26 May 2020


Judgments

Supreme Court

Vasant Rao Guhe Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh

MANU/SC/0961/2017

09.08.2017

Criminal

Public servant facing charge of criminal misconduct is not liable to furnish any explanation in absence of proof of the allegation

Appellant seeks to overturn judgment rendered by High Court thereby affirming his conviction passed by Trial Court under Section 13(1)(e) read with Section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and sentence to undergo R.I. for two years with fine of Rs. 20,000/-. Appellant has insistently impeached his conviction and sentence contending that, prosecution had utterly failed to adhere to and prove the charge levelled against him and thus, impugned judgments are liable to be set aside.

Appellant was subjected to a trial involving fleeting frames of accusations of which, he was denied prior notice. This is clearly opposed to the fundamental precepts of a criminal prosecution. A person cannot be subjected to a criminal prosecution either for a charge which is amorphous and transitory and further on evidence that is conjectural or hypothetical. Appellant has been subjected to a trial in which both charges and evidence on aspects with vital bearing thereon lacked certitude, precision and un-ambiguity.

As per Section 13(1)(e) of the Act, a public servant charged of criminal misconduct thereunder has to be proved by 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 may be of his or anyone on his behalf as case may be. Further, he would be held to be guilty of such offence of criminal misconduct, if he cannot satisfactorily account such disproportionate pecuniary resources or property. The explanation to Section 13(1)(e) of 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-clause (1) to Section 13, it is apparent that, primary burden to bring home the charge of criminal misconduct thereunder would be indubitably on prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt that, public servant either 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 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. A public servant facing such charge, cannot be comprehended to furnish any explanation in absence of the proof of the allegation of being in possession by himself or through someone else, pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income. As has been held by this Court amongst others in State of Maharashtra v. Dnyaneshwar Laxman Rao Wankhede, even in a case, when the burden is on accused, prosecution must first prove the foundational facts.

Prosecution failed to prove beyond all reasonable doubt the charge of criminal misconduct under Section 13(1)(e) of Act and punishable under Section 13(2) of Act thereof against Appellant. He is thus, entitled to benefit of doubt. Prosecution to succeed in a criminal trial has to pitch its case beyond all reasonable doubt and lodge it in the realm of "must be true" category and not leaving it in the domain of "may be true". Conviction and sentence, thus is set aside and appeal is allowed.

Relevant

State of Maharashtra v. Dnyaneshwar Laxman Rao Wankhede MANU/SC/1339/2009
: (2009) 15 SCC 200

Tags : Conviction Legality Proof Burden

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