In the Judgment of the case – Dashrath Singh Chauhan V. Central Bureau of Investigation, delivered on October 9, 2018, Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Indu Malhotra, at the Supreme Court, have held that ,since in order to attract the rigors of Sections 7, 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the prosecution was under a legal obligation to prove the twin requirements of “demand and acceptance of bribe money by the accused”, proving of one alone but not the other was not sufficient. The appellant is, therefore, entitled for acquittal from the charges framed against him under the PC Act too. (Para 8 of M.K.Harshan v. State of Kerala – (1996) 11 SCC 720).
The appellant was an employee of Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking –DESU. At the relevant time , he was working as Inspector there.
It is not in dispute that the prosecution had framed three charges against the appellant and co-accused Rajinder Kumar and two out of the three charges, namely, Charge Nos. 1 and 2 were based on the conspiracy. It is also not in dispute that the Trial Court , on appreciation of the evidence, held that the prosecution failed to prove the charge of conspiracy under section 120-BIPC against the appellant and Rajinder Kumar(A-1) and accordingly acquitted both of them from the said charge.
It is also not in dispute that so far as co-accused Rajinder Kumar is concerned, he was acquitted from all the charges framed under the PC Act. Further, it is also not disputed that the State neither challenged the clean acquittal of Rajinder Kumar and nor challenged the part-acquittal of the appellant in the HC by filing any appeal. This, therefore, attained finality.
In substance, the charges against both the accused were that the appellant entered into a criminal conspiracy with Rajinder Kumar to demand and accept illegal bribe money of Rs. 4000/-from the complainant – Arun Kumar as a motive or reward for showing official favour in the matter of installation of electricity power connection.
In furtherance thereof, the appellant on March 28, 1995 as also on March 29, 1995 around 11.30 am to 11.55 am in the DESU office demanded Rs. 4,000/- from the complainant and directed him to pay the said money to co-accused Rajinder Kumar, who accepted the said money on his behalf.
In the Supreme Court’s “considered opinion”, when the charge against both the accused in relation to conspiracy was not held proved and both the accused were acquitted from the said charge which, in turn, resulted in clean acquittal of Rajinder Kumar from all the charges under the PC Act , a fortiori, the appellant too was entitled for his clean acquittal from the charges under the PC Act.
It is not the case of the prosecution that the appellant conspired with another person and even though the identity of the other person was not established, yet the appellant has been held guilty for the offence under section 120-B IPC. On the contrary, the Court found that the case of the prosecution was that the appellant conspired with one Rajinder Kumar to accept the sum of Rs. 4000/- as illegal gratification from the complainant – Arun Kumar.
Once Rajinder Kumar so also the appellant stood acquitted in respect of the charge of conspiracy and further, the co-accused Rajinder Kumar was also acquitted from the charges under the PC Act, the charges against the appellant must also necessarily fall on the ground, in the light of the Supreme Court’s own decision in the case – Bhagat Ram v. State of Rajasthan – (1972) 2 SCC 466).
Even assuming that despite the appellant being acquitted of the charge relating to conspiracy and notwithstanding the clean acquittal of Rajinder Kumar from all the charges, the prosecution failed to prove the charge against the appellant under sections 7, 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act.
It is for the reason that in order to prove a case against the appellant , it was necessary for the prosecution to prove the twin requirement of “demand and the acceptance of the bribe amount by the appellant”. It was the case of the prosecution in the charge that the appellant did not accept the bribe money, but the money was accepted and recovered from the possession of the co-accused Rajinder Kumar.
In such circumstances, there is no evidence to prove that the appellant directly accepted the money from the complainant. Since the plea of conspiracy against the appellant and Rajinder Kumar failed, it cannot be held that money –Rs. 4000/- recovered from the possession of Rajinder Kumar was as a fact the bribe money meant for the appellant for holding him guilty for the offence punishable under sections 7, 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the PC Act. It is more so when the benefit of such acquittal from the charge of conspiracy was given to Rajinder Kumar but was not given to the appellant.
In the Court’s view, the prosecution, therefore, failed to prove the factum of acceptance of bribe money of Rs. 4000/-by the appellant from the complainant on March 29, 1995 as per the charges framed against him.
Since In order to attract the rigors of sections 7, 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the PC Act, the prosecution was under a legal obligation to prove the twin requirements of “demand and acceptance of bribe money by the accused”, the proving of one alone but not the other was not sufficient. The appellant is, therefore, entitled for acquittal from the charges framed against him under the PC Act too. (Para 8 of the judgment in the case M.K.Harshan v. State of Kerala – (1996) 11 SCC 720).
In view of the discussion, the appeal succeeds and is accordingly allowed. The impugned judgment has been set aside. The conviction and the sentence awarded to the appellant under sections 7, 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the PC Act by the courts below are set aside and the appellant is set free from the said charges.
The Court has clarified that if the appellant is already on bail, it is not necessary for him to surrender.
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