Rajendra Prasad Jain Vs. Sheel Bhadra
Yajee & Ors  Insc 48 (28 February 1967)
28/02/1967 BHARGAVA, VISHISHTHA BHARGAVA,
VISHISHTHA WANCHOO, K.N.
CITATION: 1967 AIR 1445 1967 SCR (3) 19
Election Petition-Bribery and offer of bribery
alleged-Facts which court can take into consideration--offer of bribe whether
must be of specific amount to be corrupt practice.
Letters Patent-Difference among Judges
constituting Division Bench-Reference whether can be made to a single Judge'Bench'
whether includes single Judge.
Respondent No. 1 challenged the election of
the appellant to the Rajya Sabha on the alleged ground of corrupt practice
consisting of bribery as well as offer of bribery. The Tribunal held that both
the above mentioned types of corrupt practices were proved against the
appellant. The High Court upheld the order of the Tribunal holding only that
offer of bribe in two cases was proved. The appellant came to this Court with
certificate. It was urged that (i) when the Division Bench which originally
heard the appeal,, on difference arising among the Judges constituting it,
asked for a reference to another bench, the Chief Justice had no power under
Art. 28 of the Letters Patent to refer the matter to a single Judge, (ii) this
Court should examine the evidence as to offer of bribe to certain persons for
itself, as the High Court had misread the evidence and bad relied on certain
irrelevant pieces of evidence, (iii) the facts proved did not justify a finding
that bribe was offered by the appellant.
HELD : (i) Under Art. 28 of the Letters
Patent the reference of the case to a single Judge was competent. The word
'Bench' in the Article includes a single Judge. [21 H] (ii) In considering the
allegations of bribery against the appellant the court was entitled to take
into consideration the fact that the appellant was a man of means and that he
had no political background in Bihar where he did not have a permanent
residential house. There was no misreading of the evidence by the High Court
and no case had been made Out for a re-appraisal of the findings. [23 B-C, H]
(iii) The proposition cannot be accepted that an offer of bribery cannot be
held to be such unless a specific amount is mentioned in the offer. [27 D]
Emperor v. Amiruddin Salebhoy Tyabjee, A.I.R.1923 Bom.
44,Emperor v. Choube Dinkar Rao & Ors.
A.I.R. 1933 All. 513.
In the matter of Balls v. The Metropolitan
Board of Works,(1865-66) 1 Q.B. Cases 337. Mohan Singh v. Bhanwarlal
Goel, A.I.R. 1964 S.C. 364, distinguished.
Chatturbhuj Vithaldas Jasani v. Moreshwar
Parashram & Ors.
 S.C.R. 817, Case No. XII of Borough of
Staleybridge, (1869) 1 O'Malley and Hardcastle p. 66 and Case No. XV of Borough
of Coventry, (1869) 1 O'Malley and Hardcastle p. 97.
20 & CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil
Appeal No. 1454 of 1966.
Appeal from the judgment and order dated
March 3, 1966 of the Patna High Court in Election Appeal No. 3 of 1965.
Veda Vyasa, K. K. Jain and R. Gopalakrishnan,
for the appellant.
K. P. Varma and D. Goburdhun, for respondent
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by.
Bhargava, J. In 1964, there were eight
vacancies in the Rajya Sabha for which members had to be elected from the
constituency of the Legislative Assembly of Bihar. The election was to be held
on 26th March, 1964. it appears that the Congress Party put up 6 candidates out
of the total of 13 candidates who were nominated for these eight vacancies.
Two of the candidates withdrew after scrutiny
of nomination papers and, consequently, for the actual election there were 6
Congress candidates and 5 others. Amongst these 5 others was the appellant
Rajendra Prasad Jain who was standing as an Independent candidate. One of the
Congress candidates was respondent Sheel Bhadra Yajee. At the election,
Rajendra Prasad Jain was declared as one of the elected candidates, while
respondent Sheel Bhadra Yajee was unsuccessful. Respondent No. 1, Sheel Bhadra
Yajee, then filed an election petition challenging the election of the appellant
to the Rajya Sabha. The main ground for challenge was that the, appellant had
committed the corrupt practice of bribery or offer of bribery in order to
secure his election. In the election petition as originally filed, Schedule I
contained the names of five persons to whom, it was alleged, bribe had actually
been paid by the appellant.
