Nearly 26 years after a talathi was charged for demanding and accepting Rs 500 as bribe, the Bombay High Court has acquitted him. The court observed that the “prosecution failed to establish the aspect of demand and acceptance beyond reasonable doubt”.
Justice CV Bhadang, on June 6, exonerated Raghunath Mokal, while hearing his appeal, challenging the conviction by the sessions court at Alibaug, on December 15, 2001, sentencing him to one-year rigorous imprisonment under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Mokal died during pendency of his appeal. However, his wife and four children pursued it to remove the stigma. Mokal worked as talathi at Saja Kolad village in Raigad district.
According to the prosecution, on February 7, 1996, one Mitali Shelar made an application for mutation in respect of a land purchased and a certified copy of 7/12 extract. The application was sent to Mokal by the tehsildar.
Vasant, Shelar’s brother-in-law, alleged that on February 16 that year Mokal demanded Rs 500 and accepted Rs 200. Vasant claimed that he was to pay the remaining Rs 300 on February 22, when a trap was arranged by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The ACB is said to have recovered the money from Mokal’s pocket.
Mokal denied the claim saying that on February 6 itself mutation was taken and there was no occasion to seek illegal gratification.
Shekhar Ingawale, Mokal’s advocate, argued that there was no evidence of anthracene powder on his hands as the notes were allegedly thrust in his pocket. He further argued that the prosecution had not examined several key persons, including Mokal’s circle officer, who sat at the next table.
The court agreed with the arguments saying that “they (witnesses) would have lent corroboration to the demand made by the appellant (Mokal)”.
Justice Bhadang said once the record discloses that mutation entry was taken on February 7, on which date there was no demand by Mokal, which was admitted by Shelar in cross-examination, there was no occasion for Mokal to make any demand and accept a bribe on February 16, 1996, or balance amount on February 22, 1996.
“..It is now well settled that the demand of the illegal gratification is sine quo non and the mere recovery of the tainted currency notes from the person of the accused is not sufficient,” observed the HC while acquitting Mokal.