Gujarat HC refuses to discharge ex-IAS officer Pradeep Sharma in land allotment case

The Gujarat High Court has refused to discharge former IAS officer Pradeep Sharma in a 2004 case pertaining to causing loss to the government exchequer in allotting land to an industrial unit in Kutch district during his tenure as the Collector.

In an order passed on November 1, a copy of which was made available recently, Justice Sandeep Bhatt refused to interfere in the orders passed by the judicial magistrate and the sessions courts at Bhuj, stating that there is a prima facie case made out against the applicant.

Sharma had challenged the March 30, 2018, order of the trial court refusing to discharge him in the case, which was partially confirmed by the sessions court in its September 27, 2018 order.

The sessions court had retained charges against Sharma under sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code while dropping section 217 (fraudulent claim to property to prevent its seizure).

The FIR was registered against Sharma for an offence committed when he was working as the Kutch district collector during 2003-2006.

Sharma was accused of conniving with other accused to allocate government land at a lower rate to Saw Pipe Ltd, thereby causing loss to government exchequer.

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Sharma’s lawyer RJ Goswami had argued that no sanction was granted for his prosecution as required under section 197 of the CrPC as he was working as the Collector. The accused was competent to allot land to an industrial unit in his official capacity, and the same was not set aside by the state government, he argued.

The prosecution argued that the said industrial unit made an application for allotment of a parcel of land for an industrial purpose on January 21, 2004, but three photocopies of the land (documents) were taken and converted into three separate applications, and land measuring 20,538 square metres was allotted.

No permission from the higher authorities was taken while allocating the land to the industrial unit, the prosecution claimed.

Sharma is facing several cases of causing loss to government exchequer by allocating lands at cheaper rates to industries in Kutch as the then collector of the district.

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