Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Ranjan Gogoi and R. Banumathi, JJ. reversed the decision of the Gujarat High Court which had acquitted the accused of the charges under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The accused were working in the Non-Agriculture Department. The complainant was a businessman who wanted to start a new firm. Permission for non-agricultural use of the land was sought from the Department. The accused were alleged to have demanded bribe for expediting the process. Rs 500 were paid to the Accused 1 through Accused 2, who was caught red-handed in the trap laid by the ACB. They were tried for the offences punishable under Sections 7 and 13(1)(d) of the Act. The trial court convicted the accused and sentenced them accordingly. However, on appeal, the High Court acquitted the accused holding that the case was not proved against the accused. Aggrieved by this decision, the State preferred the instant appeal.
At the outset, the Supreme Court observed that to prove the offence of bribe, the demand and acceptance of illegal gratification was sine qua non. On the facts of the case, the Court found that statements of PWs 1 and 2 along with the recovery of bribe amount after following proper procedure by the ACB, proved the case against the accused. Further, it was observed that the presumption against the accused under Section 20 is a rebuttable one and the degree of proof is the preponderance of probabilities. However, in the present case, the accused were not able to give any explanation to rebut that presumption. In such circumstances, the Supreme Court was of the opinion that the High Court ought not to interfere with the decision of the trial court that suffered from no infirmity. Hence, the impugned judgment of the Gujarat High Court was set aside and that of the trial court was reaffirmed. However, considering that the matter was almost 27 years old, the sentence of the accused was reduced from 2 years to 1 year. [State of Gujarat v. Navinbhai Chandrakant Joshi,2018 SCC OnLine SC 699, dated 17-07-2018]