge in which they are taught.
    The term ‘University’ is usually understood to mean a
    body incorporated for the purpose of learning, with
    various endowments and privileges. Such bodies were
    anciently founded by papal bull or charter, later by
    royal charter or act of Parliament. University is a
    corporation aggregate­Aggregation of corporationsThe corporations are usually colleges or schools.”
  44. Third Edition of Halsbury’s, Volume 13, page 707, at para 1441
    deals with the term “Universities”. According to the same:
    “The word “university is not a word of art and,
    although the institutions to which it refers are readily
    identifiable, precise definition is difficult. The
    essential features of a university seems to be that it
    was incorporated as such by the sovereign power.
    Other attributes of a university appear to be the
    admission of students from all parts of the world, a
    plurality of masters, the teaching of one at least of
    the higher faculties, namely theology, law or
    philosophy, which in some definitions are regarded as
    identical, and medicine, provision for residence, and
    the right to confer degrees, but possession of these
    attributes will not make an institution a university in
    the absence of any express intention of the sovereign
    power to make it one.
    Incorporation was anciently affected by papal bull or
    charter later by royal charter or Act of Parliament.”
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  45. In Words and Phrases, Permanent Edn. (West Publishing
    Company), the word “Universities” is defined as follows:
    “Universities:
    Bodies politic and corporate have “been known to
    exist as Far back at last as the time of Cicero, and
    Gaius traces them even to the laws of Solon of
    Athens, who lived some 500 years before…. And from
    time immemorial, as at the present day, this privilege
    of being a corporation or artificial body of individuals,
    with power of holding their property, rights, and
    immunities in common as a legally organized body
    and of transmitting the same in such body by an
    artificial succession different from the natural
    succession of the property of individuals has been
    considered a franchise which could not be lawfully
    assumed by any associated body without a special
    authority for that purpose from the government or
    sovereign power.”
  46. Under the UGC Act, University is defined and recognized under
    Section 2(f) in the following manner:
    “University” means a University established or
    incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial
    Act or a State Act, and includes any such institution
    as may, in consultation with the University
    concerned, be recoginsed by the Commission in
    accordance with the regulations made in this behalf
    under this Act.
  47. A ‘deemed to be University’ is recognized under Section 3 of the
    UGC Act, in the following manner:
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    Application of Act to institutions for higher
    studies other than Universities
  48. The Central Government may, on the advice of the
    Commission, declare by notification in the Official
    Gazette, that any institution for higher education,
    other than a University, shall be deemed to be a
    University for the purposes of this Act, and on such a
    declaration being made, all the provisions of this Act
    shall apply to such institution as if it were a
    University within the meaning of clause (f) of section
    1. As discussed earlier, the object of the PC Act was not only to
      prevent the social evil of bribery and corruption, but also to make
      the same applicable to individuals who might conventionally not
      be considered public servants. The purpose under the PC Act was
      to shift focus from those who are traditionally called public
      officials, to those individuals who perform public duties. Keeping
      the same in mind, as rightly submitted by the learned senior
      counsel for the appellant­State, it cannot be stated that a
      “Deemed University” and the officials therein, perform any less or
      any different a public duty, than those performed by a University
      simpliciter, and the officials therein.
  49. Therefore, for all the above reasons, we are of the opinion that
    the High Court was incorrect in holding that a “Deemed
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    University” is excluded from the ambit of the term “University”
    under Section 2(c)(xi) of the PC Act.
  50. Having come to the above conclusion, in the present case, the
    pivotal question is whether the appellant­trustee in the Board of
    ‘Deemed to be University’ is a ‘public servant’ covered under
    Section 2(c) of the PC Act. Recently, this Court in the case of CBI
    v. Ramesh Gelli, (2016) 3 SCC 788, dealt with the question as to
    whether Chairman, Directors and officers of a private bank before
    its amalgamation with a public sector bank, can be classified as
    public servants for prosecution under the PC Act. While dealing
    with the aforesaid proposition of law, the Court analysed the
    purpose and scope of the PC Act and made the following
    observations:
    “15. From the Statement of Objects and Reasons of
    the PC Bill it is clear that the Act was intended to
    make the anti­corruption law more effective by
    widening its coverage. It is also clear that the Bill
    was introduced to widen the scope of the
    definition of “public servant”. Before the PC Act,
    1988, it was the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947
    and Sections 161 to 165­A in Chapter IX IPC which
    were governing the field of law relating to prevention
    of corruption. Parliament repealed the Prevention of
    Corruption Act, 1947 and also omitted Sections 161
    to 165­A IPC as provided under Sections 30 and 31 of
    the PC Act, 1988. Since a new definition of “public
    23
    24
    servant” is given under the PC Act, 1988, it is not
    necessary here to reproduce the definition of “public
    servant” given in Section 21 IPC.
