He defended the case - and prosecuted it too

June 12th, 2009 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rana Ajit
New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) The chief minister proposed but the state government was not quite willing to dispose. As it happened in the Supreme Court recently when a lawyer had to double up as prosecution and defence counsel because the government did not send its attorney in a 1988 corruption case, ordered by the late Haryana chief minister Devi Lal.

In 1988, Devi Lal had ordered that a corruption case be registered against Mota Ram, a ward boy in a primary health centre at a village in Sirsa district, who had accepted a bribe from a candidate to the same post. But, lost in the labyrinthine lanes of the law and time, even a chief minister’s order against a corrupt staffer lost urgency.

And with no lawyer from the Haryana government to oppose Mota Ram’s appeal, challenging his conviction by a Sirsa court that sentenced him to a jail term of a year in February 1989, the Supreme Court faced the piquant situation of his counsel arguing the government’s view as well.

Dismissing Mota Ram’s appeal and ordering him to undergo the year-long jail term, a bench of Justices Mukundakam Sharma and B.S. Chauhan rued that the Haryana government did not even bother to deploy its counsel in the court to oppose the appeal of the corrupt government official.

“In spite of the service, none appeared for the state,” rued the bench, referring to the fact that though it issued notice to the state government on Mota Ram’s appeal, the state government ignored it and abdicated its legal responsibility.

The bench further noted: “The court eventually went through the record of the case with the assistance of the learned counsel for the appellant.”

It was the responsibility of the state government’s lawyer to assist the court in examining the records against Mota Ram, but instead the task went to his own counsel Rajesh Sharma who was legally supposed to merely defend his client.

It had all started in 1987 when Mota Ram met Om Prakash in Sirsa district’s Nohgarh village. Om Prakash was also keen on the post of a ward boy in a primary health centre and paid Mota Ram a bribe of Rs.2,000.

Terming the sum too meagre, Mota Ram took another Rs.4,000 from him. But there was no job forthcoming and Mota Ram began returning the money in small instalments of Rs.100 and Rs.200.

By mid 1998, he had returned Rs.4,700 and refused to pay up the remaining Rs.1,300. At this, Om Prakash shot off a missive to then chief minister Devi Lal, who ordered that a corruption case be registered against Mota Ram.

Mota Ram was convicted by an anti corruption court of Sirsa. He appealed to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which too dismissed his appeal, and finally he approached the apex Court.

Mota Ram’s counsel argued that his client had merely taken a loan from Om Prakash that had been returned in due course. But the bench rejected his plea saying that an unemployed man could not give loan to anybody.

The verdict, delivered May 28 but released to media later, dismissed Mota Ram’s appeal and ordered him to undergo the year-long jail term.

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