Charges of Illegal gratification cannot be brought in the absence of proof

Supreme Court: Dealing with a matter relating to illegal gratification, the 3-judge bench of H.L. Dattu, CJI and V. Goapa Gowda and Amitava Roy, JJ held that the proof of demand of illegal gratification is the gravamen of the offence under Sections 7 and 13(1); (d)(i)&(ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 (Act) and in absence thereof, unmistakably the charge therefor, would fail. It was further said that mere acceptance of any amount allegedly by way of illegal gratification or recovery thereof, dehors the proof of demand, ipso facto, would thus not be sufficient to bring home the charge under these two sections of the Act.

In the present case it was alleged that the appellant, Assistant Director, Commissionerate of Technical Education, Hyderabad had demanded for effecting renewal of the recognition of his typing institute by way of illegal gratification of Rs. 500 in the year 1996. The Court took note of the fact that the prosecution was unable to prove the charges and consequentially, the High Court had acquitted the appellant of the charge under Section 7 of the Act and the State had accepted the verdict and has not preferred any appeal against the same. Hence, reiterating that suspicion, however grave, cannot take the place of proof and that the Court must ensure that miscarriage of justice is avoided and if in the facts and circumstances, two views are plausible, then the benefit of doubt must be given to the accused, the Court held that it would be wholly unsafe to sustain the conviction of the appellant under Section 13(1); (d)(i)&(ii) read with Section 13(2) of the Act in case of absence of proof. P. Satyanarayana Murthy v. Dist. Inspector of Police2015 SCC OnLine SC 814, decided on 14.09.2015

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