The Andhra Pradesh High Court upheld the acquittal of police officers in a corruption case on the ground that a crucial link was missing in the evidence to prove nexus.

The Court was dealing with a criminal appeal filed by the State against the judgment of the Special Judge by which it acquitted the police officers for the charges under Sections 7 and 13(1)(D) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act).

A Single Bench of Justice A.V. Ravindra Babu observed, “It is to be noted that, according to the case of prosecution, strict instructions were given to PW.1 by the trap party to act strictly in accordance with the instructions without any deviations. PW.1 had every knowledge that his hands contacted with phenolphthalein substance prior to the so-called payment of tainted amount to AO-2 or after payment of tainted amount. When that is the situation, he was not supposed to put his signatures on the papers, when requested by AO-2. The theory of signing summons was not introduced during the course of post-trap proceedings. In anticipation of the defence by AO-2 as the amount was not recovered from his physical possession, this theory was pressed into service, during the course of chief-examination because service of summons by AO-2 on PW.1 was born out by the record. So the manner in which the amount was recovered from AO-2 is not believable. Apart from this, crucial link is missing in the evidence to prove the nexus between AO-1 and AO-2.”

Advocate S.M. Subhani represented the appellant while Advocates Sreekanth Reddy Ambati and Suresh Kumar Reddy represented the respondents.

Brief Facts -

The State filed a charge sheet alleging the offences under Sections 7, 12, and 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the PC Act against the police officers. One worked as a Sub-Inspector of Police while the other worked as a Constable and hence, they were ‘public servants’ within the meaning of Section 2(c) of the PC Act. The Sub-Inspector visited the wine shop of and demanded monthly mamools so as to run business without obstruction and thereafter again he demanded Rs. 3,300/-.

The complainant (worker) intimated the incident to the shop’s owner who instructed him to report the matter to the ACB officials. Hence, a case was registered and the DSP and ACB conducted pre-trap proceedings. It was found that the Sub-Inspector instructed the complainant to handover the demanded amount to the Police Constable. The Special Judge took cognizance of the case and then acquitted the police officers under Section 248(1) of the CrPC based on the oral and documentary evidence. Therefore, the State approached the High Court.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel said, “It is to be noted that the tainted amount was alleged to be recovered from the ground underneath a table. The amount was not recovered from AO-2 physically. … It is to be noted that the evidence let in by the prosecution that the mediator and trap laying officer witnessed AO-2 throwing the amount to ground can be ruled out. Now, AO-2 has to probabalize as to why his both hands and right side trouser pocket yielded positive result.”

The Court further noted that the evidence is lacking that the Constable was aware of the alleged demands made by Sub-Inspector to pay the monthly mamools and hence, the Special Judge rightly appreciated the entire evidence on record with great care and caution and made findings that the case of prosecution is not believable.

“When it was the categorical evidence of PW.1 in cross examination that he signed on the office copy of the summons and AO-2 took the same and kept it in his right side trouser pocket, there was every probability that the hands of PW.1 might touch the paper on which he signed thereby there was a scope for contacting of phenolphthalein powder from the hands of PW.1 into the office copy of summons. So, when AO-2 kept the served summons into the right side trouser pocket, there is every possibility that the inner linings of the pant of AO-2 may yield positive result. So, virtually as the evidence was lacking that amount was recovered from the physical possession of AO-2, various circumstances referred to above probabilize a theory that AO-2 might have contacted with phenolphthalein powder to his hands and to his right side trouser pocket during the course of service of summons to PW.1”, said the Court.

The Court also observed that the findings made by the Special Judge were supported with tenable and proper reasons and the same were not at all unreasonable. It said that the prosecution failed to prove the charges framed against the police officers.

Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the appeal.

Cause Title- State v. P.Ch. Ranga Reddy & Anr.

Click here to read/download the Judgment