NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court has ticked off the Andhra Pradesh High Court for ‘blindly’ relying on an apex court ruling and acquitting a corrupt government official - caught red-handed while accepting bribe - on a reasoning that his offence was not proven.
While chastising the high court, the Supreme Court also cautioned lower courts and high courts against blindly aping its rulings.
‘The judgment of the high court is clearly unsustainable and is set aside and that of the trial court is restored,’ said a bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly in its ruling pronounced Friday but released later.
The high court had based its ruling on an apex court verdict, which set aside the conviction of a government official, Hari Dev Sharma of Delhi, in 1977 purportedly on the ground that as initial demand and acceptance of bribe by him was not proven, his
having been caught red-handed did not prove his offence.
While setting aside the high court verdict that had acquitted Medak Excise Inspector M. Radha Krishna Murthy, the Supreme Court said the high court had simply misread its 1977 ruling.
‘On a bare reading of the judgment in Hari Dev Sharma’s case, it is clear that no rule of universal application was laid down (by the apex court) that whenever a part of the case relating to demand and acceptance is not proven, the whole case would fail even if the case relating to trap, recovery of money etc from the government official
is established,’ said the apex court.
‘When part of the prosecution version relating to demand and acceptance of bribe stands by itself, this decision in Hari Dev Sharma case does not apply. Unfortunately, in the instant case the high court has lost sight of the aforesaid aspects,’ said the apex court.
Telling lower courts to be more careful, it said: ‘Circumstantial flexibility, one additional or different fact may make a world of difference between conclusions in two cases. Disposal of cases by blindly placing reliance on a decision is not proper.’
The graft case related to excise inspector Murthy, who had demanded a bribe of Rs.5,000 from one Goundla Joginath Goud after making a seizure of some contraband from a cowshed situated near the toddy shop of Goud’s father, Yella Goud, in Muslapur village in Medak district.
Murthy said if he was not given the bribe, he would implicate the father-son duo in the contraband recovered from the cowshed, which actually belonged to some other person.
To save his skin, Goud initially made a payment of Rs.2,000 and promised to pay another Rs.2,000 within a few days. Meanwhile, he approached the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, which laid a trap and caught Murthy red-handed while accepting the bribe.
Though the trial court convicted Murthy, the high court set aside his conviction, which was restored by the apex court.