Corrupt public servant deserves no sympathy: HC

Declaring unequivocally that no leniency or sympathy could be shown towards corruption by public servants, the Bombay High Court here made it clear that wrong acquittal would send a wrong signal to the society.

Dismissing a case of Balim Ghodki, an official of Khadi Gram Udyog Mahamandal who was caught red-handed while accepting bribe, Justice A P Bhangale of the Nagpur bench rejected the request to set aside his conviction since the man died during the pendency, with a terse observation, "I cannot persuade myself to agree with this contention when offence of corruption is proved by sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubts."

"The Court cannot apply a blanket formula to acquit the accused by giving benefit of doubt to him for the reason that the legal heirs would be benefited if appeal is allowed by giving benefit of doubt to the deceased accused," Justice A P Bhangale noted.

"Court cannot be swayed away by sympathy, emotions or moral approach when in the
facts and circumstances of the case no benefit of doubt can be granted, merely with reference to some cases where in the Apex Court may have granted benefit of doubt in some cases continued by legal representatives.

The High Court also made it clear that each of the criminal case is required to be decided with reference to the individual facts of each case which may be different or distinguishable from other case.

Witnesses in the present case appeared natural and truthful. Their evidence cannot be rejected because no guilty man shall be allowed to go unpunished or escape the consequences of the crime committed, it said.

The instant appeal was filed by legal heirs of Ghodki who was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 50 way back in 1988 for early sanction of a Rs 25,000 loan and was convicted under Prevention of Corruption Act in 2001 for six months imprisonment.

Ten witnesses including then CEO of Mahamandal Ratnakar Gaikwad (who later became Maharashtra Chief Secretary) deposed as prosecution witnesses and justified permission to prosecute Ghodki.

Appeal was continued by legal representatives of Ghodki who died during pendency of appeal.

The High Court after looking into the evidence on record noted recently that the prosecution has succeeded to establish the fact of the demand of bribe made by the accused and voluntary payment of bribe amount by the complainant and acceptance of the bribe amount by the accused as illegal gratification in consideration of the unlawful promise for getting early sanction of the loan.

Statutory presumption under Section 20 of the act arose which was not rebutted so as to displace it even upon preponderance of probabilities, the court stated.

On behalf of appellant it was contended that the late accused is entitled for the benefit of doubt as the appeal is being prosecuted by his legal representatives and heirs who can get benefits of his employment at least posthumously and cited a Supreme Court ruling in support of contention.

However, court ruled out any leniency towards public servant who has been found guilty by the trial court and stated that by applying test of a reasonable prudent man's satisfaction beyond reasonable doubt to the evidence led by the prosecution in this case it has to be concluded that the prosecution has proved the case against the appellant in the trial Court.

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