Bombay High Court: Sandeep K. Shinde, J., refused to discharge an Income Tax Officer from charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The applicant Income Tax Officer was accused of demanding a bribe.
Applicant while working as an income tax officer demanded a bribe of Rs 10 lakhs from the complainant to ignore all the disputed cash deposits and discrepancy noticed with regard to the sale consideration of a property in relation to the assessment proceedings of the complainant’s daughter. In the said assessment proceedings, the complainant’s daughter was represented by accused 2.
Accused 2 informed the complainant and his wife that applicant demanded Rs 10 lakhs to ignore the discrepancies and disputed cash deposits, and if not paid, he would impose additional tax and penalty, which could be around Rs 1 Crore and 81 lakhs.
Complainant stated that he explained the queries raised by the applicant/income tax officer. However, applicant emphasized that transactions reflected in the bank account would be taxable.
According to the complainant, during the meeting, applicant demanded Rs 10 lakhs to ignore all the queries, after which demand was scaled down to Rs 5 lakhs for ignoring the queries except the cash transactions.
The complainant recorded the conversation transcript of the recorded conversation, divulged tacit approval of the applicant to favour the complainant by ignoring certain queries. Transcript further divulged that applicant consented to accept the bribe money, which he demanded on 29-12-2016 through Chartered Accountant. Every right from verification of the complaint till recording the conversation was noted in the panchanama.
Transcript of the recorded conversation revealed implicit approval of the applicant to show favour in assessment proceedings of complainant’s daughter against the reward of Rs 50,000 which was to be paid to accused on behalf of the applicant.
Prosecutor submitted that transcript of recorded conversation between the complainant and the C.A. clearly revealed demand of bribe money and its acceptance through the CA. Further, it was argued that the impugned order does not suffer any infirmity or material irregularity and/or illegality and thus this Court in its revisional jurisdiction may not appreciate the material on record and interfere in impugned order.
Law relating to the power of the Sessions Court to discharge the accused has been well settled in the decision of State of Maharashtra v. Priya Sharan Maharaj, (1997) 4 SCC 393; Niranjan Singh Punjabi v. Jitendra Bijaya, (1990) 4 SCC 76.
‘at the stage of framing of the charge, the Court has to consider the material with a view to find out if there is ground for presuming that the accused has committed offence or that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding against him and not for the purpose of arriving at the conclusion that it is not likely to lead to a conviction.’
Analysis, Law and Decision
In the present matter, Court noted that the applicant was an income-tax officer and complainant’s daughter’s tax assessment proceedings were before him.
Crux of the complaint was the bribe money, demanded by the applicant to ignore cash credits.
In Court’s opinion, the primary evaluation of the transcript of the conversation, it was revealed that the demand of the money and tacit approval to its acceptance was demanded in presence of C.A.
The material of record also showed tainted currency notes which were recovered from the C.A. on the same day. Thus, transcript of the conversation confirmed the material allegations made in the complaint.
Hence, the material before the Court disclosed grave suspicion suggesting complicity of the applicant.
Court found no material on record to come to the conclusion that there is no sufficient ground to proceed against the applicant.
Application was dismissed in view of the above. [Naveen Kumar Aggarwal v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 3442, decided on 14-10-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
Rajendra Shirodkar, Senior Advocate with Mihir Ghag i/by Archit Sakhalkar for the applicant.
Sharmila Kaushik, APP for the respondent1-State
Ameeta Kuttikrishnan, for respondent 2.