Not guilty of bribery unless proven in dept probe: SC

Accused cannot be convicted if given clean chit by authorities

 
While overturning a Karnataka High Court ruling, the bench quashed the criminal case against Prakash K Dongre, an employee of  the Khadi Gramudyog Mandali, Bijapur.

A bench headed by Justice Markandeya Katju said: “The standard of proof in a criminal case is proof beyond reasonable doubt. Since, the standard of proof in a civil case and a departmental proceeding is lower than that of a criminal case and since the appellant has been found innocent in the departmental inquiry, we fail to see how he can be convicted in a criminal case where the standard of proof is higher.

“Accordingly, this appeal is allowed and the impugned order passed by the high court as well as the order issuing summons in the criminal case are quashed.’’

The case

Dongre, who was working as a technical supervisor with the organisation, was arrested for taking a bribe of Rs 500 from a person for official favour on January 29, 2000. He was booked under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

After a departmental probe, Dongre was exonerated of all charges by the authorities on April 30, 2003, and his suspension revoked.

Not let off

However, the criminal case pending before the trial court was not withdrawn though the court was informed that the departmental probe did not hold him guilty and he had been let off by the authorities.

‘’On 16.12.2003, despite the said exoneration and the subsequent corrective measure taken by the appointing authority, the criminal proceeding initiated by the State of Karnataka in Special Case No.4/2001 continued and identical charges were framed against the petitioner by the special judge, Bijapur,’’ said advocate Kashi Vishweshwar.

Vishweshwar submitted before the apex court that once the person was found not guilty by the departmental enquiry, he could not be prosecuted for criminal offence on the assumption that he had taken the bribe.

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