Cracking down on a case of corruption without proper evidence would be a fruitless exercise, according to the Bombay high court (HC).
The Nagpur bench of the HC observed this while upholding the acquittal of an accused charged for allegedly accepting a bribe in 2004.
According to the prosecution, the complainant, Kamalkumar Nagpure, had wanted to get his farm land in Gondia measured after a dispute arose between him and an adjacent land owner over two teak trees: both claimed the trees stood on his land.
When measurement was to be carried out in September 2004, the accused, Gunwant Dhumbhare, who was doing the measuring, demanded Rs5,000 from the complainant for tweaking results in his favour. Dhumbhare then visited the complainant’s house, along with another person, to measure the extent of the complainant’s property. He then told the complainant to give him the money in his office if he wanted the results to be in his favour.
In the meantime, the complainant had approached the office of the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) and lodged a complaint, following which the ACB, along with two panchas, laid a trap for the accused.
The prosecution contended that it had been established that the accused had demanded and accepted a bribe, and the acquittal should hence be converted into an order of conviction.
But the high court pointed out that the prosecution had not even examined the person who had accompanied the accused when he went to measure the complainant’s farm land.
“The prosecution has chosen not to examine him and it appears that even his statement was not recorded during the course of investigation,” justice AP Bhangale observed.
The judges also noted that the investigating officer had not gathered evidence to support the claim that the accused had indeed demanded a bribe.
“It is necessary to bear in mind the importance of evidence of prior demand, which, if trustworthy, can make the trap legitimate. Otherwise, it could be a fruitless exercise or an empty formality,” the court said, rejecting the state government’s appeal against acquittal.