Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has observed that benefit of doubt should be given to a public servant accused of accepting bribe if it is proved that the accused had not demanded the bribe but was offered by the complainant.
Justice A P Bhangale of the Nagpur bench of the High Court recently acquitted a court clerk, Yuvraj Selokar, on this ground more than seven years after his arrest for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 300 for producing case papers in court.
"It is a settled legal position that in order to prove the charge of corruption as punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the prosecution is required to prove that there was demand made by the accused coupled with voluntary payment of bribe by the complainant and acceptance of illegal gratification by the accused," Justice Bhangale observed.
The court further said that if it is proved by the defence lawyer that the prosecution case was not genuine regarding demand of bribe and that the money was accepted for any other reason, then mere recovery from the accused would not prove the offence of corruption on the accused`s part.
According to order exonerating Selokar, if it is proved that without demand from the accused, the complainant offered money at the time of trap then the accused has to be given "benefit of doubt".
The court was hearing an appeal filed by Selokar challenging a June 2008 order of the sessions court sentencing him to one year rigorous imprisonment under the PC Act.
Selokar was working as a senior clerk in a magistrate`s court in Ahire, Gadchiroli. He was arrested in 2005 for allegedly accepting bribe from a driver against whom an offence under the Motor Vehicles Act was registered. The driver was informed by someone that if he wishes for his case hearing to be expedited, he would have to pay Selokar money.
According to the prosecution, the driver then went to Selokar`s house where the clerk allegedly demanded bribe. Agreeing to pay him the next day, the driver approached the Anti-Corruption Bureau which laid a trap and nabbed Selokar red handed while accepting the money.
Selokar`s lawyer V M Morande, however, argued that it was the driver who offered to pay. The court after perusing evidence accepted the argument and acquitted Selokar.