27 Jun 2023 9:59 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court recently dismissed the appeal preferred by a Village Officer who had been convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for obtaining bribe for issuing a location map for a property. "Admittedly, the appellant was a public servant as defined under Section 2(c) of the P.C. Act working in his capacity as Village Officer on the date of the alleged incident....
The Kerala High Court recently dismissed the appeal preferred by a Village Officer who had been convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for obtaining bribe for issuing a location map for a property.
"Admittedly, the appellant was a public servant as defined under Section 2(c) of the P.C. Act working in his capacity as Village Officer on the date of the alleged incident. The sequence of events and circumstances narrated above clearly proves that the appellant has accepted Rs.500/- as illegal gratification from the decoy witness by abusing his official position as public servant and availed pecuniary advantage by adopting corrupt and illegal means. Thus, the court below was absolutely justified in convicting the appellant for the offence under Sections 7 and 13(1)(d) r/w 13(2) of the P.C. Act," the Single Judge Bench of Justice Kauser Edappagath observed while upholding the sentence and conviction.
The appellant, who was working as a Village Officer was alleged to have obtained ₹650/- as bribe from the de facto complainant at his office, as consideration for giving location map. The appellant was convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment under Sections 7 and 13(1)(d) read with 13 (2) of thePC Act by the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, Kottayam.
Advocates Shabu Sreedharan and Reshma Abdul Rasheed contented on behalf of the appellant that the prosecution had failed to prove that there was demand for illegal gratification from the side of the appellant and that in the absence of the same, the conviction was unsustainable. It was added that the evidence regarding acceptance of the gratification was also not convincing and reliable. It was submitted that the appellant was illegally trapped and the money in question was put in his pocket as a means to trap him in the case.
The Court in this case noted that the prosecution had mainly relied upon the evidence of the de facto complainant and decoy witness (PW1), independent witness who accompanied the vigilance party at the Village Office and witnessed the recovery (PW2), and the officer who laid trap and conducted the investigation (PW9).
The Court observed that PW 1 had submitted an application to the appellant for issuance of possession certificate of his property which was proposed to be mortgaged with a Bank in order to avail a loan. PW1 averred that on the basis of the said application, after conducting site inspection, possession certificate was issued by the appellant, and when he approached the appellant thereafter for issuing location map of his property, the latter demanded a bribe of ₹500/-. The Court noted that PW1 then informed the same to PW9 and arranged the trap.
The Court observed that the evidence of PW1, PW2 and PW9 would prove that PW1 as instructed by PW9 produced currency notes to which PW9 applied phenolphthalein powder. The Court was told that thereafter, the notes were kept in the appellant's pocket, and when PW9 asked the appellant whether he accepted bribe, the latter answered that he had only collected taxi fare from PW1.
The Court observed that there was nothing tangible that was extracted from the evidence of the three prosecution witnesses which could discredit their testimony.
"It is true that there were some minor contradictions in the evidence of PW1. But those contradictions are insignificant in nature and do not affect the fabric of the prosecution case," it was observed.
The Court was of the opinion that direct evidence was not necessary in all cases to prove demand and acceptance as per the decision in Neeraj Dutta v. State (Govt.N.C.T. of Delhi) (2022).
"The concrete evidence of PW1 clearly proves that the appellant demanded bribe from him to issue location map of his property. The evidence of PW’s 1, 2 and 9 would show that after the demand of bribe was informed by PW1, a trap was arranged, they went to the Village Office and PW1 give MO1 series currency notes to the appellant who accepted it. Thus, the demand and acceptance of illegal gratification has been amply proved by the prosecution through the evidence of PW1, PW2 and PW9," the Court observed.
It was added that the positive result of the phenolphthalein test on the hands of the appellant, on his shirt pocket, and on the currency notes suggested that the appellant had accepted and handled the tainted notes.
The Court thus upheld the conviction of the appellant and dismissed the appeal.
Senior Public Prosecutor S. Rekha and Special Public Prosecutor VACB A. Rajesh appeared on behalf of the State.
Case Title: K.R. Muhammed Nazer v. State of Kerala
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 296
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