The Supreme Court has upheld the Delhi High Court’s decision to stay trial court proceedings against Swati Maliwal, chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), in a criminal case accusing her of abusing her official position to appoint people associated with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to different posts in the women’s rights body.
The trial court had ordered the framing of charges against Maliwal and three others under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act, including Section 13(1)(d) (criminal misconduct by a public servant), in December 2022. The case was lodged by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on a complaint by former DCW chairperson and BJP MLA Barkha Shukla Singh.
However, on March 10, 2023, the Delhi High Court stayed the trial court proceedings against Maliwal and sought a status report from the ACB on her petition challenging the trial court order framing charges under the anti-corruption law. The high court observed that the essential ingredient of receiving any pecuniary gain was not present in the matter.
According to the prosecution, the accused, in conspiracy with each other, abused their official position and obtained pecuniary advantages for AAP workers, who were appointed to different DCW posts without following due process. The appointments were made in contravention of procedures, rules, and regulations, and without even advertising for the posts in violation of General Finance Rules (GFR) and other guidelines, and that money was disbursed to various such persons towards remuneration/salary/honorarium.
The prosecution has claimed that 90 appointments were made in the DCW between August 6, 2015, and August 1, 2016. Out of these, 71 people were appointed on a contractual basis, and 16 for the ‘Dial 181’ distress helpline. No record about the remaining three appointees could be found, it has said.
At the time of framing of charges, the trial court had said the perusal of minutes of the meetings held on various dates by the DCW, to which all four accused were signatories, was “enough to prima facie point to a strong suspicion that the appointments in question were made by the accused persons in agreement with each other”.
The bench of Justices Surya Kant and J K Maheshwari asked the high court to decide the case expeditiously. With the Supreme Court’s refusal to interfere with the Delhi High Court’s decision, the case against Maliwal and others is now in the hands of the high court.