The Supreme Court has observed that before framing of the charge in criminal proceedings, the Court must apply its judicial mind to satisfy itself that the commission of the offence by the accused was possible.

The Bench of CJI NV Ramana, Justice JK Maheshwari, and Justice Hima Kohli was hearing an appeal against the conviction of the Appellant -Accused who was charged with corruption charges.

The Court while discharging the Appellant of the charges leveled against him, observed –

"It is a well settled law that at the time of framing of the charges, the probative value of the material on record cannot be gone into but before framing of charge the Court must apply it's judicial mind on the material placed on record and must be satisfied that the commission of offence by the accused was possible."

The Court also held that it has limited scope of enquiry and has to see whether any prima facie case against the accused is made out or not.

An appeal was preferred before the Supreme Court assailing the judgment of the Jharkhand High Court at Ranchi which had affirmed the order of the Special Judge, Anti-Corruption Bureau dismissing the application for discharge filed by the Appellant under Section 239 CrPC.

The criminal case was registered against the Appellant and others for commission of offences under Sections 109, 409, 420, 467, 471 477A and 120B IPC and Sections 13(1)(c) and 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act.

Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the Appellant before the Apex Court.

The Apex Court noted that the Appellant- Accused was not a part of the decision-making process in the meeting where it was decided that M/s. RPCL with whom the Appellant's organization had entered into a contract will complete the project so that it will be completed within extended period, instead of going for Arbitration or Court of Law.

Further, the Court also noted that all the correspondences requesting RPCL for implementation of the contract, they did not show any involvement of the Appellant.

"In the said facts, merely preparing a subsequent agenda dated 08.06.2007, seeking instructions for appointment of an Arbitrator would not bring the Appellant within the purview of culpability for commission of the alleged offences. This Court has reason to believe that the decisions, if any, taken by the JSEB and other higher officials were after perusal of the complete noting in the file," the Bench held.

The Court also noted that the perusal of material indicates that because it was difficult for JSEB to implement the award due to financial difficulty, a roving and fishing enquiry was conducted against the Appellant.

The Bench further held that an attempt has been made to implicate the Appellant for the decisions in which prima facie, he did not have any role to play, nor do his acts establish any culpability regarding the alleged offences.

"It is also worthwhile to mention that during the investigation, no incriminating material or money was seized from the house of the Appellant. Further, it is not a case where allegations of illegal gratification or disproportionate assets have been successfully found by prosecution against the Appellant. On the contrary, when the Income Tax Department had assessed the block income tax return for seven years, the Department recorded a refund Rs.8843 to the Appellant after detailed scrutiny of the records," the Court observed.

Thus, the Court held that the ingredients of the alleged offences are not prima-facie made out against the Appellant. The Court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the High Court.

Cause Title - Pushpendra Kumar Sinha v. State of Jharkhand

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