Evidence to be corroborated beyond doubt to establish offence – Bombay High Court

Mere production of the extract of the recorded version or even such verification of voice of the accused only is not sufficiently held by Hon’ble Justice Smt.Vibha Kankanwadi in the case of Devidas Vs State of Maharashtra [Criminal Appeal No 918 of 2015].

The original complainant Deepak Laxman Wadnere is the brother of one Mangala Hari Sonar, who was employed as a security guard with District Prison at Jalgaon. She has undergone a heart operation and the medical bills needed to be sanctioned for reimbursement. The accused was assigned to give the sanction and he demanded fifty thousand but later settled on twenty-five thousand. The complainant decided to lodge a complaint as he was not ready to give a bribe. The Anti- Corruption Bureau conducted a raid and the money given as bribe was recovered.

The appeal has been filed by the original accused challenging his conviction wherein he has been sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for two years and to pay a fine of Rs.25,000/-, in default, to suffer simple imprisonment for one year for the offence punishable under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. He has been further sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for two years and to pay fine of Rs.25,000/-, in default, to suffer simple imprisonment for one year for committing an offence under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The issues for consideration before the Court was that whether the prosecution has proved demand and acceptance of the bribe by the accused from the complainant and whether interference is required in the decision of convicting the present appellant.

Court placed reliance on the decision in Gulam Mahmood A. Malek vs. State of Gujarat, [1980 (Supp) SCC 684]; wherein it has been held that- “The complainant himself is in the nature of an accomplice and his story is prima-facie suspect for which corroboration in material particulars is necessary.”

Further, in Ajit Savant Majagavi vs. State of Karnataka [AIR 1997 SC 3255], it was observed that – “Therefore, despite no legal bar to judge using his eyes, the judge should hesitate to base his findings with regard to the identity of handwriting solely on the comparison made by himself.”

It was observed that “Here, the learned Special Judge ought to have been slow, rather refrained himself from playing the CD on his laptop in his chamber, when by that time, it had already come on record that the Investigating Officer had not collected the voice sample of the complainant as well as panch No.1.”

Court further held that – “Here, in this case, though the CD’s were produced, voice sample of the accused was also taken and the certificate of the expert was also taken, yet, as aforesaid it cannot be said as complete evidence in the form of electronic record, as voice sample of complainant and panch No.1 was not taken and was not got compared/verified from the expert. Further, the said conversation was not played in the Courtroom at the relevant time during the proceedings. Each time when the conversation has been reproduced, it is stated that it has been got verified from the recorded conversation, then even before the trial Court it ought to have been produced and proved by admissible mode.”

Court further observed that “The accused is the Class-III employee and he is not the sanctioning authority/verification authority of the medical bills. His job was to scrutinize the bills and place those bills before the Civil Surgeon for according sanction only. Therefore, there is no substance in the say of the complainant that he unwillingly gave consent to give a bribe as he believed that the bills of his sister would not be sanctioned. Under such circumstance, merely because the tainted amount was found with the accused, it cannot be said that offence has been proved against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Finally, the accused stands acquitted of the offence punishable under Sections 7, 13(1) (d) read with Section 13(2) of the PC Act. His bail bonds stand cancelled.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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