Schedule II contained the names of five
persons to whom bribe had been offered by the appellant. By a subsequent
amendment, three fresh names were added in Schedule I and five in Schedule 11.
The amendment having been allowed by the Election Tribunal, the petition, at
the stage of the trial, contained allegations of payment of bribe to eight
persons and of offer of bribe to ten persons. In the actual trial, however,
evidence was not tendered in respect of some of these allegations. The Election
Tribunal, after full trial of the petition, held that respondent No. 1 had
succeeded in proving that the appellant had given bribes to three of the
persons mentioned in Schedule II and had offered bribe to four persons
mentioned in Schedule II. The appellant appealed to the High Court at Patna. In
the High Court, when the appeal was heard by a Division Bench, one member
Mahapatra, J., held that none of the allegations of payment of bribe or of
offer of bribe had been proved and was of the view that the appeal should be
allowed and the election petition dismissed. The other member, Ramratna Singh,
J., agreed with 21 Mahapatra, J. with regard to the three instances of giving
bribe to the three persons mentioned in Schedule I and also with regard to the
offer of bribe to two of the persons mentioned in Schedule II. With regard to
two instances of offer of bribe in Schedule 11, he disagreed with Mahapatra, J.
and upheld the decision of the Election Tribunal. The two persons in whose
cases the offer of bribe was held proved by Ramratna Singh, J. were Shah Mustaq
Ahmad and Ram Narain Choudhary who were both members of the Bihar Legislative
Assembly and belonged to the Congress Party.
Owing to this difference of opinion, the two
learned Judges directed that the case may be placed before the Hon'ble the
Chief Justice for reference of the point of difference to another Bench under
Art. 28 of the Letters Patent. Under the directions of the Chief Justice, the
appeal came up before U. N. Sinha, J., who, in both cases, agreed with the view
taken by Ramratna Singh, J. and, consequently, in accordance with the view of
the majority, the Court ultimately dismissed the appeal holding that the offer
of bribe by the appellant to Shah Mustaq Ahmad and Ram Narain Choudhary had
been proved. The appellant has now come up in appeal to this Court under
certificate granted by ,the High Court at Patna against this judgment of that
In his appeal, three points were urged by Mr.
Veda Vyas, learned counsel for the appellant. The first question of law raised
was that the Division Bench of the Patna High Court, which first heard the
appeal, made a direction that the case is to be placed before the Chief Justice
for reference of the point of difference to another "Bench" under
Art. 28 of the Letters Patent and, consequently, the reference made
subsequently by the Chief Justice to a single Judge was not competent. It was
urged that the use of the expression "another Bench" in the referring
order meant that the case had to be laid by the Chief Justice before a Bench of
two or more Judges and not before a -single Judge. There are two reasons why,
in our opinion, this submission has no force. The first is that the word
"Bench" used in the referring order cannot be interpreted as
necessarily indicating that the case must be laid before two or more Judges. In
this connection, the language of Rule I (xi) and r. 3 of Chapter 11 of the
Rules of the High Court at Patna is significant. Under r. 1(xi), a case under
the Indian Companies Act is to be heard by a single Judge; and r. 3 indicates
the nature of one of the orders which can be passed by a Bench hearing the case
under r. 1 (xi). Thus, in r. 3 of the Rules of the High Court at Patna itself a
single Judge is referred to as a Bench. In fact, it is well-known that, when
referring to Judges of the High Court sitting to decide a case, the expressions
frequently used are Single Bench and Division Bench. The word "Bench"
used in the referring order, even in its ordinary connotation, would,
therefore, include a single Judge. The second aspect is that the order of
reference mentions that the case 22 is to be placed for reference under Art. 28
of the Letters Patent. Article 28 of the Letters Patent lays down that, in such
circumstances, the case is to be referred to one or more of the other Judges of
the High Court. This reference to Art. 28 of the Letters Patent also thus
clarifies that under the order of reference made by the Division Bench which
first heard the appeal, the case was intended to be placed before the Chief
Justice for reference to one or more of the other Judges of the Court. Further,
under the Rules of the. High Court at Patna, the Chief Justice had the
discretion to decide whether a case placed before him under Art. 28 of the
Letters Patent should be heard by one Judge or more Judges than one, and this
power of the Chief Justice was actually -exercised when, in this case, he
directed that the case be laid before U. N. Sinha, J. The reference to U.
N. Sinha, J. and his decision were,
therefore, not incompetent.
