Corruption; Mukhtiar Singh Vs. State of Punjab [Supreme Court of India, 05-07-2016]

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 – Sections 7 and 13 – Twin Requirements – Once the demand and voluntary acceptance of illegal gratification knowing it to be the bribe are proved by evidence then conviction must follow against the accused – these twin requirements are sine qua non for proving the offence – twin requirements of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification were proved in the case on hand on the basis of evidence adduced by the prosecution against the appellant and hence the appellant was rightly convicted and sentenced for the offences – On the face of the specific and positive evidence which cannot be said to be inherently improbable, the plea of the appellant-accused that the prosecution case is fit to be rejected on the ground of improbability does not appeal – The courts below have rightly rejected the defence evidence – therefore the prosecution in this case has proved the guilt of the appellant-accused beyond all reasonable doubt.


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(J. CHELAMESWAR) AND (R.K. AGRAWAL) JJ.

JULY 5, 2016.

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 618 OF 2012

Mukhtiar Singh …. Appellant(s)

Versus

State of Punjab …. Respondent(s)

J U D G M E N T

R.K. Agrawal, J.

1) This appeal has been filed against the judgment and order dated 28.07.2011 passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in Criminal Appeal No. 852-SB of 2002 whereby the High Court disposed of the appeal filed by the appellant herein against the judgment and order dated 03.05.2002 passed by the Special Judge, Patiala in C.C. No. 20 T/2001/11.4.97 by affirming the conviction while reducing the sentence.

2) Brief facts:

(a) Mukhtiar Singh-the appellant herein was posted as Revenue Patwari at Patiala at the relevant time. One Arjan Singh-the complainant approached the appellant herein in his office and requested for a copy of Jamabandi of his land for the year 1992-93. As per the prosecution, the appellant herein agreed to supply the copy provided he was paid Rs. 600/-. The complainant was asked by the appellant herein to come along with the money on the next day.

(b) The complainant (PW-6), who was not willing to pay the bribe to the appellant herein, disclosed the entire incident before one Bakhshish Singh (PW-8) and requested for his help. On 06.09.1996, Bakhshish Singh and Arjan Singh lodged a written complaint to the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Vigilance Bureau, Patiala.

(c) On the abovesaid complaint, a trap was laid and currency notes in the denomination of Rs. 500/- and Rs. 100/- smeared with phenolphthalein powder and after duly recording their numbers were handed over to the complainant. After following the due procedure, the raiding party along with Arjan Singh (PW-6) and Bakhshish Singh (PW-8) reached the spot. When the complainant went inside the office along with Bakhshish Singh, he found the appellant herein sitting on his chair and on seeing them; the appellant herein asked the complainant if he had brought the money. Arjan Singh responded in affirmative and handed over the currency notes to the appellant herein which was kept by the appellant-accused in his right hand side upper drawer of the table. The appellant-accused handed over the copy of the jamabandi after obtaining the signature of the complainant.

(d) The shadow witness-Bakhshish Singh came out of the office of the appellant-accused and signaled in a specific manner. Thereupon, the investigating officer-Shri Amar Nath, DSP, Vigilance Bureau along with the raiding party and the official witness-Kewal Krishan (PW-5) went inside the office of the appellant-accused. The money was recovered and the handwash of the appellant-accused was taken which turned pink. After following the necessary formalities, a First Information Report (FIR), being No. 58 dated 06.09.1996 came to be registered under

Sections 7 and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988

(in short ‘the PC Act’).

(e) The Special Judge, Patiala, vide order dated 03.05.2002 in C.C. No. 20 T/2001/11.4.97 convicted the appellant-accused under Section 13(1)(d) read with Sections 13(2) and 7 of the PC Act and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment (RI) for 2 (two) years each under Section 7 and Section 13(2) of the Act with the direction that sentences shall run concurrently.

(f) Being aggrieved by the order dated 03.05.2002, the appellant-accused preferred a Criminal Appeal being No. 852-SB of 2002 before the High Court. The High Court, by order dated 28.07.2011, confirmed the order of conviction passed by the Special Judge while reducing the sentence of imprisonment from two years to one year for each of the two offences.

(g) Being aggrieved by the order dated 28.07.2011, the appellant-accused preferred this appeal by way of special leave before this Court.

3) Heard the arguments advanced by learned counsel for the parties and perused the records.

Rival submissions

4) Learned counsel for the appellant-accused contended before this Court that the High Court ought to have appreciated that the copy of the Jamabandi of the land of the complainant was prepared on 04.09.1996 and there was no occasion for the appellant-accused to have demanded the money from the complainant to pay the amount of illegal gratification. It is further submitted that the complainant did not collect the copy of the Jamabandi on 04.09.1996 but later on he connived with the police personnel (vigilance) and came to his office on 06.09.1996 in order to frame the appellant in a fabricated case. Learned counsel further contended that the complainant was annoyed with the appellant because he had supplied a copy of the Jamabandi of the land of the complainant to his adopted son-Nirmal Singh to whom the complainant did not wish to give anything out of his property.

5) Learned counsel for the appellant-accused further submitted that the alleged recovery of money and the hand wash of the appellant-accused are all made up stories. Gurbhej Singh (DW-1), Head Constable, in his deposition stated before the Court that there was no entry to show the deposit of the nip containing hand wash solution of the appellant-accused on 06.09.1996 in Register No. 19 as well as there was no entry in the field register to show that the solution was sent for chemical examination. Learned counsel further contended that the manner in which the raid was conducted and the recovery was made is also very doubtful. He also pointed out various discrepancies in the manner of recovery stating that the money was taken from the drawer of the table by the investigation officer (IO) whereas Rajwant Singh (PW-9) stated to have taken out the same from the drawer by the appellant-accused.

6) Learned counsel for the appellant-accused finally contended that the complainant and Bakhshish Singh (PW-8) are highly interested persons and their testimony as to demand as well as acceptance of the bribe money is highly doubtful. The discrepancies inherent in the prosecution case are not sufficient to bring home the guilt of the appellant-accused.

7) Learned counsel for the respondent-State while replying the above contentions submitted that the demand and acceptance by and recovery from the accused of the bribe money have been proved beyond any manner of doubt and even otherwise the incriminating currency notes having been proved to have been recovered from the custody of the accused in terms of Section 20(1) of the PC Act which were accepted by him as a motive or reward for issuance of copy of the jamabandi. He further submitted that it was not proved by the appellant-accused that the copy of the Jamabandi was delivered to the complainant on 04.09.1996. In fact, the register wherein the signature of the appellant was obtained as token of delivery of copy of the Jamabandi is the relevant piece of evidence for that purpose.

8) With regard to the claim that the complainant nursed a grudge against the appellant-accused for having supplied a copy to his adopted son-Nirmal Singh, it was submitted that the matter between Nirmal Singh and the complainant has already been compromised and also nothing on record was brought by learned counsel for the appellant-accused to show that the copy of the Jamabandi was actually supplied to the Nirmal Singh by him.

9) Learned counsel for the respondent-State further submitted with regard to the contention that no entry was made to show the deposit of hand wash solution that the test of phenolphthalein sodium carbonate is not the requirement of law and any discrepancy pertaining to the same is of no consequence. It was also submitted that the recovery of the tainted currency notes from the custody of the appellant-accused has been proved by direct evidence. Learned counsel for the respondent-State finally submitted that the courts below have rightly convicted the appellant-accused under the provisions of the PC Act and there is no scope of interference by this Court.