After 14 years, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has dismissed an appeal filed by the state, through the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Buldana, against the order of acquittal of the then head constable in Buldana district, Sakharam Jadhav, by special judge on February 28, 2003.
Justice VM Deshpande held that the order of acquittal against charges of offences punishable under Sections 7, 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, was reasonable.
Jadhav was accused of taking a bribe of Rs. 400 on December 12, 1995, from complainant Sudhakar Hivale for not taking any action against him in a complaint filed by one Rukminibai More.
Hivale, thereafter, filed a complaint before the ACB.
Hivale’s mother is one of the witnesses in the case. She deposed that there was a quarrel between her daughter Anita and Rukminibai More. After this, More accused Anita, Sudhakar and their mother of stealing her earrings and filed a police complaint.
Accused Sakharam Jadhav did not dispute accepting the money, however, he contended that the amount was meant for the purpose of settlement between complainant More and accused Hivale. At the time, Sakharam Jadhav was unaware that the notes had been smeared with phenolphthalein powder.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in B Jayaraj vs State of Andhra Pradesh, the court noted:
“Merely because smeared notes are found in possession with the accused, that by itself is not sufficient to hold the accused guilty for the offences under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, unless the prosecution successfully proves that there was a demand for illegal gratification by a public servant. “
The court also noted how the special trial judge had noticed that the sanctioning authority, Atulchandra Kulkarni, had not applied his mind even though Sakharam’s statement clearly stated that the money was meant for settlement between the parties.
Dismissing the state’s appeal, the court finally observed:“From the aforesaid evidence, also it is clear that learned Judge of the Court below was right that on preponderance of probabilities the defence of the respondent was probable one and, therefore, merely because tainted notes were found in possession, one should not readily jump to the conclusion that there was a demand from the respondent by way of illegal gratification.”