AO Vs. The State of Manipur  INSC 557 (13 October 1995)
B.L. (J) Hansaria B.L. (J) Ahmadi A.M. (Cj) Hansaria, J.
1996 AIR 361 1995 SCC (6) 488 JT 1995 (7) 587 1995 SCALE (5)700
appellant was convicted under s.120-B of the Penal Code read with s.5(1) (d) of
the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, by Special Judge, Manipur. He was
sentenced to a fine of Rs.10,000/- and to imprisonment till the rising of the
court. On appeal being preferred, the Imphal Bench of the Gauhati High Court
dismissed the same. The learned Judge deciding the appeal, however, granted, on
oral prayer being made, leave, under Article 134(c) of the Constitution to
prefer an appeal to this Court, albeit without specifying the question of law
While issuing notice in the appeal, the appellant was also asked to show-cause
as to why the punishment should not be enhanced.
Dhavan, appearing for the appellant, has first contended that the conviction of
the appellant itself is not tenable inasmuch as the onus of proof, which lies
in a case where quilt is based on circumstantial evidence, as in this case, has
not been fully discharged by prosecution. To sustain this submission, we have
been referred to S.P. Bhatnagar vs. State of Maharashtra, 1979(2) SCR 875. As Dr. Dhavan strenuously contented that
the test regarding proof laid down in Bhatnagar's case has not been satisfied,
it would be apposite to find out what was held in that case. A reference to the
judgement shows that this Court mentioned about the fundamental rule relating
to the proof of guilt based on circumstantial evidence, which is that there is
always danger that conjecture or suspicion might take the place of legal proof
inasmuch as in cases based on circumstantial evidence mind is apt to take a
pleasure in adapting circumstances to one another and even in straining them a
little, if need be to force them to form parts of one connected whole. It was
then stated that in cases where the evidence is of circumstancial nature, the
circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is drawn should, in the first
instance, be fully established and then all the facts so established should be
consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused.
aforesaid shows that this Court had really reiterated the well known tests to
be satisfied when the evidence in support of the prosecution case is
circumstantial in nature. It was, of course, added that precaution has to be
taken to see that conjecture or surmises do not take the place of legal proof.
the present case, however, the involvement of the appellant in the conspiracy
is so apparent that it cannot be said that there was any straining of the
circumstance to connect the appellant with the crime. We have said so because
the prosecution case is that the appellant was a party to the conspiracy in
giving the contract in question to A. Sarat Chandra Sharma, (whose earlier firm
had been black listed) and that too at an extremely exorbitant rate.
the appellant sought to deny his knowledge about the fact of black-listing of
the earlier firm of Sarat Chandra, this plea has no less to stand, because the
decision of the Government of Manipur regarding the black listing of the firm
had been communicated by the appellant himself to the Chief Engineer by his
letter of even number dated 23rd June, 1978, whereas the present contract had
been given to another firm of Sarat Chandra in January, 1979, after the
processing had begun in November, 1978. As to the rates being exorbitant, there
is a clear finding of the trial court, which was endorsed by the High Court.
Though, Dr. Dhavan contended in this regard that the rates were those at which
supplies had been made earlier, this plea has been discarded by the two courts
below. This being a question of fact based on material on record we see no
reason to doubt its correctness.
aforesaid shows that there were clinching materials to hold the appellant
guilty under s.5(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act read with s.120-B
of the Penal Code. We, therefore, uphold the conviction.
This takes us to the question of the sentence. A perusal of the trial court's
judgment shows that the sentence of imprisonment till rising of the court was
awarded because of :
appellant being a senior IAS Officer and holding of different high posts, which
showed that he is a very respectable person;
appellant having a number of dependents;
certainty of appellant's losing his job and requiring him to earn a living for
himself and his family members;
the present being first offence committed by him; and
spectre of the incident hanging on his head for about half a decade.
to us, none of these factors (except the last, to some extent) make out a case
for awarding sentence less than the minimum prescribed by the aforesaid Act -
the same being imprisonment for one year. The fact that the appellant is a
senior IAS Officer really requires a serious view of the matter to be taken,
instead of soft dealing. The fact that he has a number of dependents and is
going to lose his job are irrelevant considerations inasmuch as in almost every
case a person found guilty would have dependents and if he be a public servant,
he would lose his job. The present being the first offence is also an
the delay has some relevance, but as in cases of the present nature,
investigation itself takes time and then the trial is prolonged, because of the
type of evidence to be adduced and number of the witnesses to be examined, we
do not think that the fact of delay of about five years could have been a
ground to award the sentence of imprisonment till rising of the court, which
really makes a mockery of the whole exercise. We, however, think that the delay
does require some reduction from the minimum prescribed; and on the facts of
this case, ends of justice would be met, according to us, if at this length of
time, pursuant to notice of enhancement issued by this Court, a sentence of imprisonment
for six months is awarded.
the result, while dismissing the appeal, the sentence is enhanced to
imprisonment for six months. The appellant shall surrender to serve out the
sentence; if he would not do so, appropriate steps would be taken as permitted
by law to incarcerate him.