Offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act are offences are against the society, the Supreme Court observed while setting aside a Gujarat High Court judgment acquitting an accused in a corruption case.
In this case, the accused, who was an Assistant Director in ITI, Gandhi Nagar was convicted for the offences punishable under Section 7 read with Sections 13(1) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Allowing the appeal, the High Court acquitted him and aggrieved with this, the State approached the Supreme Court.
Perusing the judgment, the Apex Court bench observed that there is no reappreciation of the entire evidence on record in detail while acquitting the accused by the High Court. It said:
We have perused the impugned judgment and order of acquittal passed by the High Court to ascertain whether the High Court has conformed to the principles while exercising in the criminal appeal against the judgment and order of conviction. We find that the High Court has not strictly proceeded in the manner in which High Court ought to have while dealing with the appeal against the order of conviction. On perusal of the impugned judgment and order of acquittal passed by the High Court, we find that, as such, there is no reappreciation of the entire evidence on record in detail while acquitting the respondent – accused. The High Court has only made general observations on the depositions of the witnesses examined. However, there is no reappreciation of the entire evidence on record in detail, which ought to have been done by the High Court while dealing with the judgment and order of conviction passed by the Learned Trial Court.
Regarding the appeal against acquittal, the bench observed thus:
An Appellate Court while dealing with an appeal against acquittal passed by the Learned trial Court, is required to bear in mind that in case of acquittal there is double presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence is available to him under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, the accused having secured his acquittal, the presumption of his innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial Court. Therefore, while dealing with the cases of acquittal by the trial Court, the Appellate Court would have certain limitations.
The court said that, in an appeal against the order of conviction is concerned, there are no such restrictions and the Court of appeal has wide powers of appreciation of evidence and the High Court has to reappreciate the entire evidence on record being a First Appellate Court. While setting aside the judgment of the High court, it observed.
"The High Court ought to have appreciated that it was dealing with the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act which offences are against the society. And therefore the High Court ought to have been more careful and ought to have gone in detail. We do not approve the manner in which the High Court has dealt with the appeal."
The bench therefore remanded the matter to the High Court.
CASE: State of Gujarat vs. Bhalchandra Laxmishankar Dave [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.99 OF 2021]CORAM: Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR ShahCITATION: LL 2021 SC 58