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PARMOD CHANDER ALIAS PARBODH CHANDER SON v. STATE OF PUNJAB. - CRLA-173-2002  RD-P&H 204 (25 October 2005)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB & HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH
Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002
Date of decision: 6-1-2006
Parmod Chander alias Parbodh Chander son of Hari Sharan, resident of Bhadson, Distt. Patiala.
State of Punjab.
CORAM:- HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE K.S.GAREWAL
Present: Shri A.P.S.Deol, Advocate,
for the appellant.
Shri H.S.Grewal, D.A.G.Punjab.
Parmod Chander was posted as Naib Tehsildar, Bhadson. On February 14, 1997 there was a trap set up by DSP Pritpal Singh of Vigilance Bureau when he was caught red handed accepting Rs. 1000/- as bribe from Ishar Singh(PW-5) for attesting his Will. Parmod Chander was found guilty Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 2
by learned Special Judge, Patiala on January 25, 2002 under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for two years and to pay a fine of Rs.5000/-, in default of payment of fine to further undergo rigorous imprisonment for three months. Parmod Chander has filed filed this appeal to challenge his conviction and sentence.
Briefly stated the facts of the case were that Ishar Singh(PW-5) a farmer of Ghunder, Tehsil Nabha, was married to Amar Kaur and had two daughters but no son. In 1997 Ishar Singh wanted to execute a Will in favour of his wife. He met the appellant on February 13, 1997 at Bhadson.
He was told by the appellant that a fee of Rs.1500/- would be charged for attestation of the Will, this fee was later reduced to Rs.1,000/- and Ishar Singh was asked to come on the following day. Ishar Singh returned to his village and met Saudagar Singh(PW-6) and told him what had transpired.
Saudagar Singh advised him that Vigilance Police should be informed and the appellant should be trapped.
On February 14, 1997 Ishar Singh(PW-5) and Saudagar Singh (PW-6) came to Patiala and met DSP Pritpal Singh(PW-7) of the Vigilance Bureau in the presence of Inspector Jaswant Singh(PW-8). The Investigating Officer heard Ishar Singh's story and then planned a raid in the usual way by putting phenolphthalein powder on 10 notes of Rs.100/- each, giving a demonstration how this power changed colour when added to sodium carbonate water and then handed over the ten notes to Isher Singh.
The party reached the Tehsil complex Bhadson. Isher Singh and Saudagar Singh went to the office of the appellant and handed over the Will to the appellant which was signed by the appellant. Thereafter, appellant Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 3
demanded his fee and Rs.1,000/- was handed over to him. Saudagar Singh then signalled the Vigilance Officials who reached the spot and nabbed Parmod Chander. The appellant's hands were washed in water and the colour turned pink. Thereafter, at the instance of DSP Pritpal Singh(PW-7), the appellant picked up Rs.1000/-in 10 notes of Rs.100/- each which were lying under a paper weight on his table and the numbers matched the numbers of the notes that Ishar Singh earlier had with him for payment of the bribe. Investigators arrested the appellant and completed the investigation. After obtaining sanction for prosecution, the appellant was sent up to face trial. At the trial, charge was framed against the appellant under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and under Section 7 of the same Act. Appellant pleaded not guilty and claim trial.
Main witnesses examined by the prosecution were Ishar Singh (PW-5), Saudagar Singh(PW-6), DSP Pritpal Singh(PW-7) and Inspector Jaswant Singh(PW-8).
The appellant was examined without oath and various items of prosecution evidence were put to him during his examination but he denied everything. He stated that he had been falsely implicated because he had refused to sanction the mutation of Shamlat land in favour of the complainant.
When called upon to enter his defence, the appellant examined Gurpreet Singh(DW-1) who was working as registry clerk in the office of Tehsildar Bhadson on February 14, 1997 and before whom the two Wills were produced by Ishar Singh. The Wills had been marked by the appellant Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 4
to the witness who then went to his room alongwith Ishar Singh and others and got the signatures of Ishar Singh and one other person on the reverse of the Will. Ishar Singh and others were about to deposit the requisite fee when a dispute arose and everyone came out of the room. Thereafter they were not allowed to enter the room as Vigilance Officers sealed the premises. The appellant also examined Hans Raj(DW-2) who had also been present with Ishar Singh being a Lambardar and who testified that the appellant did not demand or accept any money from Ishar Singh. Gurpal Singh(DW-3) a deed writer at Bhadson, produced his register regarding the entry of Ishar Singh's Will at serial No.12 of February 14, 1997. This witness had scribed two Wills. It had taken about one hour and had handed it over to Ishar Singh.