  51. The above definition shows that under subclause (viii) contained in Section 2(c) of the PC
    Act, 1988, a person who holds an office by virtue
    of which he is authorised or required to perform
    any public duty, is a public servant. Now, for the
    purposes of the present case this Court is required to
    examine as to whether the Chairman/Managing
    Director or Executive Director of a private bank
    operating under licence issued by RBI under the
    Banking Regulation Act, 1949, held/holds an office
    and performed/performs public duty so as to attract
    the definition of “public servant” quoted above.”
    (emphasis supplied)
  52. This Court in the case of P.V. Narasimha Rao v. State
    (CBI/SPE), (1998) 4 SCC 626, has clarified the word “office” in the
    following manner:
    “61. … The word ‘office’ is normally understood to
    mean ‘a position to which certain duties are attached,
    especially a place of trust, authority or service under
    constituted authority’. (See Oxford Shorter English
    Dictionary, 3rd Edn., p. 1362.) In McMillan v. Guest,
    (1942) 1 All ER 606 (HL), Lord Wright has said:
    ‘…The word “office” is of indefinite
    content. Its various meanings cover four
    24
    25
    columns of the New English Dictionary,
    but I take as the most relevant for
    purposes of this case the following:
    “A position or place to which
    certain duties are attached,
    especially one of a more or less
    public character.”’
    In the same case Lord Atkin gave the following
    meaning:
    ‘…“an office or employment which was
    subsisting, permanent, substantive
    position, which had an existence
    independent of the person who filled it,
    which went on and was filled in
    succession by successive holders.”’
    In Statesman (P) Ltd. v. H.R. Deb, AIR 1968 SC 1495
    and Mahadeo v. Shantibhai, (1969) 2 SCR 422 this
    Court has adopted the meaning given by Lord Wright
    when it said:
    ‘An office means no more than a position
    to which certain duties are attached.’”
  53. This Court in the case of Manish Trivedi v. State of Rajasthan,
    (2014) 14 SCC 420 further elucidated upon the ambit of the
    phrase “public servant” by stressing upon the relevance of
    “office”, wherein the emphasis was upon the duties performed.
    The Court noted therein:
    “19. The present Act (the 1988 Act) envisages
    widening of the scope of the definition of the
    expression “public servant”. It was brought in force to
    purify public administration. The legislature has used
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    26
    a comprehensive definition of “public servant” to
    achieve the purpose of punishing and curbing
    corruption among public servants. Hence, it would be
    inappropriate to limit the contents of the definition
    clause by a construction which would be against the
    spirit of the statute. Bearing in mind this principle,
    when we consider the case of the appellant, we have
    no doubt that he is a public servant within the
    meaning of Section 2(c) of the Act. Clause (viii) of
    Section 2(c) of the present Act makes any person,
    who holds an office by virtue of which he is
    authorised or required to perform any public duty,
    to be a public servant. The word “office” is of
    indefinite connotation and, in the present context,
    it would mean a position or place to which certain
    duties are attached and has an existence which is
    independent of the persons who fill it.”
    (emphasis supplied)
  54. In order to appreciate the amplitude of the word “public servant”,
    the relevance of the term “public duty” cannot be disregarded.
    “Public duty” is defined under Section 2(b) of the PC Act, which is
    reproduced below:
    2(b) ‘public duty’ means a duty in the discharge of
    which the State, the public or the community at large
    has an interest.
  55. Evidently, the language of Section 2(b) of the PC Act indicates
    that any duty discharged wherein State, the public or community
    at large has any interest is called a public duty. The first
    explanation to Section 2 further clarifies that any person who
    falls in any of the categories stated under Section 2 is a public
    26
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    servant whether or not appointed by the government. The second
    explanation further expands the ambit to include every person
    who de facto discharges the functions of a public servant, and
    that he should not be prevented from being brought under the
    ambit of public servant due to any legal infirmities or
    technicalities.
