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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sections 7 and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988= corroboration - held that acceptance of the submission of the accused that the complainant’s version required corroboration in all circumstances, in abstract would encourage the bribe taker to receive illegal gratification in privacy and then insist for corroboration in case of the prosecution. Law cannot countenance such situation. Thus, it is not necessary that the evidence of a reliable witness is necessary to be corroborated by another witness, as such evidence stands corroborated from the other material on record………..” =It is relevant to mention here that the minimum sentence under Sections 7 and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 has been enhanced by Act No. 1 of 2014 with effect from 16.1.2014, but incident in question relates to the period prior to said date. Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the view that the sentence of rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years and fine of rupees one lakh would meet the ends of justice in the present case. 14. Accordingly, the sentence of imprisonment is reduced from period of three years to a period of two years without interfering with the sentence of fine, recorded by the trial court.

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                     CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.    955 OF 2015
             (@ Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 2383 of 2015)

Gurjant Singh                                      … Appellant

                                   Versus

State of Punjab                                    … Respondent




                               J U D G M E N T

Prafulla C. Pant, J.


      This appeal is directed against judgment and order  dated  24.12.2014,
passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Criminal Appeal No.  2065-
SB of 2005, whereby the  criminal  appeal  is  dismissed,  and  order  dated
5.11.2005,  passed  by  the  Sessions  Judge,   Faridkot,   convicting   and
sentencing the  appellant  Gurjant  Singh  under  Sections  7/13(2)  of  the
Prevention Act, 1988, is upheld.
2.          We have heard learned counsel for the parties  and  perused  the
papers on record.





3.          Prosecution story in brief is that complainant Harpal Singh (PW-
1) was President of Rice Millers Association, Kotkapura.  Appellant  Gurjant
Singh was posted as Technical Assistant with Food Corporation of India  (for
short “the FCI”).  On 29.5.2003, complainant, after holding a  meeting  with
other rice millers, met the appellant regarding supply  of  20  consignments
of advance rice  belonging  to  ten  shellers  to  the  FCI,   on  which  he
(appellant) demanded rupees one lakh as illegal gratification for  approving
the quality  of  the  rice.   The  complainant  reluctantly  agreed  to  pay
Rs.50,000/- on next day, i.e. 30.5.2003.  The  complainant  disclosed  about
the same to Sandip Kataria  (PW-2)  who  advised  him  to  complain  to  the
Vigilance Department.  Thereafter, they  complained  the  matter  to  Deputy
Superintendent of Police, Vigilance Bureau, Faridkot.  On the basis of  said
complaint, a First Information Report No.22 dated 30.5.2003 was  registered,
and a trap  was  laid  by  the  Vigilance  Department.   Jetha  Ram  (PW-3),
District Welfare Officer, Faridkot, and Surjit Singh,  Junior  Assistant  in
the office of the District Welfare Officer, were requested  to  be  official
witnesses.  Hundred currency notes of denomination of Rs.500  were  produced
by the complainant in the office of Vigilance Department, in  order  to  use
the same to trap the appellant.  Phenolphthalein powder was applied  to  the
currency notes by the Vigilance Officers and the  numbers  of  the  currency
notes were jotted down in memorandum  (Ext.  P8).   Tainted  currency  notes
were then handed over to complainant Harpal Singh  (PW-1)  so  that  he  may
offer the same to the appellant in response  to  the  demand  made  by  him.
Sandip  Kataria  (PW-2),  shadow  witness,  was   directed   to   hear   the
conversation between the appellant and the complainant, and to  give  signal
to the raiding party.  Baldev Singh Dhaliwal (PW-11)  Deputy  Superintendent
of Police, Vigilance, led  the  team  along  with  other  personnel  of  the
Department, and the witnesses.  On 30.5.2003, he along with the  complainant
and the witnesses went to  Mahan  Laxmi  Rice  Mills,  Kotkapura  where  the
amount was to  be  handed  over  to  the  appellant.   The  complainant  and
witnesses were dropped at some distance from the  mill,  and  raiding  party
remained outside the mill.  After some  time,  the  shadow  witness  (Sandip
Kataria) gave a signal to the raiding party on which it rushed to the  mill.
 Appellant Gurjant Singh, who was found in the mill, was given  identity  by
Baldev Singh Dhaliwal, Deputy Superintendent of Police,  Vigilance  (PW-11),
and the appellant was made to dip his both hands  in  the  glass  of  sodium
carbonate solution on which the colour  of  the  solution  turned  to  light
pink.  The solution was then put into a clear nip (M02)  with  seal  bearing
impression “BS”, whereafter signatures of the witnesses were  taken  on  it.
Thereafter the Deputy Superintendent of Police asked the appellant  to  hand
over the tainted currency notes accepted by him.  The appellant  produced  a
packet  of  Rs.50,000/-  consisting  of  hundred  currency  notes  each   of
denomination of Rs.500/-  from  the  pocket  of  his  trousers.   After  the
numbers of the currency notes got tallied with the numbers mentioned in  the
memorandum  earlier   prepared,   the   appellant   was   arrested.    After
investigation, charge sheet  against  accused  Gurjant  Singh,  relating  to
offences punishable under Section 7/13(2) of the  Prevention  of  Corruption
Act, 1988 was submitted to the trial court.





