Supreme Court: Setting aside the conviction of a man under Sections 7 and 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah has reminded the Courts to take utmost care in scanning the evidence before recording conviction under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.
“Once conviction is recorded under provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, it casts a social stigma on the person in the society apart from serious consequences on the service rendered. At the same time it is also to be noted that whether the view taken by the trial court is a possible view or not, there cannot be any definite proposition and each case has to be judged on its own merits, having regard to evidence on record.”
In the present case, the accused, working as Sanitary Inspector in Madurai Municipal Corporation, was charge-sheeted for the offence under Sections 7, 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the Act for an amount of Rs.500/¬ and a cell phone as illegal gratification from one Thiru. D. Gopal, who was working as Supervisor in a Voluntary Service Organisation called Neat And Clean Service Squad (NACSS), which was given sanitation work on contract basis in Madurai Corporation.
While the Trial Court acquitted the accused, the Madras High Court convicted him. It was argued by the accused that the well reasoned judgment of the trial court, which was rendered by appreciating oral and documentary evidence on record, was reversed by the High Court without recording valid and cogent reasons.
Having regard to material contradictions that were put forth before the Court, the Supreme Court noticed that acquittal is a “possible view”. Even assuming another view is possible, same is no ground to interfere with the judgment of acquittal and to convict the appellant for the offence alleged.
The trial court has disbelieved witnesses by recording several valid and cogent reasons, but the High Court, without appreciating evidence in proper perspective, has reversed the view taken by the trial court. Further, the High Court also has not recorded any finding whether the view taken by the trial court is a “possible view” or not, having regard to the evidence on record.
“Though the High Court was of the view that PW-2, 3 and 5 can be believed, unless it is held that the view taken by the trial court disbelieving the witnesses is not a possible view, the High Court ought not have interfered with the acquittal recorded by the trial court.”
In view of the material contradictions, the prosecution has not proved the case beyond reasonable doubt to convict the appellant. It is equally well settled that mere recovery by itself cannot prove the charge of the prosecution against the accused.
“Mere recovery of tainted money, divorced from the circumstances under which such money and article is found is not sufficient to convict the accused when the substantive evidence in the case is not reliable.”
The Court was, hence, of the view that the demand for and acceptance of bribe amount and cell phone by the appellant, is not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Having regard to such evidence on record the acquittal recorded by the trial court is a “possible view” as such the judgment of the High Court is fit to be set aside.
[N. Vijayakumar v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 53, decided on 03.02.2021]
*Justice R. Subhash Reddy has penned this judgment
Appearances before the Court by
For accused: Senior Advocate S. Nagamuthu
For State: Advocate M. Yogesh Kanna