The second point urged by learned counsel was
that the finding recorded by the High Court of Patna that the two instances of
offer of bribe by the appellant to Shah Mustaq Ahmad a.-id Ram Narain Choudhary
were proved was incorrect.
lie urged that we should go into the merits
of this finding on the ground that at leas' one of the Judges who recorded that
finding, viz., Ramratna Singh, J., had misread evidence and had taken into
consideration irrelevant matters. He pointed out to us that Ramratna Singh, J.,
had held at p.
454 of the Paper-book that "it is true
that P.W. 2 did not disclose the names of P.Ws. 9 and 14 to Yajee before
September or October, 1964, but the non-dis.closure of the names of persons to
whom he had spoken about the incident when the first talk with Yajee took place
is not material." P.W. 2 was Ram Narain Choudhary who was one of the
persons to whom bribe was alleged to have been offered by the appellant, and
P.Ws. 9 and 14 were two persons examined to corroborate him. Respondent Yajee,
in the trial of the election petition, did not disclose the names of P.Ws. 9
and 14 to the Court when he gave the first list of his witnesses in October,
1964, and it was from this circumstance that the learned Judge drew the
inference that the names of these two persons had not been disclosed by P.W. 2
to respondent Yajee before September or October, 1964. Learned counsel pointed
out that Yajee had admitted that the names of these two witnesses had been
disclosed to him in September, 1964. It, however, appears that it cannot be
held that the learned Judge committed an error of misreading evidence if he
chose not to rely on this admission of Yajee and preferred the evidence which
showed that the names of these two witnesses had not been disclosed to him
before September or October, 1964. This may be at best a question as to the
weight to be attached to different pieces of evidence and cannot be held to be
art instance of misreading of evidence.
23 As regards the second aspect of reliance
on irrelevant evidence by Ramratna Singh, J., it was urged that in his judgment
at p. 444 of the Paper-book lie referred to the fact that the appellant is a
man of means and that he had no political background in Bihar where he did not
have a permanent residential house. It was urged that these facts were totally
irrelevant to the charge of giving or offering of bribe in order to secure his
election. We fail to see how it can be held that the fact that the appellant
had no political background in Bihar and was a man of means is irrelevant.
These considerations could certainly be relevant for holding whether it was
probable that the appellant would offer bribes or give bribes to secure his
election. Obviously, a person who had no means at all could not possibly offer
bribes or give bribes inducing voters to vote for him, and the fact that he had
no political background could easily be the reason why the appellant might have
resorted to this corrupt practice for securing votes. Reference was also made
to a part of the judgment at p. 451 of the Paper-book where the learned Judge
held that a candidate who wanted to bribe a voter would at first send some
feeler before making the offer; but there was not much time left, as the
allotments to different Congress candidates were made by the leader of the
party only on the 24th or 25th March and election was to take place on the 26th
March. It was urged on behalf of the appellant that this reference to the
allotment to different Congress candidates was irrelevant. We are unable to
find any force in this submission. It appears that the system was that the
members of the Congress Party in the Bihar Legislative Assembly were divided
into six groups and each group was asked to vote for a particular candidate.
This was the allotment referred to by the learned Judge. This circumstance is
quite relevant, because it is obvious that another candidate seeking to bribe a
voter of the Congress Party would only approach that voter who may have been
allotted for voting to a candidate whom he did not like or whom, for some other
reason, he would not be keen to support, while it would be futile to approach a
voter who had been asked to vote for a candidate with whom he was on friendly
terms or whom he was himself keen to support. It cannot be said in these
circumstances that any irrelevant material was taken into account by the
learned Judge at this stage. We cannot, therefore, hold that there was any such
misreading of evidence or admission of irrelevant evidence which would justify
our reopening findings of fact which have been concurrently recorded by the
Election Tribunal at the stage of trial and by the High Court at the stage of
appeal. Consequently, we reject the suggestion of learned counsel that we
should for ourselves go through the evidence and re-examine on merits, after
weighing evidence, the concurrent finding of fact that the appellant was proved
to have offered bribes to Shah Mustaq Ahmad and Ram Narain Choudhary.
