Sunil Kumar Sinha, Actg. C.J. -
(1.) THE Petitioners herein are the Office Bearers of the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM) University. They are the three accused persons among the twelve in General Register Case No. 119/2013, u/Ss. 406, 420, 467, 120B/34 IPC, pending in the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (South & West), Namchi, which arises out of FIR No. 51/2012 of Jorethang Police Station of District South Sikkim. The Petitioners have prayed for quashing of the proceedings of the said criminal case, FIR No. 51/2012 and the entire charge -sheet filed against them.
(2.) THE facts, briefly stated, are as under: -
2.1. The EIILM University (in short, the University) was established by the Government of Sikkim vide notification No. dated 26.05.2006 enacting "Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management, University, Sikkim Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as the Act of 2006). It was granted approval by the University Grants Commission (UGC) vide letter No. F -9 -19/2007 (CPP -1) dated 22.07.2008. The documents filed with the charge -sheet would show that Distance Education Council (in short, DEC) had accorded recognition to the University for one year only, i.e. 2009 -10, for conducting 3 programmes through distance mode, i.e. B.A. (Hospitality & Tourism), B.C.A. & M.B.A. The said recognition has expired in September, 2010. According to the prosecution, it came to the notice of the State authorities that the University has been offering more than 50 distance learning courses through its regional centres, off -campus institutions and study centres and it revealed during the investigation that the Petitioners and other accused persons by their fraudulent act by fabricating records/documents committing instances of misrepresentation and forgery, have cheated lakhs of students and their so -called coordinators running their various centres all over the country.
2.2. During the course of investigation, it was found that as per the Act of 2006, total 46 programmes were allowed to be conducted by the University and for those programmes alone, the University was entitled to award degrees, whereas the authorities of the University were fraudulently conducting 74 courses in the distance education mode without any recognition/approval from the concerned accreditation bodies. The list of 46 programmes which were allowed as per Section 10 of the Act and the list of the programmes, which the accused were running through distance education mode, have been filed with the charge -sheet.
2.3. In further investigation, it was found that D.E.C. through its letter dated 07.05.2012 addressed to Pro -Vice Chancellor, O.B. Vijayan (accused No. 3, not before us) barred the University from conducting any course in distance mode, but the accused persons did not discontinue their activities and continued running these courses by cheating their coordinators all over the Country and by issuing unauthorized degrees/diplomas/certificates to the lakhs of students, who were enrolled through various centres throughout the Country.
2.4. In further investigation, it was found that the accused persons were running various technical programmes and granting diplomas in various engineering disciplines, like Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications and many other technical courses. The list of the national coordinators, which could be found by the Investigating Officer, has also been filed along with the charge -sheet. This shows that there were 17 such national coordinators found by the Investigating Officer, who were having many admission centres for such courses and the students were admitted and degrees/diplomas/certificates signed by the University authorities were issued to them for many courses for which the University was not authorized. According to the Investigating Officer, the national coordinators were, in fact, running study centres by their own names just to defeat the decision/norms of the UGC and other accreditation bodies and the lakhs of students and their guardians were cheated, who were paying heavy fees and thinking that they were getting proper and genuine degrees/diplomas/certificates.
2.5 Earlier the charge -sheet was filed against 11 accused persons including Mr. Vinay Rai and Col. (Retd.) Alok Kumar Bhandari, which is the subject matter of Crl. M.C. No. 17/2013 and 18/2013. However, when supplementary charge -sheet was filed against them and Smt. Amita Bhandari, the 12th accused, with some additional materials, Mr. Vinay Rai and Col. (Retd.) Alok Kumar Bhandari again filed two miscellaneous cases, i.e. Crl. M.C. No. 22/2013 and No. 23/2013, and a separate Crl. M.C. No. 24/2013 was filed by Smt. Amita Bhandari. Since the subject matter in all the petitions are same, they are being disposed of by this common order.
Mr. Ramesh Gupta, learned Senior Counsel, appearing on behalf of the Petitioners, has raised three -fold arguments. He, firstly, argued about the powers of the High Court u/S. 482 of the Cr. P.C., its ambit and instances of necessity when it has to be exercised. He cited many decisions (which shall be quoted later on) on these points. He, thereafter, argued that even the entire material collected by the prosecution is taken as it is, no offence is made out against the Petitioners. Lastly, he contended that if there was violation of any rules or regulations, applicable to the University, by the Petitioners, it may be a civil wrong and a criminal case cannot be prosecuted against them.
(3.) ON the other hand, Mr. J.B. Pradhan, learned Additional Advocate General, appearing on behalf of the State, has opposed these arguments and submitted that the evidence collected by the prosecution would show that the Petitioners were deeply involved in cheating lakhs of students by issuing unauthorized degrees/diplomas and certificates by realizing huge amount by misrepresentation and fraud. He relied on paragraph 27 of the judgment in Amit Kapoor vs. Ramesh Chander & Anr. : : (2012) 9 SCC 460.;