“Section 7 of the Act would hint at a prepaid demand for performing a work and acceptance (of bribe). There is no postpaid concept, that too, on a trap that is laid after two months after the alleged demand (for bribe),” Justice M Nagaprasanna observed in his order while allowing the petition filed by P Manjunath, an employee of the revenue department’s stamps and registration wing.
If the facts obtained in the case at hand are considered on the bedrock of the principles laid down by the Supreme Court, the judge said, what would unmistakably emerge is that there is neither demand nor acceptance (of bribe).
“The demand should be for any work to be performed and acceptance should be towards the said work. The documents produced along with the petition are so unimpeachable that they would clearly demonstrate that the work that came before the petitioner on February 24, 2022 was performed and the document was released on the same day. If the complainant had complained that the petitioner had demanded money for release of document, that would have been a circumstance altogether different,” Justice Nagaprasanna noted.
He noted that the complaint was made after the release of the document when no work was pending with the petitioner and the final trap was laid two months after the registration of the document and that the petitioner was not even caught accepting any illegal gratification. “On a coalesce of (various) judgments rendered by the Supreme Court, demand and acceptance by the public servant of illegal gratification is sine qua non for establishing the offence under Section 7 of the Act. The SC has held that mere demand without acceptance or mere acceptance without demand would not be enough circumstance to prove the allegation against those accused under Section 7 of the Act,” the judge added.
Traps laid by ACB and counter allegation
Though Manjunath was a first division assistant, he was performing duties of a sub-registrar at Hosadurga in Chitradurga district as the post was lying vacant.
The complainant, DH Guruprasad, had availed Rs 18 lakh mortgage loan from Sri Vasavi Multi-purpose Cooperative Society Limited. The society’s chief executive officer (CEO) sent a communication to Manjunath on February 19, 2022, requesting for the registration of a mortgage deed, in terms of the loan availed and sought his exemption from personal appearance in terms of Section 88 of the Registration Act, 1908.
Manjunath registered the mortgage deed on February 24, 2022 and released the document on the same day. DH Guruprasad then filed a complaint with then Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on March 2, 2022, alleging that Manjunath had demanded an illegal gratification of Rs 5,000. ACB laid a trap but it failed as Manjunath was not present in the office. On April 20, 2022, another trap was laid and Rs 4,000 was found on Manjunath’s table. Anti-Corruption Bureau sought to proceed against him under section 7(a) of the PC Act.
Challenging the same, Manjunath argued that he cannot be seen to be guilty of any demand or acceptance, and both the traps have failed. ACB (now Lokayukta) contended that if there was no assurance, Manjunath would not have registered the document on the same day and that the allegation was made out as the amount was found on his table.