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Monday, September 14, 2015

रिश्वत लेने के केस में अपराधी का रंगे हाथों पकड़े जाना अनिवार्य माननीय उच्चतम न्यायालय ने कहा


                                                         

                                                              NON-REPORTABLE

                                               IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                            CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                             CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 31 OF 2009

                           P. SATYANARAYANA MURTHY                                APPELLANT

                                                                         VERSUS

                     THE DIST. INSPECTOR OF POLICE AND ANR.                 RESPONDENTS

                                                                     J U D G M E N T

AMITAVA ROY, J.

            The instant appeal calls in  question  the  judgment  and  order
dated 25.4.2008 rendered by the High Court of Judicature, Andhra Pradesh  at
Hyderabad in Criminal Appeal No. 262 of 2002, sustaining the  conviction  of
the appellant under Section 13(1)(d)(i) & (ii) read with  Section  13(2)  of
the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 (for short hereinafter referred to  as
“the Act”) and sentence thereunder, however  setting  aside  his  conviction
and sentence under Section 7 of the Act.

2.          We  have  heard  Mr.  A.T.M.  Ranga  Ramanujam,  learned  senior
counsel for the appellant and Ms. Prerna  Singh,  learned  counsel  for  the
respondents.

3.          The prosecution case stems from  a  complaint  laid  by  one  S.
Jagan Mohan Reddy (since deceased) to the Deputy Superintendent  of  Police,
Anti Corruption Bureau, Kurnool alleging that  the  appellant  who,  at  the
relevant time was  the  Assistant  Director,  Commissionerate  of  Technical
Education,  Hyderabad  had  on  3.10.1996  demanded  by   way   of   illegal
gratification Rs. 1000/- for effecting renewal of  the  recognition  of  his
(complainant) typing institute, being run in the  name  and  style  of  Rama
Typewriting Institute in  Laxminagar  B.  Camp,  Kurnool  since  1992.   The
complaint disclosed that on negotiation, the demand was scaled down  to  Rs.
500/- and the appellant asked him (complainant) to meet him on 4.10.1996  in
Room No. 68 of Meenakshi Lodge, Kurnool with the money demanded.  Acting  on
the complaint, a case was registered and a trap was laid  on  4.10.1996  and
the tainted currency notes were recovered, in the process thereof, from  the
possession of the appellant.  On completion of the  investigation,   charge-
sheet was   filed  against  the  appellant,  whereafter  the  charges  under
Sections 7 &  13(1)(d)(i) & (ii) read with Section 13(2)  of  the  Act  were
framed against him to which he pleaded “not  guilty”.   At  the  trial,  the
prosecution examined seven witnesses and also adduced  documentary  evidence
in support of the charges.  As the complainant- S.  Jagan  Mohan  Reddy  had
expired prior thereto, he could not be examined by the prosecution.

4.          After the closure  of  the  evidence  of  the  prosecution,  the
appellant was examined under Section 313 Cr.P.C.  and  was  confronted  with
all the incriminating materials brought on record.  He, however, denied  the
same.

5.          The learned  trial  court,  on  an  elaborate  analysis  of  the
evidence  available,  convicted  the  appellant   under   Sections   7   and
13(1)(d)(i) & (ii) read with Section 13(2) of  the Act and sentenced him  to
undergo R.I. for one year on each count and to pay fine of  Rs.  1000/-,  in
default   to suffer S.I. for three months for each offence.   The  sentences
of imprisonment were, however, ordered to run concurrently.

6.          As adverted  to  hereinabove,  the  High  Court  in  the  appeal
preferred by the appellant, while upholding  his  conviction  under  Section
13(1)(d)(i) & (ii) read with Section 13(2) of the Act,  did  set  at  naught
his conviction under Section 7 of the Act.  The sentence qua his  conviction
under Section 13(1)(d)(i) & (ii) read with Section 13(2) of the Act was,  as
a corollary, sustained.

