Delhi HC refuses to quash charges in 2017 Haryana judicial paper leak case

The Delhi High Court has refused to quash charges framed against a former Punjab and Haryana High Court official in a case relating to the alleged leak of the 2017 Haryana Civil Services (judicial) preliminary examination paper.

The HC said that in cases where digital or electronic evidence is available, the prosecution’s case cannot be thrown at the initial stage.

The record indicated that petitioner-accused Dr Balwinder Kumar Sharma, who was then the registrar (recruitment) of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, was in possession of the question paper immediately before the alleged leakage.

“The case is of a very sensitive nature and the evidence which is required to be led for the purpose of proving the case is either digital or documentary in nature,” Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma said.

The high court further said the jurisdiction of the court while entertaining the revision petition is also very limited, and it can interfere in the challenged order only if there is any serious illegality, infirmity or perversity in the trial court’s order.

“I do not find any illegality, infirmity or perversity in the order of the trial court. Hence, the present petition along with pending applications stands dismissed,” Justice Sharma said.

The high court upheld a January 31, 2020 order of a sessions court in Chandigarh by which charges were framed against accused Sharma for the alleged offences of cheating, criminal breach of trust by public servant, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the IPC and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In 2021, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Delhi on the request of Sharma.

An FIR in the matter involving the paper leak was lodged on the complaint of Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2017.

He was suspended by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2017 itself after the paper leak.

According to the prosecution, the question paper remained in the custody of Dr Balwinder Kumar Sharma, the then registrar (recruitment) from the time the question paper was finalised till the dispatch to the examination centre.

It was alleged that a co-accused, Sunita, was known to be in acquaintance with Sharma and he had given the copy of the question paper to her who further forwarded it to others for consideration of money.

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Additional Public Prosecutor Charanjit Singh Bakhshi, representing the Union Territory of Chandigarh, and advocate Amit Sahni contended that it was an open-and-shut case since Sharma was a public servant who has dishonestly and fraudulently misappropriated and converted for his own use the question paper of the exam entrusted to him.

The lawyers said the question paper was under his control as a public servant and he allegedly allowed Sunita to have its access, therefore he was guilty of committing the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

While dismissing Sharma’s plea challenging the framing of charges against him, the high court said that at the stage of charges, the court was required to examine the record produced by the prosecution and the CrPC does not confer any right upon the accused to produce any document at that stage.

“However, in exceptional cases where a document may show the prosecution as preposterous, the same can be considered depending upon the peculiar facts and circumstances. However, in the present case, there is no such material,” the court said.

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