Read Order: State of Haryana Petitioner v. Swarn Singh

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, May 06,2022: While dealing with an application filed by the State of Haryana under Section 378(3) of Cr.P.C. seeking leave to appeal against the acquittal of Swarn Singh (respondent) in an FIR alleging demand of illegal gratification on the respondent’s part for clearing arrears of electricity bill of the complainant, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has upheld the order of acquittal of the Trial Court. 

The Bench of Justice Avneesh Jhingan opined that the complainant did not support the prosecution case on various material facts and the prosecution failed miserably in proving that the respondent (a lineman) indulged in the afore-said corrupt practices. 

“The prosecution miserably failed to prove the demand or acceptance of illegal gratification”, the Bench observed. 

The facts of the case are such that the complainant filed a complaint against the respondent, who was working as a Lineman (on a contractual basis) in Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam Ltd. (‘the Nigam’). The allegations were that the complainant had an electric connection in the name of his wife, which was disconnected due to non-payment of the dues. 

It was further alleged that the respondent demanded Rs. 30,000/-for waiving off the electric consumption bill of the previous meter and for installation of a new meter. Based on the complaint, a trap was laid with the help of a shadow witness. The laced currency notes were recovered from a stool in a tea stall where the respondent was present. 

The trial court considering the issue as to whether the prosecution was able to prove the demand of illegal gratification by the respondent for himself or for any other public servant for waiving the previous bills and installing the new meter held that the onus was not discharged and resultantly the respondent was acquitted.

The counsel for the State argued that the trial court erred in acquitting the respondent. It was also contended that in the deposition, the complainant supported the case of the prosecution stating that a bribe of Rs. 30,000/- was demanded for clearing the arrears and for the installation of the new meter.

The Court at the very outset referred to the Supreme Court in Allarakha K. Mansuri v. State of Gujarat wherein it was held that where, in a case, two views are possible, the one which favours the accused, has to be adopted by the Court. 

Further reference was made to the case of the High Court itself in State of Punjab v. Hansa Singh, 2001 (1) RCR (Criminal) 775, wherein, the High Court while relying on the Apex Court held reiterated that the interference in an appeal against acquittal would be called for only if the judgment under appeal were perverse or based on a misreading of the evidence and merely because the appellate Court was inclined to take a different view, could not be a reason calling for interference.

On the decision of the Trial Court, the High Court observed that the trial court commented upon the manner of investigation as no document was recovered from the possession of the respondent or from the office of the Nigam to establish that the complainant had submitted documents for installation of the new meter. 

Further, the High Court observed that the complainant had relied upon an audio recording for which allegedly a compact disc was handed over but the prosecution had not proved the audio recording during the trial. The Court observed various contradictions in the contents of the complaint and the oral depositions of the complaint. The first contradiction was with respect to the complainant’s claim that he knew the respondent-lineman before the day on which the FIR was lodged. 

Also, the complainant did not support the prosecution case as he denied submitting any file on the day of occurrence to the respondent. The complainant also deposed that he did not know why the sum of Rs. 30,000 was charged. Also, the High Court noted that the Trial Court pointed out variations in the story put forth regarding the timing of the filing of the complaint. It was also noted that the prosecution failed to prove the order of the Deputy Commissioner vide which the Executive Engineering was appointed as a Duty Magistrate.

Thus, in the absence of any proof with regard to demand and acceptance of illegal gratification, the Court was of the opinion that no case was made out for grant of leave to appeal. The application was dismissed. 

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