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Appellant entitled for benefit of doubt if prosecution is unable to prove demand and acceptance of the bribe: Chhattisgarh HC

In a case of bribery, the burden to prove that the accused was involved in an offence purview under section 13 (1)(d) of the Prevention of corruption act, 1988 lies on the prosecution. Mere recovery of tainted money from the Appellant is not sufficient to prove the offence in question. “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 benefit of doubt.” This was upheld by a single judge bench comprising of Hon’ble Shri Justice Arvind Singh Chandel in Rohit Kumar Sahu v. State of Madhya Pradesh [Criminal Appeal No.2618 of 1999]

 

The facts of the case are the appellant was posted as a Patwari of Patwari Halka No.104, Village Lawan. The complainant got an order passed in his favour for a correction in a mutation record. He met with the appellant where the appellant demanded a bribe of Rs. 250. The complainant registered a written complaint with the Superintendent of Police, Lokayukta, Raipur based on which a Dehati Nalishi was registered. They further went on to trap the appellant. Sanction for prosecuting the appellant was given by the Department of Law and Legislative Affairs, Bhopal. The appellant defended before the trial court that he neither demanded nor accepted a bribe. Furthermore, there was no witness who had been examined in support of his defense. The trial court convicted the appellant.

An appeal was filed in High Court of Chhattisgarh, Bilaspur where the counsel for the appellant contended that the sanction for prosecution of the appellant obtained was invalid according to the provision of section 19 of the act relying on the judgements of Madhya Pradesh High Court in (1994) 2 MPJR 58 (Chandramani Prasad v. State of Madhya Pradesh) quoting, “the power to appoint a Patwari is conferred upon the Collector under Section 104(2) of the LR Code. It was also held that the Patwari so removed shall have right to appeal and revision under the provisions of the LR Code”. Thus, the trial court had errored in its judgement.

Further, the issue whether there was a demand and acceptance of the bribe was analyzed by the learned judge placing heavy reliance on the case of (2014) 13 SCC 55 (B. Jayaraj v. State of Andhra Pradesh) where the Supreme court held that, “ Insofar as the offence under Section 7 is concerned, it is a settled position in law that demand of illegal gratification is sine qua non to constitute the said offence and mere recovery of currency notes cannot constitute the offence under Section 7 unless it is proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused voluntarily accepted the money knowing it to be a bribe.” It also decreed that prosecution had not examined any other witness present during the time of acceptance of bribe and had also changed his statements from the initial complaint thus, there were no material evidence to be relied upon. In the present case as well, observed that the statements from the prosecution witnesses were contradictory. Furthermore, none of them had witnessed the demand/ acceptance of the alleged bribe by the appellant. Thus, the Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh, Bilaspur decreed “It is suspicious that the Appellant would have demanded and accepted bribe money in presence of those persons. Therefore, in my 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 benefit of doubt”.

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