  56. In the present case, on a prima­facie evaluation of the statements
    of the Gaurav D. Mehta (the Vice­Chancellor); Mr.
    Pragneshkumar Rameshbhai Trivedi (account officer of
    Sumandeep Vidhyapith University) and other witnesses it
    appears that the present respondent was the final authority with
    regard to the grant of admission, collection of fees and donation
    amount.
  57. The charge sheet specifically discloses that the respondent
    allegedly was collecting certain extra amount over the prescribed
    fees on the pretext of allowing the students to fill up their
    examination forms. Therefore, paying the respondent the alleged
    amount was a condition precedent before filling up the forms, to
    appear for the examinations. Specifically, in the complaint, it was
    alleged that the respondent had demanded an amount of Rupees
    Twenty Lakhs to be paid to the co­accused Bharat Savant, failing
    27
    28
    which the daughter of the complainant would not have been
    permitted to appear in the examination. In our opinion, the fact
    that there were a large number of cheques which were found
    during the raid is more than sufficient to establish a grave
    suspicion as to the commission of the alleged offence.
  58. The respondent has vehemently stressed upon the fact that he is
    admittedly a trustee of the “Sumandeep Charitable Trust” and
    has no connection with the “Sumandeep University”. But, it
    ought to be noted that the courts below have failed to analyze the
    connection between the trust and the University, as well as the
    relationship of the respondent with the university. Prima facie, a
    grave suspicion is made out that the respondent was rendering
    his service by dealing with the students and the examination
    aspect of the University. But a detailed appreciation of evidence
    is called for before one can reach a conclusion as to the exact
    position of the respondent vis­à­vis the University.
  59. At this stage, we may note that the jurisdiction of this Court, with
    regards to Section 227 of CrPC, is limited and should not be
    excercised by conducting roving enquiries on the aspect of factual
    inferences. This Court, in Union of India Vs. Prafulla Kumar
    28
    29
    Samal, 1979 (3) SCC 4, had an occasion to consider the scope of
    Section 227 CrPC and it held as under:
    “7. Section 227 of the Code runs thus:
    “If, upon consideration of the record of
    the case and the documents submitted
    therewith, and after hearing the
    submissions of the accused and the
    prosecution in this behalf, the Judge
    considers that there is not
    sufficient ground for proceeding against
    the accused, he shall discharge the
    accused and record his reasons for
    so doing.”
    The words “not sufficient ground for proceeding
    against the accused” clearly show that the Judge is
    not a mere post office to frame the charge at the
    behest of the prosecution, but has to exercise his
    judicial mind to the facts of the case in order to
    determine whether a case for trial has been made out
    by the prosecution. In assessing this fact, it is not
    necessary for the court to enter into the pros and cons
    of the matter or into a weighing and balancing of
    evidence and probabilities which is really his function
    after the trial starts. At the stage of Section 227, the
    Judge has merely to sift the evidence in order to find
    out whether or not there is sufficient ground for
    proceeding against the accused. The sufficiency of
    ground would take within its fold the nature of the
    evidence recorded by the police or the documents
    produced before the court which ex facie disclose
    that there are suspicious circumstances against
    the accused so as to frame a charge against him.”
  60. Further, in Sajjan Kumar v. Central Bureau of Investigation,
    2010 (9) SCC 368, this Court, inter alia, observed :
    29
    30
    “21. On consideration of the authorities about the
    scope of Sections 227 and 228 of the Code, the
    following principles emerge:

    (ii) Where the materials placed before the court
    disclose grave suspicion against the accused which
    has not been properly explained, the court will be fully
    justified in framing a charge and proceeding with the
    trial…”
  61. Therefore, in line with the aforesaid proposition, this case is not
    an appropriate one to have exercised the power under Section
    227 to discharge the accused­respondent herein, having regards
    to the facts and circumstances of the case. However, it should be
    noted that this judgment is rendered for a limited purpose, and
    we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case. The
    trial court is directed to proceed with the case expeditiously.
  62. Accordingly, the impugned judgment of the High Court is set
    aside. Appeal is allowed.
    …………………………….J.
    (N.V.Ramana)
    …………………………….J.
