Twenty-four years after a bank’s peon, who doubled as cash clerk due to shortage of staff, was held for corruption and causing wrongful loss of Rs 38,500 to the bank, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld his conviction but reduced his jail term from a cumulative five years to three years.
A bench of Justice R Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee upheld the conviction of Ram Lal while holding that “there is no merit in the contention of the appellant that in the absence of office order authorising him to perform the clerical work, he cannot be held responsible”.
The bench noted the submission of the then manager of the bank that though there was no office order authorising Ram Lal to work as cash clerk but he had informed the Head Office regarding the appellant performing the duties of Cash Clerk for want of staff. The Deputy Chief Officer also deposed that though officials of the bank branch were negligent in assigning the job of cash clerk to a peon, they could not be held responsible for the fraud committed by Ram Lal.
In this case, Ram Lal was employed as a peon in the United Commercial Bank’s branch at Nerwa, Himachal Pradesh, in January 1987. He was assigned the job of the clerk as there was a shortage of clerical staff in the bank and his job was of manning Saving Bank accounts counter.
His job was to receive money from the account holders for deposit in Saving Bank accounts. He used to make entries in their passbooks in his own hand but would not account money in the account books of the bank nor did he pass it to the cashier and used to pocket all the money.
When the depositors approached him for withdrawals of money, he would make fake credit entries in the ledger accounts and fill in the withdrawal slips and submit the same to the officer concerned for payment. The Passing Officer misled by the fake credit entry would allow the withdrawals. In this manner, Ram Lal caused wrongful loss to the bank to the tune of Rs 38,500 during the year 1994.
He was convicted by the trial court under Section 13(1)(C) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and under Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, banker etc) and 477-A IPC and the sentence of imprisonment imposed upon him.
For offence under Section 13(1)(c) read with Section 13(2) of the PC Act, he was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years. For conviction under Section 477-A IPC, he was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years and for conviction under Section 409 IPC, the appellant was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years. He was also slapped a fine of Rs 10,000.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court affirmed his sentence in the year 2008.
In his appeal before the Supreme Court, Ram Lal assailed his confessional statement made before the inspecting committee contending that he did not voluntarily make any confession statement.
The court, however, rejected the argument.
While affirming his conviction, the bench reduced his imprisonment of five years under Section 409 IPC to three years.