24 The last and the third point urged by
learned counsel was that, even on findings of fact recorded by the High Court,
we must hold as a question of law that there was in fact no offer of bribe by
the appellant. This argument was urged on the basis that the finding recorded
did not show that any specific amount was offered as bribe to either Shah
Mustaq Ahmad or Ram Narain Choudhary. In the case of Shah Mustaq Ahmad, the
finding is that the appellant had said to him :
"In your election a lot of money is
spent and, therefore, take some money from me and cast your first preference
vote in my favour." In the other case of Ram Narain Choudhary, -the
significance of the offer is very clear when the actual words in Hindi used by
the appellant are considered. They were as follows :"Is Par Jain Saheb Ne
Kaha Ki Apko Bhi To Election Men Kharch Burch Hua Hoga. Isliye Ham Upko Kuchh
Seva Karna Chahete Hain. Ap Hamare Madad Kijiye." It is true that in these
words there was no direct offer of giving money, but the language used clearly
indicated that the appellant was offering his services in the form of
contribution towards the expenditure which Ram Narain Choudhary had incurred in
his own election to the Bihar Legislative Assembly. In both cases, therefore,
it is clear that an offer of payment of money was made by the appellant to
these voters to induce them to cast votes for him in the election to the Rajya
Learned counsel, however, urged that as long
as no specific amount was offered by the appellant, there was, in fact, no
offer of bribery. According to him, it was still a stage when an intention of
offering bribery was expressed, but no offer of bribery was actually made. An
offer, it was urged, must be held to be made only when a specific sum is
mentioned as the amount of bribe to be given and there is to be no negotiation
about the amount. In this connection, learned counsel drew our attention to the
meaning given to the word "offer" as explained in Halsbury's Laws of
England, 3rd Edn., Vol. 8, at p. 69. Halsbury, at that stage, deals with the
meaning of the word "offer" as used in connection with the law of
contract; and we do not think any assistance can be taken from the principle
laid down therein. He also made a reference to some Indian cases dealing with
the meaning of the word "offer" in connection with the offer of
bribery under the Criminal Law. The case mainly relied upon was Emperor v.
Aminuddin Salebhoy Tyabjee(1), where the accused was alleged to have used the
words : "my cousin wishes to give you Rs. 5,000" to a government
servant. It was held that these words did not constitute an offer of bribery.
We do not think that that case is (1) A.I.R. 1923 Bom. 44.
25 at all parallel with the case before us.
In that case, the accused himself did not offer any bribe and all that he did
was to indicate to the government servant that his cousin wanted to give to the
government servant the sum of Rs.
5,000. There was, thus, no direct offer by
the accused of bribery to the government servant.
In Emperor v. Choube Dinkar Rao and
Others(1), Dinkar Rao accused admitted that he went to a Judge and told him
that the plaintiff would pay Rs. 10,000 if the suit were decreed, but denied.
that he had gone on behalf of the plaintiff Once again, that was a case where
there was no offer of payment of any motley by the accused to the Judge. In the
instant case, the words used by the appellant clearly amounted to an offer to
give money himself to the two voters.
Similarly, we do not think that any
assistance can be taken from the decision of Blackburn, J. in In the Matter of
Balls v. The Metropolitan Board of Works(2), where it was held in connection
with compensation for land that "the offer of compensation is to be an
offer which the claimant can either accept or reject; if it is of one sum for
compensation and costs, the claimant cannot know how much he is to have for the
injury to his land and how much for his costs. 'He might, therefore, be misled
by it,-.", That was again a case where -the point which came up for
consideration before the learned Judge related to offer of compensation for
land which would be in the nature of an offer in connection with a contract and
not an offer of bribe under the election law.
Reliance was also placed on the view
expressed by this Court in Mohan Singh v. Bhanwarlal and Others(8), in which,
dealing with gratification under the Election Law, it was held :
"Gratification in its ordinary connotation means satisfaction. In the
context in which the expression is used, and its delimitation by the
Explanation, it must mean something valuable which is calculated to satisfy a
person's aim, object or desire, whether or not that thing is estimable in terms
of money; but a mere offer to help in securing employment to a person with a named
or unnamed employer would not amount to such gratification." We again fail
to see how that decision affects the point before Rs.
In that case,. all that was held was that a
mere offer of help in securing employment with another person does not amount
to gratification., In the case before us, the offer was clearly in respect of
money and, if accepted, it would naturally satisfy the voter's desire to
(1) A.I.R. 1933 All. 513. (2) (1865-66) 1
Q.B. Cases 337.
(3) A.I.R. 1964 S.C. 1366.
