The Kerala High Court acquitted a central government officer observing that a conviction in bribery case would not stand in the absence of proof of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification atleast by circumstantial evidence.

The Bench set aside the conviction charged against a former Divisional Security Commissioner (appellant) of the Railway Protection Force who was accused of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PCA). The appellant was convicted and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for demanding and accepting bribes.

A Single Bench of Justice Kauser Edappagath observed, “As stated already, in the absence of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification at least by circumstantial evidence, conviction under Section 7 or 13(1)(a) of the PC Act will not lie. In the absence of any proof or demand or acceptance of bribe, the presumption under Section 20 of the PC Act cannot be drawn… In short, there is no sufficient legal evidence to prove the demand and acceptance of illegal gratification by the appellant to attract the offence under Section 7 or 13(1)(a) of the PC Act. Hence, the conviction and sentence of the appellant cannot be legally sustained.

Advocate Abraham P. Meachinkara represented the appellant and SC Sreelal Warriar appeared for the respondent.

A clerk in the DSC Office had filed a complaint alleging that the appellant had demanded bribes from railway employees for their desired transfers. The bribes were allegedly collected through another public official. Based on this complaint, the CBI registered an FIR and laid a trap, leading to the recovery of the tainted money and the subsequent arrest of the appellant for prosecution.

The trial court found the appellant guilty and sentenced him to one year of rigorous imprisonment. However, he appealed the decision, arguing that there was absolutely no legal evidence to prove the demand and acceptance of bribe by him.

The High Court noted that the trial court had relied on the evidence of the bribe givers to corroborate the evidence of the accomplice who was a bribe obtainer. “A person who offers bribe in order to get his work done and complains to the police is an accomplice in respect of the crime committed,” the Court added.

The Court explained that the evidence provided by the turned approver in the case required corroboration by independent evidence, which was lacking. The Court found that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the alleged bribes collected by the approver were indeed for the appellant or at his behest.

It is trite that proof of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification by a public servant is a pre-requisite to establish the guilt of the accused/ public servant under Section 7 of the PC Act,.. the demand and acceptance by the public servant for illegal gratification must be independently proved by the prosecution as a fact in issue to establish the guilt under Section 7 or 13(1)(a) of the PC Act.” the Court remarked.

Therefore, the Court held that the trial court relying upon the evidence of other accomplices was wrong as “one accomplice cannot corroborate another.” The corroboration of the evidence of accomplices, if any, must come from independent source. There was no other independent material evidence on record to prove the demand and acceptance of bribe by the appellant.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the appeal.

Cause Title: Bharat Raj Meena v. Central Bureau of Investigation (Neutral Citation: 2024:KER:33913)


Appellant: Advocates Abraham P.Meachinkara, P.Muraleedharan, Alexander K.C., Margeret K. James, Jayakrishnan P.R. and Thomas George

Respondent: SC Sreelal Warriar

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