    (Mohan M. Shantanagoudar)
    NEW DELHI;
    April 27, 2020.
    30
    31
    REPORTABLE
    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
    CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
    CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). 989 OF 2018
    STATE OF GUJARAT ….APPELLANT(S)
    VERSUS
    MANSUKHBHAI KANJIBHAI SHAH ….RESPONDENT(S)
    J U D G M E N T
    Ajay Rastogi, J.
  63. I have had the advantage of going through the draft
    judgment proposed by my esteemed Brother Mr. Justice N.V.
    Ramana. I entirely agree with the conclusions which my erudite
    Brother has drawn, based on the remarkable process of
    reasoning. I would all the same like to add some of my views, not
    because the judgment requires any further elaboration but
    31
    32
    looking for the question of law that emerged of considerable
    importance.
  64. The question that emerged for consideration in the present
    appeal is whether the respondent­trustee in the board of ‘deemed
    to be university’ is a ‘public servant’ covered under Section 2(c )
    (xi) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988(hereinafter being
    referred to as “Act 1988”).
  65. Zero tolerance towards corruption should be the top­notch
    priority for ensuring system based and policy driven, transparent
    and responsive governance. Corruption cannot be annihilated
    but strategically be dwindled by reducing monopoly and enabling
    transparency in decision making. However, fortification of social
    and moral fabric must be an integral component of long­term
    policy for nation building to accomplish corruption free society.
  66. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 was amended in
    1964 based on the recommendations of the Santhanam
    Committee. Although, there are provisions in Chapter IX of the
    Indian Penal Code to deal with public servants and those who
    abet them by way of criminal misconduct, they were found to be
    inadequate to deal with the offence of corruption effectively.
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    33
  67. To make the anti­corruption laws more effective, the
    Prevention of Corruption Bill was introduced in the Parliament.
    The object and statement of reasons of the Act, 1988 was
    intended to make the existing anti­corruption laws more effective
    by widening their coverage and by strengthening the provisions.
    The Act 1988 caters to its wide scope by providing for “different
    paths to liability, some of which are especially suited to, but by
    no means confined to, those who hold public office.”
  68. There are number of judicial precedents dealing with the
    definition and meaning of corruption. The simplest definition of
    corruption is, any act or omission by a public servant for
    securing pecuniary or other material advantage directly or
    indirectly for himself, his family or friends. It will be apposite to
    refer the provisions of the Act, 1988 relevant for the purpose ad
    infra:­
    (c) “public servant” means—
    (i)­(x)…..
    (xi) any person who is a Vice­Chancellor or member of any
    governing body, professor, reader, lecturer or any their teacher
    or employee, by whatever designation called, of any
    University and any person whose services have been availed of
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    34
    by a University or any other public authority in connection with
    holding or conducting examinations;
    (xii)…”
    (Emphasis supplied)
  69. It will be relevant to note that prior to the Act, 1988,
    employees of the university, professors, readers, etc. were not
    covered within the definition of ‘public servant’ as it was
    contained in Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code. Thrust of
    submission of the learned counsel for the respondent is that
    respondent herein who is a trustee of deemed to be university
    which cannot by any stretch of imagination be construed to be a
    public servant and would not fall within the ambit of Section 2(c )
    (xi) of the Act, 1988. The High Court although has accepted the
    contention of the learned counsel for the respondent on the said
    premise but it needs to be examined in the context in which the
    term “University” has been referred to under Section 2(c )(xi) of
    the Act, 1988.
  70. The UGC Act was established by an Act of 1956 to make
    provisions for the coordination and determination of standards of
    education in universities. “University” has been defined under
    Section 2(f) of the UGC Act and those who are declared as
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    35
    ‘deemed to be university’, a declaration has to be notified under
    Section 3 with restrictions which has been imposed upon the
    deemed to be university as referred to under Section 23 of the
    UGC Act. The relevant Sections of the UGC Act are as infra:­
    “Section 2(f) – “University” means a University established or
    incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a
    State Act, and includes any such institution as may, in
    consultation with the University concerned, be recognized by the
    Commission in accordance with the regulations made in this
    behalf under this Act.
    Section 3 ­ The Central Government may, on the advice of the
    Commission, declare by notification in the Official Gazette, that
    any institution for higher education, other than a University,
    shall be deemed to be a University for the purposes of this Act,
    and on such a declaration being made, all the provisions of this
    Act shall apply to such institution as if it were a University
    within the meaning of clause (f) of Section 2.