7.          The learned senior counsel for  the  appellant  has  insistently
urged that the prosecution had failed to prove any demand  for  the  alleged
illegal gratification involved and, thus, the vitally  essential  ingredient
of the offences both under Sections 7 and 13 of the Act being  conspicuously
absent, the appellant ought to have been acquitted of  the  charge  on  both
counts.  The learned  senior  counsel  has  maintained  that  even  assuming
without admitting that the recovery of the tainted notes from the  appellant
had been established, sans the proof of demand which is a sine qua  non  for
an offence both under  Sections  7  and  13  of  the  Act,  the  appellant’s
conviction as recorded by the High Court  is  on  the  face  of  the  record
unsustainable in law and on facts.  Without prejudice to the above,  learned
senior counsel has asserted that the money  shown  to  have  been  recovered
from  the  possession  of  the  appellant  was  by  no  means   an   illegal
gratification demanded by him, but was  towards  fees  for  renewal  of  the
recognition of the complainant’s typing institute together with penalty  and
incidental expenses, and thus, his conviction under  Section  13(1)(d)(i)  &
(ii)) read with Section 13(2) of the Act  as sustained by  the  High  Court,
if allowed to stand, would result in travesty of justice.

8.          Learned senior  counsel  for  the   appellant  to  buttress  his
contentions, placed reliance on the decision of this  Court  in  B.  Jayaraj
vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (2014) 13 SCC 55.

9.          Learned counsel for the State, as against this, has  assiduously
argued that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, taken  as   a  whole,
demonstrably  proved  the  demand,  receipt  and  recovery  of  the  illegal
gratification sought for and as such no interference  with  the  appellant’s
conviction is warranted.  According to the learned  counsel,  having  regard
to the office held by the appellant at the relevant point of  time,  he  was
even otherwise not authorized to receive any deposit towards the renewal  of
recognition   of the complainant’s typing institute and  that  the  evidence
adduced by the prosecution did prove the complicity of the appellant in  the
offence for which he has  been  charged,  beyond  a  reasonable  doubt.   In
reinforcement of her pleas, learned counsel has drawn our attention  to  the
relevant excerpts of the evidence on record more particularly that  of  PW1-
S. Udaya Bhasker and PW3-G. Sudhakar.

10.         Learned counsel for the respondents sought  to  distinguish  the
decision rendered in B. Jayaraj (supra)  contending  that  in  the  face  of
persuasive evidence of demand on record, the same is  of  no  avail  to  the
appellant.

11.         The materials on record have been duly traversed by us in  order
to adequately appreciate and weigh the competing contentions.  Though  dealt
with exhaustively by the two courts below,  having  regard  to  the  profuse
reference to the evidence on record made in the course of the arguments,  we
consider it to be apt to advert  thereto  in  bare  essentials  and  to  the
extent indispensable.  Admittedly, the complainant  S.  Jagan  Mohan  Reddy,
the then Principal of the Rama Typewriting Institute, Laxminagar,  B.  Camp,
Kurnool could not be examined as a witness for the prosecution,  as  he  had
expired before the trial.  To reiterate, in his complaint  lodged  with  the
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Anti  Corruption  Bureau,  Kurnool   Range,
Kurnool on 3.10.1996, he alleged that on the same date, the  appellant,  who
was then the Assistant Director,  Commissionerate  of  Technical  Education,
Hyderabad, had visited his institute and had pointed  out  that  because  of
his omission to file an application for renewal of recognition  thereof  for
the year 1997, cancellation of recognition would ensue resulting in loss  of
seniority of the institute.  According to the  complainant,  situated  thus,
he requested for the assistance of the appellant who assured that  it  would
be possible only if he was paid Rs. 1000/-.  According to  the  complainant,
he pleaded his inability to pay such   amount.   On   this,   the  appellant
reduced his demand to Rs. 500/- and instructed  him  (complainant)  to  meet
him on 4.10.1996 in  Room  No.  68,  Meenakshi  Lodge,  Kurnool  along  with
challan of Rs. 360/-, being Rs. 60 as renewal fee and Rs.  300  as  penalty.
The complainant, being disinclined  to  pay  the  illegal  gratification  as
demanded, lodged a complaint with the Deputy Superintendent of Police,  Anti
Corruption Bureau, Kurnool  and sought action against the appellant.

