The courts must examine the evidence with extreme caution before recording a conviction under the terms of the Prevention of Corruption Act: Chhattisgarh High Court

When a person is convicted under the terms of the Prevention of Corruption Act, it carries with it a social stigma as well as substantial implications for the service provided. At the same time, it should be observed that there can be no clear proposal as to whether the trial court’s opinion is a feasible view or not, and each case must be decided on its own merits, taking into account the facts on record. The judgment was passed by The High Court of Chhattisgarh in the case of Rohit Kumar Sahu  V. State of Madhya Pradesh [Criminal Appeal No.2618 of 1999] by a Single Bench consisting of Hon’ble Shri Justice Arvind Singh Chandel.

The appellant has preferred this appeal against the judgment passed by the Special Judge, Raipur in Special, whereby the Appellant has been convicted and sentenced under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988) as under Section 7 of the Act, Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the Act, with Rigorous Imprisonment for 1 year and fine of Rs.1000 with default stipulation.

Learned Counsel for the Appellant first submitted that the sanction for prosecution of the Appellant obtained from the Law and Legislative Affairs Department, Bhopal is invalid and, therefore, the entire case of the prosecution vitiates. It was argued that according to the provisions of Section 19 of the Act, it is necessary that the sanction for prosecution must be given by the authority competent to remove the person appointed. A Patwari is appointed under Section 104 of the Chhattisgarh Land Revenue Code, 1959 by the Collector and, therefore, the Collector is the competent authority to remove a Patwari. According to the learned counsel, it is submitted that before the Trial Court this objection was raised, but the Trial Court, while passing the impugned judgment, overlooked this fact and, therefore, there is a failure of justice.

Opposing the above arguments, Learned Counsel for the Respondent supported the impugned judgment. Further, he pleaded to reject the petition.

While relying on the State of T.N. v. N. Vijayakumar, the court held that “Before recording conviction under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the courts have to take utmost care in scanning the evidence. Once a conviction is recorded under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, it casts a social stigma on the person in the society apart from serious consequences on the service rendered. At the same time, it is also to be noted that whether the view taken by the trial court is a possible view or not, there cannot be any definite proposition and each case has to be judged on its own merits, having regard to evidence on record.”

While allowing the appeal the learned court opined that “the prosecution has not made any of those persons a witness in this case nor has recorded their statements. It is suspicious that the Appellant would have demanded and accepted bribe money in presence of those persons. Therefore, in considered view, the prosecution has not been able to prove its case of demand and acceptance of bribe money against the Appellant. The Appellant is entitled to get the benefit of the doubt.”

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