While considering a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by Special Judge, whereby the appellant had been found guilty for the commission of the offences under Section 7 and Section 13(i)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Delhi High Court acquitted him in a bribery case, stating that the prosecution failed to prove the demand for a bribe followed by its acceptance beyond reasonable doubt.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh observed that “By referring to the above mentioned testimony of the witnesses i.e. PW6 and PW7, and the analysis undertaken hereinabove qua section 7 and 13(1)(d)(i) and (ii) of the Act, it leaves no manner of doubt that the prosecution in the instant case has failed to prove the demand and acceptance of bribe either through direct or indirect evidence which constitute the foundational facts and thus, it would be unsafe and impermissible to sustain the conviction of the appellant”.

Advocate Anurag Andley appeared for the Appellant, whereas Advocate Ajay Vikram Singh appeared for the Respondent.

The brief facts of the case were that the complainant’s (Lata Monga) brother Krishan Kumar had a quarrel with her neighbours i.e. Laxmi Narain and Manoj Kumar in which Manoj Kumar had given sword blow to Krishan Kumar while Laxmi Narain caught hold of Krishan Kumar and thereafter Krishan Kumar received injury on the right side upper part of the eye. Even after the complaint, the appellant/accused did not arrest Manoj Kumar and demanded Rs. 2000/- to work in their favour. Although the complainant was against giving bribe, but agreed to pay out of helplessness. Later, the complainant approached Anti-Corruption Branch, which organized raid. Resultantly, raiding team was of the view that the accused had committed offence punishable under Sections 7 and 13 of the Act. After appreciation of the evidence, the Trial court held the appellant perpetrator of the crime and sentenced him accordingly.

After considering the submission, the Bench referred to the decision in case of Neeraj Dutta vs. State of NCT of Delhi [(2023) 4 SCC 731], wherein the Supreme Court had held that proof of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification by a public servant as a fact in issue by the prosecution is a sine qua non in order to establish the guilt of the accused public servant under Sections 7 and 13 (1)(d) (i) and(ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The Bench therefore stated that the foundational fact must be proved by relevant oral and documentary evidence, however, the proof of demand and acceptance need not be necessarily proved only by direct evidence but also can be proved by circumstantial evidence.

The Bench observed certain shortcomings in the prosecution's case, including the absence of key witnesses who were present at the time of the alleged bribe demand, and that the complainant's sister, although present, was not named as a witness or examined.

Additionally, family members, including brothers, father, and mother, who were in the house at the relevant time, were not cited as witnesses, added the Bench.

The Bench also observed that, according to the complainant, she had informed the SHO of the police station about the bribe demand before the raid, however, the SHO, though cited as a witness, did not provide any information regarding such a report.

Stressing that the quality of evidence was paramount in establishing guilt, regardless of the quantity of evidence presented, the Bench concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove the demand and acceptance of the bribe, either through direct or indirect evidence, which constituted foundational facts.

Consequently, it is unsafe and impermissible to uphold the appellant's conviction, added the Bench while setting aside the appellant's conviction and sentence.

Cause Title: Mahal Singh v. State of Delhi [Neutral Citation: 2023: DHC: 6272]

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