12.          After  registering  the  complaint,  the  investigating  agency
initiated a  proceeding  for  laying  a  trap  on  4.10.1996  at  the  venue
indicated by the appellant.   In  the  course  of  preparatory  steps,  five
currency  notes  of  denomination  of  Rs.  100/-  were  arranged  on  which
phenolphthalein powder was applied and were handed over to  the  complainant
to be  paid  to  the  appellant  on   demand.    PW1-S.  Udaya  Bhaskar  was
identified to accompany the complainant  as  an  aspiring  owner  of  a  new
proposed typewriting institute. The members of the trap team   were  briefed
accordingly and instructions were given to the complainant to flag a  signal
in time for the interception of the appellant  after  he  had  received  the
tainted notes.  Accordingly,  the complainant accompanied  by  PW1-S.  Udaya
Bhaskar  went to the place agreed upon i.e. Room No. 68,  Meenakshi   Lodge,
Kurnool on 4.10.1996 with the trap team waiting outside for  the  signal  to
intervene.   According to the prosecution, the complainant and PW1-S.  Udaya
Bhaskar  did meet the  appellant in  Room No. 68, Meenakshi  Lodge,  Kurnool
and on reaching the room,  the  complainant  gave  one  renewal  application
along with the challan to the  appellant  who  enquired  as  to  whether  he
(complainant) had brought the amount which he had directed him to  bring  on
the previous day.   On  this,  the  complainant  took  out  Rs.  500/-  from
the pocket of his  shirt  on  which  the  phenolphthalein  powder  had  been
applied and handed over the same to the appellant.  The prosecution  version
is that the appellant, accordingly, kept the amount in  the  pocket  of  his
shirt and it was then on signal being received by  the  trap  team,  he  was
intercepted and apprehended with the money accepted by him.

13.         PW1-S. Udaya Bhaskar has stated on oath  that  at  the  relevant
point of time, he was the Assistant Engineer in  Panchayat  Raj  Department,
Orvakal and that as planned  by  the  investigating  agency  to  entrap  the
appellant, he along with the complainant had gone to room No. 68,  Meenakshi
Lodge, Kurnool on  4.10.1996  for  meeting  the  appellant.   Both  of  them
entered into the room  of appellant, whereupon the complainant  handed  over
one renewal application along with  the  challan  to  the  appellant.   This
witness stated that on this,  the  appellant  enquired  as  to  whether  the
complainant had brought the amount which he had directed  him  to  bring  on
the previous day.  The witness stated that the  complainant  then  took  out
the currency notes amounting to  Rs. 500/- from the pocket of his  shirt  as
arranged and did hand over the same  to the complainant, who after  counting
the same, kept  those  in  the  pocket  of  his  shirt.   The  witness  also
testified, that he then told the appellant that he too had started a  typing
institute and would require a license.  The appellant, in reply,  asked  him
to do the needful as others had been  doing.   According  to  this  witness,
while  he  was  talking  to  the  appellant,  as  previously  arranged,  the
complainant  signalled  the  trap  team,   whereupon   the   appellant   was
apprehended   and   the   currency  notes  were  recovered  from  him.    On
verification, the said notes tallied with those which had  been  decided  to
be used in the trap operation.  The fingers of the hands of the  appellants,
when dipped in the sodium carbonate solution also turned pink.  The   pocket
of the shirt  of the appellant, as testified by this  witness,  also  turned
pink when rinsed in sodium carbonate solution.

14.         The evidence of PW3-S. Sivaiah Naidu  is to the effect that  he,
on 6.8.1996 had made an application to the Technical Board  for  recognition
of his institute, whereafter on 3.10.1996, the appellant in the capacity  of
Assistant Director of  Technical  Education,  inspected  his  institute  and
verified all records.  According to this witness,  when  he  enquired  about
the recognition certificate, the appellant stated that  unless  some  amount
was paid to him way of gratification, he would  not  issue  the  recognition
certificate.  The witness  alleged  that  he  too  was  asked  to  meet  the
appellant in Room No. 68, Meenakshi Lodge,Kurnool at 8.30 P.M.

15.         PW7-Iliyase Sait, who at the relevant time was posted as  Deputy
Superintendent of Police, Kurnool Range, Kurnool, in his  evidence  narrated
in detail the steps taken to arrange for the  trap  to  nab  the  appellant,
instructions   to the members of the trap team, recovery  of  five  currency
notes amounting to Rs. 500/- smeared with  phenolphthalein powder  from  the
possession of the appellant and submission of charge-sheet  against  him  on
completion of the investigation.

16.         The evidence of other witnesses being  not  essentially  related
to the aspect of demand, receipt and  recovery  of  the  amount  of  illegal
gratification with which the appellant had been charged, does not  call  for
a detailed reference.

