Tag Archives: public servant

Misconduct – Possession of Pecuniary Resources

A public servant charged of criminal misconduct thereunder has to be proved by the prosecution to be in possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income, at any time during the period of his office. Such possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income maybe his or of anyone on his behalf as the case may be. Further, he would be held to be guilty of such offence of criminal misconduct, if he cannot satisfactorily account for such disproportionate pecuniary resources or property. The Explanation to Section 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act elucidates the words “known sources of income” to mean income received from any lawful source and that such receipt has been intimated in accordance with the provisions of law, rules, orders for the time being applicable to a public servant.

From the design and purport of clause (e) of sub-section (1) to Section 13, it is apparent that the primary burden to bring home the charge of criminal misconduct thereunder would be indubitably on the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the public servant either himself or through anyone else had at anytime during period of his office been in possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income and it is only on the discharge of such burden by the prosecution, if he fails to satisfactorily account for the same, he would be in law held guilty of such offence. In other words, in case the prosecution fails to prove that the public servant either by himself or through anyone else had at any time during the period of his office been in possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income, he would not be required in law to offer any explanation to satisfactorily account therefor. A public servant facing such charge, cannot be comprehended to furnish any explanation in the absence of the proof of the allegation of being in possession by himself or through someone else, of pecuniary else, of pecuniary resources of property disproportionate to his known sources of income. Vasant Rao Guhe v. State of M.P., (2017) 14 SCC 442.

 

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Right to Pension

The question whether the pension granted to a public servant is property attracting Article 31(1) came up for consideration before the Punjab High Court in Bhagwant Singh v. Union of India, AIR 1962 Punj 503. I was held that such a right constitutes “property” and any interference will be a breach of Article 31(1) of the Constitution. It was further held that the State cannot by an executive order curtail or abolish altogether the right of the public servant to receive pension. This decision was taken up in Letters Patent Appeal by the Union of India. The Letters Patent Bench in its decision in Union of India v. Bhagwant Singh, ILR 1965 Punj 1 approved the decision of the Learned Senior Judge. The Letters Patent Bench held that the pension granted to a public servant on his retirement is “property” within the meaning of Article 31(1) of the Constitution and he could be deprived of the same only by an authority of law and that pension does not cease to be property on the mere denial or cancellation of it. It was further held that the character of pension as “property” cannot possibly undergo such mutation at the whim of a particular person or authority.
In State of West Bengal v. Haresh C. Banerjee and Ors. (2006) 7SCC 651, this Court recognized that even when, after the repeal of Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31 (1) of the Constitution vide Constitution (Forty-Fourth Amendment) Act, 1978 w.e.f. 20th June, 1979, the right to property was no longer remained a fundamental right, it was still a Constitutional right, as provided in Article 300A of the Constitution. Right to receive pension was treated as right to property. Otherwise, challenge in that case was to the vires of Rule 10(1) of the West Bengal Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefit) Rules, 1971 which conferred the right upon the Governor to withhold or withdraw a pension or any part thereof under certain circumstances and the said challenge was repelled by this Court. Fact remains that there is an imprimatur to the legal principle that the right to receive pension is recognized as a right in “property”.

A person cannot be deprived of this pension without the authority of law, which is the Constitutional mandate enshrined in Article 300 A of the Constitution. It follows that attempt of the appellant to take away a part of pension or gratuity or even leave encashment without any statutory provision and under the umbrage of administrative instruction cannot be countenanced. State of Jharkhand and others v. Jitendra Kumar Srivastava and others, C.A. No. 6770 of 2013 decided on 14.08.2013.

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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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