4.          Learned Sessions Judge, Faridkot, on  20.2.2004,  after  hearing
learned counsel for the  parties,  framed  charge  against  accused  Gurjant
Singh (appellant) relating to offences punishable under Section  7/13(2)  of
the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, to which he pleaded not  guilty  and
claimed to be tried.





5.           On  this,  prosecution  got   examined   PW-1   Harpal   Singh,
complainant, PW-2 Sandip Kataria, shadow witness, PW-3 Jetha  Ram,  District
Welfare Officer, official witness, PW-4 Ashok Kumar  Bhandari,  PW-5  Suresh
Kumar, PW-6 Mohinder Pal, Personal Assistant to  Deputy  Commissioner,  PW-7
Constable Harmail Singh, PW-8 Head Constable Swaran Singh, PW-9  Madan  Lal,
PW-10 Head Constable Kirpal Singh and PW-11 Baldev  Singh  Dhaliwal,  Deputy
Superintendent of Police (vigilance).





6.          The prosecution evidence, both oral and documentary, was put  to
the accused under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal  Procedure,  1973,  in
reply to which he  pleaded  his  innocence  and  stated  that  the  evidence
adduced against him was false.  In defence, the appellant got examined  DW-1
Anil Kumar, Assistant Manager, DW-2 Murli Dhar, Auditor,  and  DW-3  Darshan
Singh, Assistant Manager, Accounts.  Learned Sessions Judge,  after  hearing
the parties, found that charge against accused Gurjant Singh (appellant)  is
proved  and,  after  hearing  on  sentence,  sentenced   him   to   rigorous
imprisonment for a period of three years and directed to pay fine of  rupees
one lakh under Section 7/13(2) of the Prevention of  Corruption  Act,  1988,
and also directed that in default of payment  of  fine,  the  convict  shall
undergo rigorous imprisonment for further period of three months.





7.          Aggrieved by said judgment and order dated 5.11.2005, passed  by
the learned Sessions Judge, Faridkot, criminal appeal was preferred  by  the
convict before the High Court, and the same, by the impugned  judgment,  was
dismissed.





8.          On going through the evidence  on  record,  we  find  that  PW-1
Harpal Singh, complainant, has proved the demand of rupees  one  lakh,  made
by the appellant, for  accepting  and  approving  the  advance  rice  to  be
supplied by the Shellers.  He has further proved that after some  talks  the
appellant agreed to accept Rs.50,000/-.  He has given detailed narration  of
the facts as to how the matter was complained to  the  Vigilance  Department
and trap was laid, and as to how  the  hundred  tainted  currency  notes  of
denomination of Rs.500/- were  accepted  by  the  appellant,  on  which  the
Vigilance team caught the appellant red handed,  and  recovered  the  amount
from him.  The statement of PW-1 Harpal Singh is fully corroborated by  PW-2
Sandip Kataria and PW-3 Jetha Ram, District Welfare Officer.