17.         It is expedient  at  this  juncture  to  set  out  the  relevant
extracts of Sections 7 (as it stands today) and 13 of the  Act  under  which
the appellant had been charged.

“7. Public servant taking gratification other  than  legal  remuneration  in
respect of an official act: Whoever, being, or  expecting  to  be  a  public
servant, accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to  obtain  from
any  person,  for  himself  or  for  any  other  person,  any  gratification
whatever, other than legal remuneration, as a motive or reward for doing  or
forbearing to do any official act or for showing or forbearing to  show,  in
the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavour  to  any  person
or for rendering or attempting to render any service or  disservice  to  any
person, with the Central Government or any State  Government  or  Parliament
or the Legislature of any State or with any local authority, corporation  or
Government company referred to in clause (c)  of  section  2,  or  with  any
public servant,  whether  named  or  otherwise,  shall  be  punishable  with
imprisonment which shall be not  less  than  [three  years]  but  which  may
extend to [seven years] and shall also be liable to fine.”

“13. Criminal misconduct by a public servant

(1) A public servant is said to commit the offence of criminal  misconduct,-


(d) if he,-

by corrupt or illegal means, obtains for himself or  for  any  other  person
any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage; or
 by abusing his position as a public servant, obtains  for  himself  or  for
any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage;”


18.         This Court in A. Subair vs. State of  Kerala  (2009)6  SCC  587,
while dwelling on the purport of the statutory prescription  of  Sections  7
and 13(1)(d) of the Act ruled that the prosecution has to prove  the  charge
thereunder beyond reasonable doubt like any other criminal offence and  that
the accused should be considered to  be  innocent  till  it  is  established
otherwise  by  proper  proof   of   demand   and   acceptance   of   illegal
gratification, which are vital ingredients necessary to be proved to  record
a conviction.

19.         In  State of Kerala and another vs. C.P. Rao (2011) 6  SCC  450,
this Court, reiterating its earlier dictum,  vis-à-vis  the  same  offences,
held  that mere recovery by itself, would not prove the charge  against  the
accused and in absence of any evidence to prove payment of bribe or to  show
that the accused had voluntarily accepted the money knowing it to be  bribe,
conviction cannot be sustained.

20.         In a recent enunciation by this Court to discern the  imperative
pre-requisites of Sections 7 and 13 of the Act, it has  been  underlined  in
B. Jayaraj (supra) in unequivocal terms, that mere possession  and  recovery
of currency notes  from  an  accused  without  proof  of  demand  would  not
establish an offence under Sections 7 as well  as  13(1)(d)(i)&(ii)  of  the
Act.  It has been propounded that in the absence of any proof of demand  for
illegal gratification, the use of corrupt  or  illegal  means  or  abuse  of
position as a public servant to  obtain  any  valuable  thing  or  pecuniary
advantage cannot be held to be proved.  The proof of demand, thus, has  been
held to be an indispensable essentiality and of permeating  mandate  for  an
offence under Sections 7 and 13 of the Act.  Qua  Section  20  of  the  Act,
which permits a presumption as envisaged therein,  it  has  been  held  that
while it is extendable only to an offence under Section 7 and not  to  those
under Section 13(1)(d)(i)&(ii) of the Act,  it is contingent as well on  the
proof of acceptance of illegal gratification for doing or forbearing  to  do
any official act.  Such proof of acceptance  of  illegal  gratification,  it
was  emphasized,  could  follow  only  if  there  was   proof   of   demand.
Axiomatically, it was held that in absence of proof of  demand,  such  legal
presumption under Section 20 of the Act  would also not arise.

21.         The proof of demand of  illegal  gratification,  thus,  is   the
gravamen of the offence under Sections 7 and  13(1)(d)(i)&(ii)  of  the  Act
and in absence thereof, unmistakably the charge therefor, would fail.   Mere
acceptance of any amount  allegedly  by  way  of  illegal  gratification  or
recovery thereof, dehors the proof of demand, ipso facto, would thus not  be
sufficient to bring home the charge under these two sections of the Act.

22.         As a corollary, failure of the prosecution to prove  the  demand
for illegal gratification would be fatal and mere  recovery  of  the  amount
from the person accused of the offence under Sections 7 or  13  of  the  Act
would not entail his conviction thereunder.

