Burden of proving bribe under Prevention of Corruption Act

The trap for bribe:

P.W.2 was desirous for transfer of the electric connection on the land in question in his own name to facilitate a subsidy of Rs.625/­ every six months. The village administrative officer was required to sign the necessary documents for the purpose. P.W.2 lodged a written complaint on 17.12.2003 against the village administrative officer alone for having demanded a sum of Rs.600/­ as illegal gratification for the purpose. P.W.2 lodged a written report regarding the same. Necessary mazhar was prepared. The appellants were village assistants in the office of the village administrative officer.

The village administrative officer came to the office along with accused no.3 while accused no.2 waited at the office for both of them. The money was handed over to accused no.2 on the instructions of the village administrative officer. The significance of accused no.2 counting the money before handing it over to accused no.3 who put it in his shirt pocket, lay in the confirmation that the amount was in consonance with the demand, of which naturally the appellants were therefore aware of. It was only after the money as demanded was paid that accused no.3 filled up the form for transfer of the electric connection in the name of P.W.2 and placed it before the village administrative officer who then signed and put his seal on the same. At this moment, they were apprehended. The money was handed over to the trap officials by the village administrative officer after taking it back from accused no.3. Their hands were dipped in the sodium carbonate solution, including the shirt of the third accused, leading to change of colour of the solution confirming that they were the same notes which were given to P.W.2 by the trap officials.

Specific  demand for bribe:

The mere absence of any specific statement by P.W.2 and the trap witness P.W.4 of any demand and acceptance by the appellants, attributing the same only to the village administrative officer can be of no avail to the appellants. P.W.10, Inspector Crime Branch proved the trap proceedings and recovery. The defence of the appellants that they had received the money in the bonafide belief that it was towards arrears of land tax is belied by the fact that land tax for the period in question had already been cancelled by the State Government. The taking of a false defence is a further aggravating circumstance against the appellants.

The contention that there was no demand or acceptance by the appellants or that it was in a bonafide belief merits no consideration. The prosecution was therefore able to establish a prima facie case against the appellants. Section 20 of the Act provides that if an accused public servant has accepted or obtained for himself or for any other person any undue advantage from any person, there shall be a presumption unless the contrary is proved that he accepted or obtained that undue advantage as a motive of reward for performance of a public duty improperly or dishonestly either by himself or by another public servant.

[Source: Guruviah vs State Rep. by Inspector Of Police decided by SC on 20 August, 2019]

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