The Bombay High Court has set aside the conviction and one-year sentence awarded to a clerk of the HC who was allegedly caught taking bribe after a trap was laid by the Anti-Corruption Bureau on a complaint of a lawyer.
The court noted that “mischievously” setting “bait to a public servant” and then trapping them is “practically amounting to abetment of an offence and artificially creating a crime”.
In such cases, it would be the duty of the court to properly scrutinise the evidence of the complainant to ascertain the reliability of his claim and “to unmask his ulterior intentions”, it said.
Justice Abhay Thipsay had on October 13 allowed an appeal filed by Shridhar Chavan, who was working as ‘chobdar’ (clerk) with a high court judge, challenging an order passed by a sessions court convicting and awarding him one-year sentence for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 1,000 from an advocate in October 2010.
According to prosecution, the accused had demanded bribe from the complainant advocate to get his placed for hearing before the court immediately.
The advocate, after paying the accused an initial sum of Rs 500, lodged a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau which laid a trap and allegedly caught the accused red-handed on October 11, 2010 while accepting the remaining bribe amount of Rs 500.
Justice Thipsay, after perusing the facts and evidence of the case, observed that in trap cases there should be satisfactory evidence of initial demand of bribe by the public servant concerned and if this demand has not been proved satisfactorily, then the whole prosecution case gets seriously affected.
The HC also took note of the fact that the application filed by the complainant advocate on behalf of his client was to come up before another judge and not before the judge with whom the accused was associated with.
“Courts have taken great caution in ascertaining the nature and type of complainants in deciding whether an accused is guilty or not. The one who mischievously sets bait to a public servant and then traps them after they have acted on the luring of such complainant is recognised as a ‘fishing complainant’,” the court said.
“Such traps are deprecated as practically amounting to abetment of an offence and artificially creating a crime. In such cases, it would be the duty of the court to properly scrutinise the evidence of the complainant to ascertain the reliability of his claim and to unmask his ulterior intentions,” Justice Thipsay said.