Mere recovery of currency notes from a government employee will not constitute an offence under Prevention of Corruption Act: SC

The Supreme Court has recently observed that recovery or possession of currency notes is not enough to constitute an offence u/s 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act.

While setting aside High Court judgement convicting an accused in a corruption case, the Bench observed that to prove the charge, it has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused accepted knowing it was a bribe.

Background:-

In the instant case, the accused was a Sanitary Inspector working for Madurai Municipal Corporation and was acquitted by the Trial Court. 

However, on appeal, the High Court reversed Trial Court judgment and convicted the accused.

Aggrieved, the accused moved the Apex Court.

Observations and Decision of the Supreme Court:-

After considering the evidence on record, the Court observed that demand for and acceptance of a bribe and phone call by the accused-appellant was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Court observed that as per settled law, mere recovery by itself, cannot prove the charge against the accused. In this context, the Court relied on CM Girish Babu vs CBI and B Jayaraj vs State of Andhra Pradesh.

In those case, Apex Court observed that in case u/s 7, 13(1)(d)(i),(ii) of Prevention of Corruption Act, it was reiterated that to prove a charge, it has to be proved beyond doubt that accused accepted money knowing it was a bribe. Absence of proof of demand and mere possession or recovery of currency was insufficient to constitute an offence. In that judgement, the Court also held that even presumption u/s 20 of Act could only be drawn after acceptance and demand of illegal gratification is proved.

The Court further noted that, in the instant case, the finding of acquittal recorded by the Trial Court was a possible view; therefore, the High Court should not have reversed the acquittal of that conviction. 

While setting aside the High Court’s judgment, the Bench stated that demand for and the acceptance of a bribe and cell phone by the appellant-accused, was not proved beyond reasonable doubt and before recording conviction under Prevention of Corruption Act, courts have to scan the evidence thoroughly.

The Court further stated that the Trial Court’s view was a possible view, and each case has to be judged on its own merits.

Case Detail:-

Title: N.Vijayakumar vs State of Tamil Nadu

Case No.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 100­101 OF 2021

Date of Order:03.02.2021

Coram; Hon’ble Justice Ashok Bhushan, Hon’ble Justice R Subash Reddy and Hon’ble Justice MR Shah

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