In this case, the Telangana High Court allowed the appeals of two officers charged with the offence of accepting bribery under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The appeal was allowed based on lack of material evidence and corroboration on the complainant's side.
Date of Judgment:
10th June 2021
Hon’ble Justice G. Sri Devi
Appellants - K. Ramesh Goud (A1); K.Peethamber Babu (A-2)
Respondent- The Inspector of Police, Anti-Corruption Bureau, City Range-1, Hyderabad, Telangana
Section - 313, Cr. P.C – This Section states the power to examine the accused in every inquiry or trial. This is done to enable the accused to explain the circumstances in the pieces of evidence appearing against him.
Section - 7, Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 – If a public servant accepts or obtains any gratification other than legal remuneration as a motive or reward for doing or refraining from doing an official act, they are subject to a minimum of six months but a maximum of five years imprisonment.
Section - 13 (1) (d), Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 – This Section states the conditions when a public officer is said to have committed an offence of criminal misconduct if he obtains for himself or another person any valuable thing or financial advantage by corrupt or illegal means, or by abusing his position without any public benefit,
Section - 13 (2), Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 - This Section states that any public servant committing criminal misconduct shall be punishable with imprisonment for at least one year, which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
- A-1 was a Sub-Inspector, and A-2 was a Constable in Hyderabad's Kachiguda Police Station. In 2003, Hari Govind Singh filed a case against P.W.1 for cheque dishonour. The Court issued a non-bailable warrant for his non-appearance.
- The accused and other police constables went to P.W.1's house and informed him that an N.B.W. was pending against P.W.1. P.W.1 requested time to consult his lawyer, but A-1 demanded Rs.20,000 as a bribe for the non-execution of the N.B.W. against him. P.W.1 agreed to pay a bribe of Rs.15,000 and said he'd arrange the funds and meet A-1. A-1 threatened to arrest P.W.1 if he did not pay him or A-2 immediately.
- P.W.1 approached A.C.B. officials to file charges against A-1 and A-2. A criminal complaint was lodged against both the accused. An F.I.R. was issued, and it took up investigation. On the same day, the trap party members, along with P.W.1, went to the house of P.W.1. A-2 came to the house of P.W.1 and demanded the bribe amount on behalf of A-1, and P.W.1 handed over the bribe amount to A-2.
- After the tests by the trap party, A-1 and A-2 were arrested and sent to judicial custody. In conclusion, a charge was filed, and cognizance was taken. The trial court examined the accused u/s 313, Cr. P.C, then convicted and sentenced both accused based on all available oral and documentary evidence.
- They were convicted u/s 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and u/s 13 (1) (d) read with Section 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Both A-1 and A-2 had challenged the conviction.
- Whether the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellants A-1 and A-2 demanded and accepted bribes?
- Whether the trial court's judgement is factually and legally sustainable?
- The court stated that a review of the entire evidence shows that statements by the prosecution witnesses are filled with discrepancies and contradictions.
- It first noted that P.W.1 stated that he had given the money to A-2 on his demand, while P.W.2, P.W.1's manager, stated that A-2 had called P.W.1 in the morning. Further, P.W.5 says A-2 demanded the bribe, while P.W.10 says P.W.1 came out of the house within two minutes and gave the prearranged signal.
- It was also noted that, according to P.W.2, A-2 had spoken with P.W.1 over the phone. Still, the details of their conversation were not recorded. Later, he stated that A-2 demanded a bribe amount from P.W.1, which contradicts the prosecution's initial version.
- Furthermore, it was stated that through cross-examination of these witnesses, A-2 has demonstrated that he neither demanded nor accepted the tainted amount. Instead, P.W.1 rushed it into his left side pocket. The same was not incorporated in the mediator's report. The 2nd mediator's report was only produced to suit the prosecution’s case.
- The court stated that it seems that the entire trap proceedings and mediators' reports, etc., were prepared in the A.C.B. Office only, not at P.W.1's house, as the prosecution claims. Hence, it was stated that the prosecution failed to present evidence to support either the appellants' alleged demand or alleged bribe receipt.
- The court opined that the respondents had proven their case by a preponderance of probability. Also, A-2 had not gone to P.W1's house and that the money had not been accepted as gratification for A-1.
- The court finally held that the circumstances of the alleged trap proceedings clearly show that the money was forced into A-2's pocket without demand or acceptance from P.W.1. Hence, the prosecution failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
After determining all factors, the court stated that the circumstances found by the learned trial court in totality do not establish that A-1 demanded the bribe amount or that A-2 has accepted the amount of Rs.15,000/- as gratification.
The court examined each factor and established that the charges under Sections 7 and 13 (2) read with Section 13 (1) (d) of the Act have not been proved against them. In light of the above, the High Court Bench stated that the trial court misapprehended the evidence and drew incorrect conclusions.
The appellants' conviction and sentence were reversed, and both criminal appeals were allowed. The appellants' bail bonds were also cancelled, as were their sureties. Also, any fines paid by the appellant were ordered to be refunded.
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