After 25 years, HC acquits sales tax officer of taking ₹4,000 bribe

Twenty-five years after the CBI laid down an elaborate trap to catch a sales tax officer allegedly seeking ₹4,000 bribe, the Delhi High Court on Thursday acquitted the man saying that the agency has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Suresh Kumar Kait noted that the demand and acceptance of bribe can be proved beyond reasonable doubt only if there is recovery of the money, which is a direct evidence of bribery. “In the instant case, it is admitted by the CBI that there is no recovery from the appellant [the accused]. Consequently, demand and acceptance become doubtful,” Justice Kait said.

The case stems from a complaint made by one Gulshan Kumar Sikri against the then Assistant Commissioner, Sale Tax Department, P.C. Mishra. An appeal case filed by Mr. Sikri, proprietor of Filtrex India, was pending adjudication before Mr. Mishra.

It was alleged by the CBI that during the course of hearing of the appeal on February 28, 1996, Mr. Mishra allegedly demanded ₹4,000 as bribe for deciding the said appeal in Mr. Sikri’s favour.

Trap was laid

A trap was laid by the CBI official with the aid of electronic devices and with the help of public witnesses, who were required by the raiding officer for listening to the conversation between Mr. Mishra and Mr. Sikri.

The CBI said the conversation that transpired between them was also recorded on one microcassette and other normal cassettes. It claimed that Mr. Sikri was directed to pay the bribe amount to his reader Ravi Bhatt, who was sitting in another room.

Mr. Sikri then allegedly gave the bribe money to Mr. Bhatt in his separate room, who was immediately apprehended by trap-laying officer and recovered the bribe money from the left side pocket of his pant.

Mr. Mishra told the High Court that he and co-accused Mr. Bhatt were arrested and on the next day — March 2, 1996 — they were produced before Special Judge, Delhi. The said judge granted them bail on the same day.

No demand of money

In his appeal, Mr. Mishra contended that Mr. Sikri specifically deposed before the trial court that he did not demand any money. Mr. Mishra said that no money was given by anybody to him nor money was recovered from his person.When the trial court desired to hear the conversation, the inspector did not produce anything, he said. CBI’s counsel later declared four prosecution witnesses in the case, including Mr. Sikri as hostile.

Taking note of the facts of the case, the High Court quashed a 2010 judgment of a trial court here convicting him in the case. “Consequently, appellant [Mr. Mishra] is acquitted from the all the charges,” the High Court said.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:37:07 AM |

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