In bribery cases involving government officials, the failure of the prosecution to prove the demand for illegal gratification will be a fatal and mere recovery of the amount from the person accused of the offence under Section 7 or 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 will not entitle his conviction thereunder.
Even the Courts have held that the proof of demand of illegal gratification is a gravamen of the offence under the above two sections and in the absence thereof, the charge thereof will fail.
If acceptance is proved, the same will allow the courts to invoke a presumption under Section 20 of the Act.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has held that in the absence of proof of demand of illegal gratification the charge thereof would fail.
Mere acceptance of any amount allegedly by way of illegal gratification, recovered thereof, dehors the proof of demand, the very fact itself would thus not be sufficient to bring home the charge under the Act.
In one such case before the High Court, the accused filed an appeal challenging the order of the Special Court for ACB cases that convicted him of the offence under various sections of the PC Act and sentenced him to undergo simple imprisonment for two years.
The complainant purchased a mill in an auction conducted by the State finance corporation. Though he started running the business, the electrical connection was not transferred in his name. He conducted the business for some time.
As he failed to pay the electricity charges, the electricity department disconnected the power supply.
When he intended to sell the mill, the proposed buyers expressed unwillingness due to the electricity connection not being restored and thereby he approached the accused, an assistant engineer in the electricity department, for the restoration of the electrical service connection to the mill.
The accused allegedly informed him to pay Rs 30,000 as a bribe to him for the restoration of old electrical connection.
The complainant informed the ACB and the latter laid trap proceedings against the accused and recovered the tainted currency notes from the latter’s possession and arrested the accused and remanded to judicial custody.
After considering the evidence and material on record, the trial court passed the order convicting the accused as above. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant-accused moved the High Court for relief.
Legal and factual aspects
The counsel for the appellant-accused told the High Court that the prosecution failed to prove the demand made by the complainant, and the statement recorded before the magistrate the complainant did not speak about any demand.
The trial court has not appreciated the legal and factual aspects of the case before coming to the conclusion.
The public prosecutor submitted that since the chemical test proved positive, acceptance stands proved and hence the presumption under Section 20 of the Act can be invoked for arriving at the guilt of the accused.
After hearing both sides and perusing the material on record and various court judgments, the High Court found that the accused told the complainant that he would verify the matter of restoration of electricity connection and asked the latter to wait for some days and sent the file for processing.
However, the complainant gave a report to the ACB officers and the latter laid a trap.
On the day of the trap, the complainant went to the office and enquired with the accused regarding his file and the latter told him that it would take two more days.
Then he offered Rs 10,000 to the accused and the latter asked him why he was giving the amount to him as he never asked for it and pushed the amount with his both hands.
As the amount fell on the ground the complainant himself took it and kept in the drawer of the accused. When ACB conducted a chemical test, his hands turned pink which indicated that the test was positive.
When the ACB enquired with the accused, the latter stated that the complainant had kept the said amount. “The evidence brought forth before the court does not suffice to prove the demand allegedly made by the accused from the complainant”, the Court observed.