In a case of trap, where the official had been caught with the receipt of the bribe is alone sufficient to constitute an offence?
In the case of N. Vijayakumar v. State of T.N., (2021) 3 SCC 687 : 2021 SCC OnLine SC 53 at page 699, the Supreme Court held has follows:
26. It is equally well settled that mere recovery by itself cannot prove the charge of the prosecution against the accused. Reference can be made to the judgments of this Court in C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI [C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI, (2009) 3 SCC 779 : (2009) 2 SCC (Cri) 1] and in B. Jayaraj v. State of A.P. [B. Jayaraj v. State of A.P., (2014) 13 SCC 55 : (2014) 5 SCC (Cri) 543] In the aforesaid judgments of this Court while considering the case under Sections 7, 13(1)(d)(i) and (ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 it is reiterated that to prove the charge, it has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused voluntarily accepted money knowing it to be bribe. Absence of proof of demand for illegal gratification and mere possession or recovery of currency notes is not sufficient to constitute such offence. In the said judgments it is also held that even the presumption under Section 20 of the Act can be drawn only after demand for and acceptance of illegal gratification is proved. It is also fairly well settled that initial presumption of innocence in the criminal jurisprudence gets doubled by acquittal recorded by the trial court.
27. The relevant paras 7, 8 and 9 of the judgment in B. Jayaraj [B. Jayaraj v. State of A.P., (2014) 13 SCC 55 : (2014) 5 SCC (Cri) 543] read as under: (SCC pp. 58-59)
“7. Insofar as the offence under Section 7 is concerned, it is a settled position in law that demand of illegal gratification is sine qua non to constitute the said offence and mere recovery of currency notes cannot constitute the offence under Section 7 unless it is proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused voluntarily accepted the money knowing it to be a bribe. The above position has been succinctly laid down in several judgments of this Court. By way of illustration, reference may be made to the decision in C.M. Sharma v. State of A.P. [C.M. Sharma v. State of A.P., (2010) 15 SCC 1 : (2013) 2 SCC (Cri) 89] and C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI [C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI, (2009) 3 SCC 779 : (2009) 2 SCC (Cri) 1] .
8. In the present case, the complainant did not support the prosecution case insofar as demand by the accused is concerned. The prosecution has not examined any other witness, present at the time when the money was allegedly handed over to the accused by the complainant, to prove that the same was pursuant to any demand made by the accused. When the complainant himself had disowned what he had stated in the initial complaint (Ext. P-11) before LW 9, and there is no other evidence to prove that the accused had made any demand, the evidence of PW 1 and the contents of Ext. P-11 cannot be relied upon to come to the conclusion that the above material furnishes proof of the demand allegedly made by the accused. We are, therefore, inclined to hold that the learned trial court as well as the High Court was not correct in holding the demand alleged to be made by the accused as proved. The only other material available is the recovery of the tainted currency notes from the possession of the accused. In fact such possession is admitted by the accused himself. Mere possession and recovery of the currency notes from the accused without proof of demand will not bring home the offence under Section 7. The above also will be conclusive insofar as the offence under Sections 13(1)(d)(i) and (ii) is concerned as in the absence of any proof of demand for illegal gratification, the use of corrupt or illegal means or abuse of position as a public servant to obtain any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage cannot be held to be established.
9. Insofar as the presumption permissible to be drawn under Section 20 of the Act is concerned, such presumption can only be in respect of the offence under Section 7 and not the offences under Sections 13(1)(d)(i) and (ii) of the Act. In any event, it is only on proof of acceptance of illegal gratification that presumption can be drawn under Section 20 of the Act that such gratification was received for doing or forbearing to do any official act. Proof of acceptance of illegal gratification can follow only if there is proof of demand. As the same is lacking in the present case the primary facts on the basis of which the legal presumption under Section 20 can be drawn are wholly absent.”
The abovesaid view taken by this Court fully supports the case of the appellant. In view of the contradictions noticed by us above in the depositions of key witnesses examined on behalf of the prosecution, we are of the view that the demand for and acceptance of bribe amount and cellphone by the appellant, is not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Having regard to such evidence on record the acquittal recorded by the trial court is a “possible view” as such the judgment [State of T.N. v. N. Vijayakumar, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 7098] of the High Court is fit to be set aside. Before recording conviction under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the courts have to take utmost care in scanning the evidence. Once conviction is recorded under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, it casts a social stigma on the person in the society apart from serious consequences on the service rendered. At the same time it is also to be noted that whether the view taken by the trial court is a possible view or not, there cannot be any definite proposition and each case has to be judged on its own merits, having regard to evidence on record.