23.         The  sheet  anchor  of  the  case  of  the  prosecution  is  the
evidence, in the facts and  circumstances  of  the  case,  of  PW1-S.  Udaya
Bhaskar.   The  substance  of  his  testimony,  as  has  been   alluded   to
hereinabove, would  disclose  qua  the  aspect  of  demand,  that  when  the
complainant did hand over to the  appellant  the  renewal  application,  the
latter enquired  from the complainant as  to  whether  he  had  brought  the
amount which he directed him to bring on the  previous  day,  whereupon  the
complainant took out Rs. 500/- from the pocket  of  his  shirt  and   handed
over the same to the appellant.  Though, a very spirited endeavour has  been
made by the learned counsel for the State to  co-relate  this  statement  of
PW1- S. Udaya Bhaskar  to the attendant facts  and  circumstances  including
the recovery of this amount from the possession  of  the  appellant  by  the
trap team, identification of the currency notes used in the trap   operation
and also  the chemical reaction of the sodium  carbonate  solution  qua  the
appellant,  we  are  left  unpersuaded   to  return  a  finding   that   the
prosecution in the instant case has been able to prove the factum of  demand
beyond reasonable doubt.  Even if the evidence of PW1- S. Udaya  Bhaskar  is
accepted on the face value, it falls short of the quality  and  decisiveness
of the proof of demand of illegal gratification as enjoined by law  to  hold
that the offence under Section 7  or  13(1)(d)(i)&(ii) of the Act  has  been
proved. True  it  is,  that  on  the  demise  of  the  complainant,  primary
evidence, if any, of the  demand  is  not  forthcoming.   According  to  the
prosecution, the demand had in fact been made on 3.10.1996 by the  appellant
to the complainant and on his complaint, the trap was laid on the next  date
i.e. 4.10.1996.  However, the testimony of PW1- S. Udaya  Bhaskar  does  not
reproduce the demand allegedly  made by the  appellant  to  the  complainant
which can be construed to be one  as contemplated in law to enter a  finding
that the offence under Section 7 or 13(1)(d)(i)&(ii) of the Act against  the
appellant has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

24.         In our estimate, to hold   on  the  basis  of  the  evidence  on
record  that  the  culpability   of  the  appellant  under  Sections  7  and
13(1)(d)(i)&(ii)  has been proved, would be an inferential  deduction  which
is impermissible in law.  Noticeably,  the  High  Court  had  acquitted  the
appellant of the charge under Section  7  of  the  Act  and  the  State  had
accepted the verdict and has not preferred  any  appeal  against  the  same.
The   analysis    undertaken   as   hereinabove   qua    Sections   7    and
13(1)(d)(i)&(ii)  of  the  Act,   thus,   had   been   to   underscore   the
indispensability of the proof of demand of illegal gratification.

25.         In reiteration of the golden principle which  runs  through  the
web of administration of justice in criminal  cases,  this  Court  in  Sujit
Biswas vs. State of Assam (2013)12 SCC 406 had held that suspicion,  however
grave, cannot  take the place of proof and the prosecution cannot afford  to
rest its case  in the realm of “may be” true but has to upgrade  it  in  the
domain of “must be” true in order to steer clear  of  any  possible  surmise
or conjecture.  It was held, that the Court must ensure that miscarriage  of
justice is avoided and if in the facts and  circumstances,   two  views  are
plausible, then the benefit of doubt must be given to the accused.

26.         The materials on record when judged on the touch stone  of   the
legal principles adumbrated hereinabove, leave no manner of doubt  that  the
prosecution, in the instant case, has failed to  prove  unequivocally,   the
demand of illegal gratification and, thus, we are constrained to  hold  that
it would be wholly un-safe to sustain the conviction of the appellant  under
Section 13(1)(d)(i)&(ii) read with Section 13(2)  of the Act  as  well.   In
the result, the appeal succeeds.  The impugned judgment  and  order  of  the
High Court is hereby set-aside.  The appellant is on bail.   His  bail  bond
stands discharged.    Original record be sent back immediately.

CJI. H.L. DATTU
J. V. GOPALA GOWDA
J. AMITAVA ROY

NEW DELHI;

SEPTEMBER 14, 2015.




संबन्धित खबरों के लिए क्लिक करें

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