The Supreme Court on Friday acquitted an accused long after his death, on an appeal filed by his legal heir in a bid to purge him of the stigma of conviction.
The accused, Mr. Mukhtiar Singh had been accused of receiving illegal gratification while he was the Station House Officer of Police Station, Ajnala. He was intercepted through a trap set up after a complaint. Mr. Singh’s version had been that was being falsely implicated as he had refused to toe the line of the Superintendent of Police.
His version was, however, not accepted, and he had been convicted and sentenced in 2009, under Sections 7 (illegal gratification) and 13(2) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. This was upheld by the High Court. During the pendency of proceedings before the High Court, the accused had passed away, and his heir had got herself substituted to continue the proceedings. Having failed in her endeavor before the High Court, she had now approached the Supreme Court.
The Appellant had now urged before the Apex Court that the evidence on record was visibly deficient to prove the demand, receipt and recovery of any amount of illegal gratification.
At the outset, the Court relied on various judicial precedents to reiterate that the proof of demand for illegal gratification is an “indispensible essentiality and an inflexible statutory mandate” for establishment of an offence under Sections 7 and 13 of the Act.
It then observed that the evidence with regard to the demand of illegal gratification was “wholly inadequate to comply with the pre-requisites to constitute the ingredients of the offence with which the original accused had been charged.”
Agreeing with such contentions, the Court opined that the allegations against the accused were vague and sweeping, and that allegations with regard to the demand and payment of the money remained uncorroborated. It, further, noted the contradictions in the witness testimonies with regard to the location of the transaction, observing that such contradictions render the allegations doubtful.
“Viewed in this perspective, the statement of complainant and the Inspector Satpal, the shadow witness in isolation that the original accused had enquired as to whether money had been brought or not, can by no means constitute demand as enjoined in law as an ingredient of the offence levelled against the original accused. Such a stray query ipso facto in absence of any other cogent and persuasive evidence on record cannot amount to a demand to be a constituent of the offence under Section 7 or 13 of the Act,” the Bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy observed.
The Bench, thereafter, opined that the Trial Court as well as the High Court had failed to analyze the factual and legal aspects involved in the case, and set aside the conviction and sentence, observing, “On an overall appreciation of evidence on record, in the context of the elucidation of law pertaining to proof of the ingredients of Sections 7 and 13 of the Act as adverted to herein-above, we are of the unhesitant opinion that the prosecution has failed to prove the charge levelled against the original accused beyond all reasonable doubt.”