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Delhi High Court acquitted a 79 year old man from charge of taking a bribe of Rs 250/- to release an impounded Cow after 28 years.

“I am free now and I pray to God that no one else should have to go through what I faced. I am 79 now and cannot walk properly and cannot be able to eat properly but my faith in Justice remains unshaken throughout just because of my counsel Sumer Kumar Sethi. I wish I could get my gratuity amount from the department and am sure I will get it now”, said Jagannath while speaking to India Legal.

Court’s decision came on an appeal filed by 79 year old man Jagannath, a former employee of Municipal Corporation of Delhi posted as munshi of cattle pound in Malviya Nagar who was caught red handed by Anti Corruption Branch of Central Bereau of Investigation (CBI) on the complaint by a local resident Jeet Ram, for taking a bribe of Rs 250/- on account of releasing a cow from impound in 1991.

Jeet Ram lodged a complaint with Anti Corruption Branch of Central Bereau of Investigation (CBI) that the Jagannath for release of his cow demanded Rs. 250/- as illegal gratification. Following which a trap was laid down by Jeet Ram with the help of two independent witnesses Narender Kumar Dudeja and Naresh Kumar Khanna, they had put the phenolphthalein powder on the currency notes to prove that Jagannath had taken bribe which was confirmed by the forensic scientist that the he had accepted the money. A trial court found him guilty on 28th Feb 2002 and awarded one year sentence plus fine. He challenged the decision of trial court in Delhi High Court following which he was released on bail and his sentence was suspended on 9th April 2002.

Court Noted with the evidence on record that Rs 250/- was not the only money which was recovered from Jagannath. The Trap Laying Officer during his personnel search recovered Rs 2978/- from him admittedly representing the municipal charges collected by him as part of his official duties at the pound.

“There is a whole a lot of confusion as to whether the three currency notes had been recovered along with rest of the money (Rs.2978/-) or such recoveries were effected separately, one after the other. It appears unnatural that the first search would reveal possession of only the bribe money and after such recovery had been affected, the personal search (for the purpose of arrest) would bring out larger amount of money. The sequence of events, as set out in the prosecution case, evokes uneasy feeling as to its credibility, particularly when two crucial witnesses not very sure about two separate recoveries when questioned. This discrepancy is of import as the larger money concededly represented officials collections”, said Justice R. K. Guaba.

Court of Justice R. K. Guaba, on 23rd May 2019, after seventeen years, acquitted Jagannath extending benefit of doubt.

“There is no doubt that it was part of official duties of the appellant to collect the municipal charges respecting the cattle which had been impounded prior to release to their rightful owner. The trial judge seems to have proceeded on the assumption that the detention of the cow itself was illegal. If so, the appellant cannot be held responsible for such act as it would be municipal official that had brought the cow to the cattle pound for detention who would be accountable. No effort has been made to investigate the case from this perspective. Be that as it may, it was part of the duty of the appellant to demand the deposit of municipal charges at the time of release of the cattle. The possibility that the money which was demanded by the appellant, as spoken about by Trap Laying Officer, being the municipal charges cannot be ruled out. The reference to the presumption under Section 20 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 by the Special Judge in the impugned judgment, in these circumstances, is erroneous because it is based on the unfounded inference that the money received was other than what could be legally asked for”, said Justice R. K. Guaba.

Read judgment Here.

– India Legal Bureau 

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