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Mere Possession or recovery of currency notes is not sufficient for offence u/s 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act: Supreme Court of India

Mere recovery of currency does not prove the charge of corruption against the accused. It has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused voluntarily accepted money knowing it to be a bribe. Supreme Court of India gave the judgment in the case of N Vijayakumar vs. State of Tamil Nadu by stating the above-cited reasons. The bench was presided over by Hon’ble Justice Subhash Reddy and Justice M.R Shah.

In the instant case, the accused (appellant) worked as Sanitary Inspector in Madurai Municipal Corporation. His supervisor made allegations against the accused that he demanded an amount of Rs 500/- and a cell phone as a motive or reward to do an official act in the exercise of his official function. And therefore, allegations were made against the accused u/s 7, 13(2), and 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. For the offences stated above, the accused was tried before the Special Court and was acquitted after examining the oral and documentary evidence.

But when the appeal was made in the High Court, the acquittal was reversed and the accused was held convicted for offences u/s 7, 13(2), and 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 with imprisonment for 1 year and fine of Rs 5000/-. It was argued that the High Court had reversed the orders of the trial court without recording valid and cogent reasons and the order passed by the High Court was in violation of section 362 of CrPC.

On the contrary, the respondent’s counsel argued that the proof was enough to prove that the accused demanded money and a cell phone but the trial court had acquitted the accused without proper investigation and the decision taken by the High Court was right.

When the matter reached the Supreme Court, the Bench examined the witnesses and came to the conclusion that there were ill feelings between the appellant and the respondent (Supervisor). It was observed that merely the recovery of tainted money, divorced from the circumstances under which the money was found is not sufficient to convict the accused when the substantive evidence is not reliable.

And it was further contended that the material contradictions were observed in the depositions of the witnesses, which gave the benefit of doubt to the accused.

The appellant’s counsel contended that in the case of Hakeem Khan vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, the court had considered the powers of an appellate court for interference in cases where acquittal is recorded by the trial court. In the said judgment it was held that if the “possible view” of the trial court is not agreeable for the High Court, even then such “possible view” recorded by the trial court cannot be interdicted.

Hence, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that mere recovery of the money does not prove the charge against the accused while referring to the judgments in the case of C.M Girish Babu vs. CBI (High court of Kerala) and B.Jayaraja vs. State of Andhra Pradesh. The SC bench stated that while considering the case under the section mentioned above, it is reiterated to prove the charge, it has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused voluntarily accepted money knowing it to be a bribe. The absence of proof of demand for illegal gratification and mere possession or recovery of currency notes is not sufficient to constitute the offence under the above-mentioned sections.

And hence, the Supreme Court bench set aside the judgment of the High Court and acquitted the accused from the offences of Section 7, 13(2), and 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Click here to read the Judgement

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