6 Apr 2010

Mere recovery of bribe from public servant not sufficient for conviction: Supreme Court

In a recent decision [Banarsi Dass v. State of Haryana] the Supreme Court has declared that inference of demand and receipt of the illegal gratification is not permissible only from the fact that money was recovered from the accused. Dealing with a case relating to conviction of a public servant for accepting bribe, the Supreme Court set aside the conviction holding that it is not sufficient that tainted money is recovered from possession of the accused. Rather it is also required to be shown independently that the accused demanded bribe and was illegally gratified. 

Reversing the High Court's decision, the Supreme Court inter alia stated as under;
10. It is a settled canon of criminal jurisprudence that the conviction of an accused cannot be founded on the basis of inference. The offence should be proved against the accused beyond reasonable doubt either by direct evidence or even by circumstantial evidence if each link of the chain of events is established pointing towards the guilt of the accused. The prosecution has to lead cogent evidence in that regard. So far as it satisfies the essentials of a complete chain duly
supported by appropriate evidence. Applying these tests to the facts of the present case, P-10 and P-11 were neither the eyewitnesses to the demand nor to the acceptance of money by the accused from Smt. Sat Pal Kaur (PW-2) ,,, 
11. To constitute an offence under Section 161 of the IPC it is necessary for the prosecution to prove that there was demand of money and the same was voluntarily accepted by the accused. Similarly, in terms of Section 5 (1) (d) of the Act, the demand and acceptance of the money for doing a favour in discharge of its official duties is sine qua non to the conviction of the accused. In the case of M.K. Harshan v. State of Kerala [1996 (11) SCC 720], this Court in somewhat similar circumstances, where the tainted money was kept in the drawer of the accused who denied the same and said that it was put in the drawer without his knowledge, held as under :
".......It is in this context the courts have cautioned that as a rule of prudence, some corroboration is necessary. In all such type of cases of bribery, two aspects are important. Firstly, there must be a demand and secondly there must be acceptance in the sense that the accused has obtained the illegal gratification. Mere demand by itself is not sufficient to establish the offence. Therefore, the other aspect, namely, acceptance is very important and when the accused has come forward with a plea that the currency notes were put in the drawer without his knowledge, then there must be clinching evidence to show that it was with the tacit approval of the accused that the money had been put in the drawer as an illegal gratification. Unfortunately, on this aspect in the present case we have no other evidence except that of PW-1. Since PW-1's evidence suffers from infirmities, we sought to find some corroboration but in vain. There is no other witness or any other circumstance which supports the evidence of PW-1 that this tainted money as a bribe was put in the drawer, as directed by the accused. Unless we are satisfied on this aspect, it is difficult to hold that the accused tacitly accepted the illegal gratification or obtained the same within the meaning of Section 5(1)(d) of the Act, particularly when the version of the accused appears to be probable".
Thus the citizens and the investigating authority would now have to go a further way of getting clinching evidence to ensure conviction of the public servants seeking illegal gratification.

No comments: