Mumbai: Observing that “informers take enormous risks” and the government's approach should not discourage them from coming forward with information, the Bombay High Court recently directed the Central Government to pay a reward to the widow of a man who tipped the Customs officials about smuggled diamonds worth nearly Rs90 lakh in 1991.
A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Abhay Ahuja noted that the objective behind offering a reward to informers is to aid the department in taking measures to safeguard the exchequer.
“The informers take enormous risks in providing information. Unfortunately, in this case, the respondents (Union Government) have taken a rigid stand, when the correct approach would have been to go by broad probabilities of the case, the peculiar circumstances of the case and the hardship of the petitioner and should have handled this case with sensitivity,” the court said.
The HC passed the order while hearing a petition filed by Jayashree Dhavre, widow of Chandrakant Dhavre, seeking direction to the authorities to disburse the reward amount as per government policy.
According to the petition, in 1991, based on her husband’s tipoff, the Customs department seized smuggled diamonds. Over the next three years, Rs3 lakh was advanced to the informer but the final amount was never disbursed despite several reminders. Initially, Mr Dhavre sent several communications to the authorities, who responded that the reward was “under process”.
After he died in August 2010, his wife sent requests for the release of the final amount. When she failed to receive a positive reply, she filed the petition in the HC.
However, in reply to Ms Dhavre’s petition, the department, for the first time claimed that it needs to first verify if Mr Dhavre was the real informer.
The court rejected the contention noting that it had earlier released two advance payments to him. It also said that though there is no legal right to demand a reward, as per the policy, the rejection must not be arbitrary.
The justices remarked that the petitioner's claim was meritorious and non-intervention by the court would “amount to a failure of justice”. The court has directed the Union Government to treat Ms Dhavre's claim as eligible for the grant of final reward and determine the amount to be paid to her within 12 weeks.
In March 1991, Ms Dhavre provided specific inputs to the office of the Marine and Preventive wing of the Mumbai Commissionerate of Customs about smuggled diamonds. Later, the Customs department searched the premises of some jewellers and recovered rough diamonds worth Rs3.21 lakh and polished diamonds worth Rs84.47 lakh.
Mr Dhavre was paid Rs1 lakh in April 1993 and Rs2 lakh in 1999 as advances for the reward.
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