The Bombay High Court has upheld acquittal of a talathi in a case of allegedly demanding ₹1.2 lakh from a land owner for making mutation entries, observing that although the investigating officer has taken utmost pain in collecting the evidence, due to the conduct of the complainant in resiling or disowning his statement and due to lacunae in other evidence, the offence is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice SM Modak also noted that there sanction to prosecute Rajesaheb Rane, 44, was granted mechanically without the sanctioning authority going through the investigation papers.The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the State challenging Rane’s acquittal by special Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) court, Sindhudurg, on August 24, 2011.
Rane allegedly accepted bribe
A complaint was lodged by one Joseph Eyyalil, who had purchased 68 acres of land at village Parme in Sindhudurg. He alleged that Rane demanded ₹2,000 per acre for issuing 7/12 extract in his name. The bribe money was paid in two parts, and Rane was apprehended while allegedly accepting the bribe.
The special court acquitted Rane observing that the complainant did not fully support the prosecution. Also, there are variances in the testimonies of the complainant and the panch witness, who was present at the time of the trap, on material particulars. Further, the digital evidence in the form of recording conversation was not analyzed by the forensic expert.The high court noted that although complainant deposed about the initial demand prior to lodging of the complaint, he has not given the details.
While giving description about the events that transpired after approaching the ACB, he has not stated many facts. At one stage, even the trial Court has observed that the de facto Complainant has resiled from his complaint. When the ACB laid the trap, a voice recorder was given to the complainant. It was subsequently sent for forensic analysis, however, forensic analysis report was not placed on record, the HC noted.“There is every reason to believe that the de facto Complainant is won over by the Accused (Rane) but it is surprising that learned APP (additional public prosecutor) in-charge of the case has not declared him hostile at least, in respect of a portion which he has not deposed before the (trial) Court,” justice Modak averred.
Also, the panch witness did not accompany the complainant at the time of trap. “The conduct of the panch witness in not accompanying PW No.1 (complaint) is difficult to digest. Dy.S.P. - Bandekar has given specific instructions,” it added.Rane claimed that ₹10,000 was thrusted in his pant pocket by the complainant, and when he tried to protest it, his hands were smeared with anthracene powder.
“… the evidence on the point of demand at the time of trap as discussed above, is not trustworthy. Merely because tainted currency notes of ₹10,000 were found with the Respondent (Rane), is not the evidence of culpability unless it is preceded by the evidence on the point of demand,” the court reasoned.
Both offences cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt as of now
Justice Modak said: “There is reason to believe that the Investigating Officer has taken utmost pain in collecting the evidence. However, due to the conduct of the First-Informant in resiling or disowning his statement and due to certain lacunae in other evidence, it cannot be said that both the offences are proved beyond reasonable doubt.”
On the point of sanction to prosecute Rane, the HC said: “.. He is Sub-divisional Officer for that area. He admits that investigation papers are not submitted to him along with the forwarding letter. It affects the validity of the sanction. It is for the reason that there has to be application of mind by the Sanctioning Authority. If the papers are not sent for his perusal, the grant of sanction becomes a mechanical act.”