    Section 23 – No institution, whether a corporate body or not,
    other than a University established or incorporated by or under a
    Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act shall be entitled to
    have the word “University” associated with its name in any
    manner whatsoever. Provided that nothing in this Section shall,
    for a period of two years from the commencement of this Act,
    apply to an institution which, immediately before such
    commencement, had the word “University” associated with its
    name.”
  71. “University” under Section 2(f) of the UGC Act is established
    either in the Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act. At the
    same time, such of the institutions for higher education other
    than the University created under the statutory enactment, after
    being declared by the Central Government by notification in the
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    36
    Official Gazette, shall be deemed to be university for the purposes
    of this Act and all provisions of the UGC Act shall apply to such
    institutions as if it were a university within the meaning of clause
    (f) of Section 2 of the Act.
  72. It cannot be lost sight of that the Act, 1988, as its
    predecessor that is the repealed Act of 1947 on the same subject,
    was brought into force with avowed purpose of effective
    prevention of bribery and corruption. The Act of 1988 which
    repeals and replaces the Act of 1947 contains a definition of
    ‘public servant’ with vide spectrum in clause (c ) of Section 2 of
    the Act, 1988, so as to purify public administration. The objects
    and reasons contained in the Bill leading to passing of the Act
    can be taken assistance of, which gives the background in which
    the legislation was enacted. When the legislature has introduced
    such a comprehensive definition of “public servant” to achieve the
    purpose of punishing and curbing the growing menace of
    corruption in the society imparting public duty, it would be
    apposite not to limit the contents of the definition clause by
    construction which would be against the spirit of the statute.
    36
    37
  73. By introduction of Section 2(c )(xi) of the Act, 1988, any
    person or member of any governing body with whatever
    designation called of any university has been included in the
    definition of “public servant” and any university includes all
    universities regardless of the fact whether it has been established
    under the statute or declared deemed to be university under
    Section 3 of the UGC Act. It is true that the distinction has been
    pointed out by the Parliament under the provisions of the UGC
    Act for consideration and determination of standards of
    education in universities, but in my view, no distinction could be
    carved out between the university and deemed to be university so
    far it relates to the term ‘public servant’ as defined under Section
    2(c ) (xi) of the Act 1988.
  74. In construing the definition of ‘public servant’ in clause (c )
    of Section 2 of the Act 1988, the Court is required to adopt an
    approach as would give effect to the intention of the legislature.
    The legislature has, intentionally, while extensively defining the
    term ‘public servant’ in clause (c ) of Section 2 of the Act and
    clause (xi) in particular has specifically intended to explore the
    word ‘any’ which includes all persons who are directly or
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    38
    indirectly actively participating in managing the affairs of any
    university in any manner or the form. In this context, the
    legislature has taken note of ‘any’ person or member of “any”
    governing body by whatever designation called of “any” university
    to be termed as ‘public servant’ for the purposes of invoking the
    provisions of Act 1988.
  75. Heavy reliance was placed on the judgment in Orissa Lift
    Irrigation Corporation Vs. Rabi Sankar1 wherein, the scope
    and parameters were examined by this Court under which the
    deemed to be university would regulate its educational fora under
    the regulations framed by the UGC for the purpose of imparting
    education by the deemed to be university.
  76. But so far as the present case is concerned, the question for
    consideration is the term ‘any’ university in the broader spectrum
    to curb corruption in the educational institutions as referred to
    under Section 2(c )(xi) of Act 1988 and the legislature in its
    wisdom has referred to the word “any university” which clearly
    mandates the university referred to and controlled by its
    statutory mechanism referred to under Section 2(f) and deemed
    to be university under Section 3 of the UGC Act.
    1 2018(1) SCC 468
    38
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  77. In my considered opinion, the view expressed by the High
    Court is unsustainable in law and all the questions raised on
    merits are left open to the respondent to urge during the course
    of the trial. The appeal is accordingly allowed. The judgment of
    the High Court of Gujarat dated 2nd February 2018 is hereby set
    aside. No costs.
    ……………………………………J.
    (AJAY RASTOGI)
    NEW DELHI
    APRIL 27, 2020
    39