9.          PW-11, Baldev Singh Dhaliwal, Deputy Superintendent  of  Police,
Vigilance Bureau, Faridkot, has also narrated the entire operation.  He  has
proved the  complaint  made  by  PW-1,  and  the  First  Information  Report
(Ext.PA/2),   registered   as   directed   by   Baljinder   Singh    Grewal,
Superintendent of Police.     He  further  proved  sanction  (Ext.  PM)  for
prosecution of  appellant,  and  also  proved  the  report  (Ext.  PP)  from
Forensic Science Laboratory, received on completion of investigation.





10.         We have also gone through the statements of  defence  witnesses.
But considering quality of evidence of prosecution witnesses, we are of  the
opinion that amount of  Rs.50,000/-  cannot  be  planted,  and  the  defence
version  pleading  innocence  cannot  be   accepted   in   the   facts   and
circumstances of this case.  The statements  of  defence  witnesses  are  of
little help to discredit the testimony of  the  prosecution  witnesses.   As
such, keeping in mind the presumption to be taken under Section  20  of  the
Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, we are not inclined  to  interfere  with
the conviction recorded by the trial court  under  Section  7/13(2)  of  the
Act, and affirmed by the High Court.  We think it  proper  to  mention  here
few decisions of this Court, which reflect what approach should  be  adopted
in such matters.





11.         In Narendra Champaklal Trivedi  v.  State  of  Gujarat[1],  this
Court, in almost similar facts, has observed as under: -



“22.  In the case at hand, the money was recovered from the pockets  of  the
appellant-accused.  A presumption  under  Section  20  of  the  Act  becomes
obligatory.  It is a presumption of law  and  casts  an  obligation  on  the
court to apply it in every case brought under Section 7  of  the  Act.   The
said presumption is a rebuttable one.  In the present case, the  explanation
offered by the appellant-accused has  not  been  accepted  and  rightly  so.
There is no evidence  on  the  base  of  which  it  can  be  said  that  the
presumption has been rebutted.”



12.         In Mukut Bihari and Another v. State of Rajasthan[2],  referring
to various cases, this Court has made following observations: -





“13. This Court in C. Sharma v. State of  A.P.  [(2010)  15  SCC  1],  after
considering various judgments of this Court including Panalal Damodar  Rathi
v. State of Maharashtra [(1979) 4 SCC 526] and Meena Balwant Hemke v.  State
of Maharashtra [(2000) 5 SCC 21] held that acceptance of the  submission  of
the accused that the complainant’s version  required  corroboration  in  all
circumstances, in abstract  would  encourage  the  bribe  taker  to  receive
illegal gratification in privacy and then insist for corroboration  in  case
of the prosecution.  Law cannot countenance such  situation.   Thus,  it  is
not necessary that the evidence of a reliable witness  is  necessary  to  be
corroborated by another witness, as such evidence stands  corroborated  from
the other material on record………..”



13.         Learned counsel for the appellant submitted  that  the  sentence
awarded by the trial court is harsh, and the same may at  least  be  reduced
to the period already undergone by the appellant.  It is  further  submitted
by him that the sentence of imprisonment awarded by the trial court is  much
more than the minimum sentence prescribed under law as  it  stood  in  2003.
It is relevant to mention here that the minimum sentence  under  Sections  7
and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988  has  been  enhanced  by
Act No. 1 of 2014 with effect  from  16.1.2014,  but  incident  in  question
relates to the period  prior  to  said  date.   Considering  the  facts  and
circumstances of the case, we are of the view that the sentence of  rigorous
imprisonment for a period of two years and fine of  rupees  one  lakh  would
meet the ends of justice in the present case.



14.         Accordingly,  the  sentence  of  imprisonment  is  reduced  from
period of three years to a period of two years without interfering with  the
sentence of fine, recorded by the trial court.  With  this  modification  in
the sentence, the appeal stands disposed of.





                                                           ……………….....…………J.
                                                               [Dipak Misra]



                                                             .……………….……………J.
                                             [Prafulla C. Pant]
New Delhi;
July 24, 2015.


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[1]    (2012) 7 SCC 80
[2]    (2012) 11 SCC 642

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