Public servants cannot show gifts as income from legal sources, says SC

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In its judgement pertaining to the disproportionate assets case against Smt Sasikala Natarajan, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that presents could not be counted as income from lawful sources for public servants, reported Dhananjay Mahapatra in the Times of India, February 16, 2017. The Apex Court stated “Gifts to A1 (Jayalalithaa), a public servant in the context of Sections 161 to 165A IPC now integrated into the Act are visibly illegal and forbidden by law. The endeavour to strike a distinction between “legal” and “unlawful” as sought to be made to portray gifts to constitute a lawful source of income is thus wholly misconstrued.” The Bench further said, “With the advent of the 1988 Act, and inter alia consequent upon the expansion of the scope of definition of the “public servant” and the integration of Section 161 to 165A IPC in the said statute, the claim of the defence to treat the gifts offered to A1 (Jayalalithaa) on her birthday as lawful income, thus cannot receive judicial imprimatur.” The defense of the counsel for Selvi J Jayalalithaa was also rejected by the Apex Court, which held that “To reiterate, disclosure of such gifts in the I-T returns of Jayalalithaa and orders of the I-T authorities on the basis thereof do not validate the said receipts to elevate the same to lawful income to repel the charge under Section 13(1)(e) of the PC Act.”

Accepting gifts has always posed an ethical dilemma for the doctors. They are required to maintain professional boundaries in their relationship with the patients as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Receiving gifts is one aspect of this relationship, which is fiduciary in nature.