Recovery of Tainted money – is not sufficient to record a conviction

Section 20 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 states as under:

 

20. Presumption where public servant accepts gratification other than legal remuneration.—(1) Where, in any trial of an offence punishable under Section 7 or Section 11 or clause (a) or clause (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 13 it is proved that an accused person has accepted or obtained or has agreed to accept or attempted to obtain for himself, or for any other person, any gratification (other than legal remuneration) or any valuable thing from any person, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that he accepted or obtained or agreed to accept or attempted to obtain that gratification or that valuable thing, as the case may be, as a motive or reward such as is mentioned in Section 7 or, as the case may be, without consideration or for a consideration which he knows to be inadequate.

(2) Where in any trial of an offence punishable under Section 12 or under clause (b) of Section 14, it is proved that any gratification (other than legal remuneration) or any valuable thing has been given or offered to be given or attempted to be given by an accused person, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that he gave or offered to give or attempted to give that gratification or that valuable thing, as the case may be, as a motive or reward such as is mentioned in Section 7, or, as the case may be, without consideration or for a consideration which he knows to be inadequate.

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-sections (1) and (2), the court may decline to draw the presumption referred to in either of the said sub-sections, if the gratification or thing aforesaid is, in its opinion, so trivial that no inference of corruption may fairly be drawn.

 

Absence of – Evidence of Demand

It is the settled principle of law that mere recovery of the tainted money is not sufficient to record a conviction unless there is evidence that bribe had been demanded or money was paid voluntarily as a bribe. Thus, the only issue that remains to be addressed is whether there was demand of bribe and acceptance of the same. In the absence of any evidence of demand and acceptance of the amount as illegal gratification, recovery alone would not be a ground to convict the accused. T. Subramanian v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2006) 1 SCC 401 : AIR 2006 SC 836.

The demand and acceptance of the amount as illegal gratification is the sine qua non for constituting an offence under the Act. It is also settled in law that there is a statutory presumption under Section 20 of the Act which can be dislodged by the accused by bringing on record some evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that money was accepted other than for the motive or reward as stipulated under Section 7 of the Act[1]. It is obligatory on the part of the Court to consider the explanation offered by the accused under Section 20 of the Act and the consideration of the explanation has to be on the anvil of preponderance of probability. It has not to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

Presumption under – Is Obligatory

In the case of C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI, the Apex Court held as under:

“It is well settled that the presumption to be drawn under Section 20 is not an inviolable one.  The accused charged with the offence could rebut it either through the cross examination of the witnesses cited against him or by adducing reliable evidence. If the accused fails to disprove the presumption the would stick and then it can be held by the Court that the prosecution has proved that the accused received the amount towards gratification.”

A presumption under Section 20 of the Act becomes obligatory. It is presumption of law and casts an obligation on the Court to apply it in every case brought under Section 7 of the Act. Narendra Champaklal Trivedi v. State of Gujarat, (2012) 7 SCC 80.


[1] Section 7 of the Act reads as under:

“7. Public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act.—Whoever, being, or expecting to be a public servant, accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gratification whatever, other than legal remuneration, as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act or for showing or forbearing to show, in the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavour to any person or for rendering or attempting to render any service or disservice to any person, with the Central Government or any State Government or Parliament or the Legislature of any State or with any local authority, corporation or Government company referred to in clause (c) of Section 2, or with any public servant, whether named or otherwise, shall be punishable with imprisonment which shall be not less than six months but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanations.—(a) “Expecting to be a public servant.” If a person not expecting to be in office obtains a gratification by deceiving others into a belief that he is about to be in office, and that he will then serve them, he may be guilty of cheating, but he is not guilty of the offence defined in this section.

(b) “Gratification.” The word “gratification” is not restricted to pecuniary gratifications or to gratifications estimable in money.

(c) “Legal remuneration.” The words “legal remuneration” are not restricted to remuneration which a public servant can lawfully demand, but include all remuneration which he is permitted by the Government or the organisation, which he serves, to accept.

(d) “A motive or reward for doing.” A person who receives a gratification as a motive or reward for doing what he does not intend or is not in a position to do, or has not done, comes within this expression.

(e) Where a public servant induces a person erroneously to believe that his influence with the Government has obtained a title for that person and thus induces that person to give the public servant, money or any other gratification as a reward for this service, the public servant has committed an offence under this section.”

 

 

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