Learned Special Judge considered all the various arguments raised by the appellant but rejected each and every one of them and returned the finding of guilt by holding that prosecution had proved demand and acceptance of bribe by the appellant.
It has been argued by the learned counsel for the appellant that the prosecution case rested solely on the statement of Ishar Singh(PW-5) which was not corroborated by any independent witness Saudagar Singh (PW-6) had not supported the prosecution case. This witness was declared hostile by the prosecutor. Furthermore, the bribe amount was not recovered from the person of the appellant but was found lying on the appellant's table under a paper weight. Defence witnesses had given an entirely different version of the incident. Gurpreet Singh(DW-1) had categorically denied that the appellant had demanded or accepted any money from Ishar Singh.
Similarly Hans Raj (DW-2) and Gurpal Singh(DW-3) who were witnesses Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 5
to the execution and preparation of the Will had also not provided any corroboration to the main prosecution story.
The appellant's case should be considered in the light of the evidence regarding the steps which are naturally taken when a Will is registered. Ishar Singh's Will is Ex.PL. Therefore, it is obvious that the Will which was produced for attestation and registration by the Tehsildar would provide the most useful corroboration of what had actually transpired. The Investigating Officer had taken into possession Receipt Book, Cash Book and Ishar Singh's Will from Gurpreet Singh (DW-1).
As a matter of fact the scribe Gurpal Singh had written the original Will in long hand and also prepared a copy thereof in long hand.
Therefore, reference to two Wills is not to two separate Wills but to the original and a copy of the same Will. The Will was executed by Ishar Singh on February 14, 1997. The Will was attested by Hans Raj Lambardar and Saudagar Singh. On the reverse of the Will are the various endorsements which require the Sub Registrar, Bhadson(appellant) to sign but he never did. The stage for the Sub Registrar's signatures was never reached as in the meantime the Vigilance Inspector reached the Sub Registrar's office and sealed the records.
Statement of Ishar Singh(PW-5) as regards the execution of the Will by him was that on reaching the appellant's office he and Saudgar Singh met the appellant and he handed over the Will to him which was signed by the appellant. At this stage the appellant demanded his fee and Ishar Singh handed over Rs.1000/- to him which he kept under the paper weight lying on the table.
Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 6
The signatures on the Will which Ishar Singh refers to are the appellant's initials in the margin of the Will. Thereafter according to Gurpreet Singh(DW-1) Ishar Singh and the persons accompanying him went to Gurpreet Singh's room where Gurpreet Singh obtained the signatures of Ishar Singh and others on the reverse of the Will. This apparently would have been after the rubber stamps of various endorsements/certificates had been put on the reverse of the two documents. It was at this stage that a dispute arose between Gurpreet Singh(DW-1) and Ishar Singh when Ishar Singh was about to deposit the requisite fee with Gurpreet Singh. Everyone came out of the room as the vigilance party had reached Sub Registrar's office. In cross-examination Gurpreet Singh stated that the Wills had not been entered in the register as a dispute had arisen before this could be done. Requisite fee had not been deposited.
The broad features of this case are undisputed. Ishar Singh (PW-5) wanted to execute his Will. Ishar Singh contacted the appellant and was told that registration of the will would cost to Rs.1500/-. Ultimately fee was settled at Rs.1000/-. This amount was paid by Ishar Singh to the appellant and recovered from the appellant's table lying under the paper weight. Ishar Singh's Will had been scribed by Gurpal Singh, initialled by the appellant and passed on to the clerk for making the necessary endorsements and putting the rubber stamps relating to the endorsements/certificates. Ishar Singh and his witnesses Saudagar Singh and Hans Raj had also signed the Will on the reverse. Thereafter the Will was to be attested by the appellant.
Appellant as Naib Tehsildar should have known the fees for Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 7
registration purposes of a documents such as a Will. Unlike a sale deed or a rent deed, Wills are not money transactions but solemn testaments in which the testator makes a devolution of his property be given effect after his death. Ishar Singh had made the Will in favour of his wife Amar Kaur who was to inherit his entire moveable and immovable property after his death.
