Accused cannot be held guilty in absence of bribe demand evidence: HC

Sets aside trial court conviction of revenue official
 J&K High Court, Srinagar
J&K High Court, SrinagarMubashir Khan/GK File

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh on Thursday held that in absence of the evidence regarding demand of bribe, the accused cannot be held guilty.

“It is well settled that in absence of the evidence regarding demand of bribe, the accused cannot be held guilty on the basis of the evidence, unworthy of acceptance,” a bench of Justice Mohammad Akram Chowdhary said while allowing an appeal against conviction of a revenue official by Special Judge Anticorruption Baramulla more than two years ago.

While the Court observed that in the case on hand, the witnesses, including the complainant had made totally inconsistent and contradictory statements, it said: “ Their testimonies become unreliable and unworthy of credence and no conviction can be based on the evidence of such witnesses".

No witness, the court said, had seen the complainant handing over the money to the accused as the shadow witness was not even sure about it because when the occurrence took place the shadow witness was not in the room of occurrence.

“After going through the entire evidence, I am of the view that there is no acceptable evidence to prove demand and acceptance of the bribe money within the meaning of Section 161 RPC,” the court said, adding, “under these circumstances, the findings of the trial court that the prosecution has established the charge of demand and acceptance of bribe with ultimate recovery of tainted money from the accused cannot be accepted and agreed.”

While allowing the appeal, the High Court said that the trial court had not appreciated the evidence properly and thus reached a “wrong conclusion” to hold Kumar guilty of the offences of which he was charged.

The trial court in February 2020 had convicted and sentenced the revenue official( Patwari) Ghulam Mohammad Kumar, to undergo simple imprisonment for two years and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on him in pursuance to FIR registered against him in 2006 by then Vigilance Organization Kashmir.

Kumar through senior counsel M S Latief had challenged the trial court judgment and sentence, contending that the same was imposed in a mechanical and slipshod manner without appreciating the evidence adduced by the prosecution.

The counsel said that the conviction was full of “cracks and dents” and that the prosecution had failed to adhere to the procedure and norms required for a trap case.

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