L4SupGI/67-3 26 Reference was also made to
the decision of this Court in Union of India v. H. C. Goel(1), where it was
held that the respondent had taken out a hundred rupee note from his wallet in
the presence of a government servant whom he had approached in connection with
his work, and the government servant showed his stem disapproval of this
conduct, whereupon the respondent said 'No" and put the wallet with the
note in his pocket. The facts in that case were also clearly different, because
all that was held by this Court was that the mere taking out of the note from
the wallet did not amount to an offer, while, in the case before us, the
finding was that there was a clear offer to give money.
In this connection, we may refer to the
decision of this Court in Chatturbhuj Vithaldas Jasani v. Moreshwar Parashram
and Others where the Court had to consider existence of a contract _for supply
of goods in connection with deciding the disqualification of a candidate as set
out in S. 7 (d) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The Court, in
dealing with this aspect, distinguished between a contract for purposes of the
Contract Act and a contract for purposes of the Election Law. In our opinion,
when considering the scope of the words "offer ,of bribery" in the
Election Law, we should not place a narrow construction on that expression. In
fact, the scope of that expression should be extended in order to ensure, that
elections are held in an atmosphere of absolute purity, and a wide meaning
should be given to the expression "offer of bribery".
In Case No. XII of Borough of
Staleybridge(3), Blackburn, J.
had to deal with the question of interpreting
the giving of bribery under the election law then prevalent in England.
At that time, the offer of a bribe was not a
corrupt practice under the law there, and yet Justice Blackburn said that:
"There can be no doubt that a promise or offer to cause a workman or other
person to be no loser by his coming to vote comes within the meaning of the
Act, and is an act of bribery and corruption.Thornley and Vaughan distinctly
offered and promised two voters that they should have their day's wages paid
them if they would come and vote. That amounted to an act of bribery on the
part of those who accepted it, and on the part of those who offered it."
In Case No. XV of Borough of Coventry(4), it was said "With respect to
bribery, as well as with respect to treating, I shall ever hold it to be a wise
and beneficial rule of constitutional law, quite apart from the 17 & 18
102, that for the purpose of securing purity
and freedom of election, candidates should be answerable for the acts of their
agents, as well as for their own (1) A.I.R. 1964 S.C. 364.
(3) (1869) I O' Malley and Hardcastle p. 66.
(4) (1869) 1 O'Malley & Hardcastle p. 97.
(2)  S.C.R. 817.
27 acts", and proceeding further, with
regard to mere offers of bribe, it was said : "Although these cases have
been classed below those of bribery by both the learned counsel, it cannot be
supposed that an offer to bribe is not as bad as the actual payment of money.
It is a legal offence, although these cases have been spoken of as being an
inferior class by reason of the difficulty of proof from the possibility of
people being mistaken in their accounts of conversations in which offers were
made; whereas there can be no mistake as to the actual payment of money."
In England, thus, the law relating to corrupt practice of giving bribery was
extended to include offers of bribery, though it was held that stricter proof of
offer of bribery should be insisted upon on the ground that there was a
possibility of misunderstanding. In the case before us, the offer was in such
clear terms that there could be no misunderstanding. In both cases, and
particularly in the case of Shah Mustaq Ahmad, the offer was of money to be
paid in order to secure the votes. We are unable to accept the proposition
suggested by learned counsel that an offer of bribery cannot be held to be such
unless a specific amount is mentioned in the offer. No such requirement is laid
down by law, and if we were to accept this proposition, it would lay the field
open for corruption in such a manner as to make the provision totally
ineffective. A candidate wanting to secure a vote by bribery can always go and
first ask the voter whether he is prepared to accept money as a bribe and need
offer a specific sum only after the voter has signified his assent. Once the
voter actually accepts the offer, it is not likely that evidence of that
instance of bribery will be available. The mere fact that a candidate goes and
offers some money is enough to show that he has already made his offer to
corrupt the voter and secure his vote, though there may still be a possibility
that, if subsequently the negotiations as to the precise amount to be paid as
bribe fail, he may not actually succeed in his objective. The offer of bribery
in the manner proved in this case, in our opinion, clearly satisfies the
requirements of section 123 of the Representation of the People Act. The decision
of the High Court upholding that of the Election Tribunal setting aside the
election of the appellant to the Rajya Sabha was, therefore, right and must be
upheld. The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.