There was a recital in the Will that the testator had spent sufficient amount on the marriages of his daughters Shinder Kaur and Kirpal Kaur and did not wish to devolve any property on them. His last rites were to be performed by his wife Amar Kaur.
The solemn document executed by an old man of 65 which was his first and last Will and testament had become reason for the appellant to demand illegal gratification of Rs.1,000/-. It is not clear if any registration charges are paid for registration of Wills but in the present case no fee was demanded nor paid by the testator to the Registration Clerk who appeared as a witness. The appellant received Rs.1,000/- and kept it with him although under a paper weight. What was this amount for was something for the appellant to explain. Was the appellant charging legal fee for giving advice to the testator as regards how to prepare his Will, get it drafted by a scribe, witnessed by two attesting witnesses and attested by the Tehsildar could be one possible explanation but even though acceptance of money for such advice would have been itself illegal, the appellant does not come out with any explanation whatsoever. If Ishar Singh was to pay fee for registration of the Will, the record does not bear out if any fee was demanded or paid.
Ishar Singh may have paid some money to the scribe of the Will Gurpal Singh (PW-3) but even this is not clear from the record. Payment of Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 8
registration fee or payment of charges to the scribe or even payment of fees to a lawyer for drafting the Will would have been legitimate but payment of money to the appellant who was register the document was certainly illegal.
It was an illegal demand made by a greedy revenue officer to perform his duty.
Learned counsel for the appellant has referred to Meena Vs.
State of Maharashtra 2002(2) R.C.R.(Criminal) 661 in support of his arguments that mere recovery of Rs.1,000/- lying on the appellant's table could not be held to be proper and sufficient proof of the acceptance of the bribe. The facts of Meena's case were that she was a revenue record keeper who was to make available certain records for preparation of copies which the complainant had applied for and for this purpose she had demanded Rs.20/- to make the records available. Apparently the complainant had thrust Rs. 20/- into the hands of accused and immediately the place was raided by the trap party, the hands of the accused were held by a lady constable and dipped in a solution of sodium carbonate which turned purple. At the trial it was held that the appellant had not accepted the bribe, the note had fallen on the table while she was pushing it away refusing to accept it. The lady constable who was the first to arrive had not been examined at the trial. Therefore, there were certain features of the case which had led to the acquittal of the accused and the judgment did not lay down any rule for appreciation of evidence in cases where bribe is not recovered from the person of the accused but from his table or drawer. This judgment is of no avail to the appellant.
Reference is also made to Union of India Vs. Purnandu Biswas Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 9
2005(4) RCR (Criminal) 517 in which the Court had placed reliance on M.Narsinga Rao Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh 2000(1) RCR (Crl.) 95 SC and held that it was not enough that some currency notes were handed over to the public servant to make it acceptance of gratification, prosecution has a further duty to prove that what was paid amounted to gratification. In Purnandu Biswas' case, while working as a Surveyor in the Mercantile Marine Department of Government of India at Tuticorin Port, he had allegedly demanded Rs.50,000/- by way of illegal gratification for giving a clearance certificate to a vessel owned by the complainant. The bribe money alongwith a visiting card was handed over to the accused but the accused took up the defence that he had charged the money for some time intending to give it back to the witness. Conviction of the accused by the trial court was set set aside by the High Court and Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against acquittal. There was evidence that the complainant had borne a grudge against the accused for detaining his vessel and there were many defects in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses.
The facts of the above case were quite different from the present one. Herein the complainant wanted to get his Will attested and registered by the Sub Registrar and was asked to bring Rs.1000/-. The matter was reported to the Vigilance Department and trap was organized which was carried out successfully. The complainant paid Rs.1000/- to the appellant and the appellant placed the amount under the paper weight on his desk. Thereafter the Will was handed over to the appellant to passed it to the Registration clerk for making entries and receiving requisite fees. The Criminal Appeal No.173 SB of 2002 10
matter did not reach the stage of payment of fees when the raiding party arrived. Apart from the above what is surprising is that the appellant himself gave no explanation why he was falsely implicated in the case.
For reasons recorded above, I find no merit in this appeal and the same is hereby dismissed. The appellant shall be taken into custody forthwith to undergo remaining part of the sentence.
January 6, 2006.
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