21 March 2022 5:15 AM GMT
The Bombay High court has reiterated that mere recovery of currency notes is not sufficient to establish the guilt of an accused under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, when the substantive evidence in the case is not reliable.Justice Vinay Joshi observed,"The law is well settled that demand of illegal gratification is the sine quo non for constituting an offence under the P.C. Act....
The Bombay High court has reiterated that mere recovery of currency notes is not sufficient to establish the guilt of an accused under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, when the substantive evidence in the case is not reliable.
Justice Vinay Joshi observed,
"The law is well settled that demand of illegal gratification is the sine quo non for constituting an offence under the P.C. Act. Mere recovery of tainted currency notes is not sufficient to convict the accused when substantive evidence in the case is not reliable. The defence is to be tested on the basis of preponderance of probability and certainly not on the criteria of proof beyond all reasonable doubt."
The Court was dealing with a challenge to a judgment passed by Special Court by which the Respondent (Original Accused) was acquitted for the offence punishable under Sections 7, 13(1)(d) r/w 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption ("P.C.") Act, 1988. The Court below acquitted the accused primarily on the ground of invalid sanction and improbability about the demand and acceptance of bribe amount.
The High Court took note of the inconsistencies of evidence and dismissed the appeal of the State.
The Respondent (Orgi. Accused) was serving as an Assistant Police Inspector with MIDC Police Station, Mumbai.
It was the prosecution's case that on 24th February, 2005, the police team along with the complainant and both panch witnesses proceeded to MIDC Police Station by vehicle. The complainant and shadow panch witness Sayed visited MIDC Police Station. After few minutes, the accused asked them to follow outside the police Station. All of them went near Maruti Car parked opposite to the MIDC Police Station. The accused opened the door and asked the complainant to sit beside the driver's seat. The panch was asked to sit on rear seat.
It is the prosecution case that the accused asked the complainant about bribe money to which complainant replied in the affirmative. The accused had opened the car's dash board and asked the complainant to keep the money inside. The complainant asked the accused to count the tainted notes which he did. Thereafter immediately, the complainant gave predetermined signal to the members of the raiding party, who arrived near car. The police recovered bribe amount kept in the dash board's drawer. The accused was brought in same position to the police station. The police seized those tainted currency notes and usual demonstration was taken. Thereafter, post trap panchnama was drawn.
The Respondent (Orig. Accused) at the outset submitted that since inception, the prosecution case is full of doubts. The prosecution has utterly failed to establish that the sanction was accorded by the competent authority. The accused was serving as an Assistant Police Inspector a gazetted post for which the appointing and removing authority is a Director General (D.G.) of Police. The Police Commissioner is below the rank of D.G. and therefore the sanction is invalid.
He also pointed out inconsistencies from the evidence coupled with contents of FIR.
The single judge observed that the promotion order dated 25th February, 2005 does not bear the signature of Additional Director General of Police, although his name and designation was mentioned. Notably copies of the said order were sent under the signature of Deputy Inspector General of Police (Administration) on behalf of Director General of Police. Pertinent to note that the accused has also produced his promotion order and communication which discloses that it does not bear signature of Additional Director General of Police, but it was signed on behalf of Director General of Police.
Thus, it is evident that the Police Commissioner, who is below the rank of Director General of Police not being appointing authority is not competent to accord the sanction, the High Court said and held that sanction to the prosecution which is pre-requisite under Section 19(1)(c) of P.C. Act is invalid.
On the alleged recovery of tainted currency notes, the single judge noted that the very foundation of the case is peculiar of its own:
The complainant has nothing to do in real sense with the purpose for which bribe amount was allegedly paid. It is the prosecution case that in order to secure bail of one Harjindersingh or for softening the stand against arrested accused in the Court, the bribe was demanded. However, the complainant is not concerned with the arrest of accused Harjindersingh. The genesis of the episode is one Ranjit Tagge, who was brother of the arrested accused Harjindersingh. It is the prosecution case that Ranjit met the police frequently in connection with the arrest of his brother on which there was a demand. However, Ranjit whose cause was allegedly canvassed by the complainant in the capacity of friend has not been examined. Moreover, it is difficult to comprehend as to how in absence of Ranjit, the complainant went to police station for paying bribe and then to ACB office for lodging a report.
On the point of actual demand, the evidence of the complainant and shadow panch witness Sayed is inconsistent. Both of them differently stated about the demand and acceptance of money. Though shadow witness has deposed the minute happenings in detail, for sound reasons, the trial Court has expressed that he is tutored one, therefore, he has successfully described the minute details.
Taking note of the inconsistencies of the evidence the single judge stated that "it becomes difficult to rely unless corroborated by independent circumstances. Particularly the real aggrieved person i.e. Ranjit was not examined nor it is explained as to why the complainant took lead in the issue that too in absence of Ranjit Tagge. The trial Court after considering all these inconsistencies recorded a finding of acquittal giving rise to the double presumption leaning in favour of the accused."
The judge stated that the order of acquittal needs no interference and dismissed the appeal.
Case Title : The State of Maharashtra v Ajay Ratansingh Parmar
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 89
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