Ahmad, J. -
(1.) This is an appeal by the State against an order of Mr. K. K. Dutta, Magistrate, Dumka, acquitting the respondent of the charge under Section 161, Penal Code.
(2.) The prosecution story, briefly stated is that the respondent accepted a sum of Rs. 75/-from one Ramlagan Bhagat for submitting a report of an enquiry in his favour. The enquiry related to the fact as to who was in possession of a plot of land bearing khata No. 6 in village Bhainsabaran Karamtola, tappa Patsanda, with-in the district of the Santal Parganas. This land was recorded in the survey record-of-rights in the name of one Chirkut Bhagat. It appears that Chirkut is, by profession, a religious mendicant, and generally he is out on pilgrimage to different places. In his absence, the land is left under the cultivation of other persons with whom he makes some arrangement. At one stage Rarnlagan was made in-charge of this land and he had cultivated it for some time. He had a power of attorney as well "from Chirkut. This power was after some time cancelled by a registered document dated 2/6/1948. Subsequently Chirkut gave his land to one Lalji Bhagat for cultivation. While Lalji Bhagat was cultivating the land on behalf of Chirkut, a petition was filed by Maral Murmu and other villagers of village Bhainsabaran Karamtola tappa Patsanda wherein the aforesaid land lies, to the effect that the land had been in fact sold by Chirkut to Lalji and others. According to the allegation of the petitioners in that application, the land was not alienable. Therefore, the prayer was that Lalji and Chirkut be ejected from the land, and the same be settled with the petitioners. This application had been filed on 23/9/1948. The learned Sub-divisional Magistrate, on receiving the application, sent the matter for enquiry to the respondent who was then there the Kanungo of that area. On 11/11/1948, while the matter was pending for enquiry before the Kanungo, a petition was filed by Ramlagan before the Secretary, Thana Congress Committee, Godda, alleging that he had appeared before the Kanungo and showed him all his papers, and had further requested him that a correct report should be submitted regarding the matter. In answer to his request, he had been asked by the Kanungo to pay a certain amount of money in order that a report favourable to him might be submitted. On negotiation, a sum of Rs. 75/- was fixed as a reward for a favourable report, and it was promised by Ramlagan to be paid to the Kanungo on 19/11/1948. On 19/11/1948, Ramlagan, along with the office bearers of the Congress Committee, went to the Sub-divisional Officer, and informed him that the Kanungo was to take a bribe and asked him whether he would detect the same. The Sub-divisional Officer took down the numbers of the notes that were to be passed on to the Kanungo. Thereafter, 7 ten-rupee notes and a five rupee note were paid to the Kanungo in his office. On payment information to that effect was given to the Sub-divisional Officer who directed the 2nd Officer Mr. Y. Horo, Deputy Magistrate, to search the person of the accused along with another Magistrate, Mr. B. N. Agarwala, who had come there that day. Mr. Horo accordingly proceeded with Mr. Agarwala to make the search. They were accompanied by Jagdish Mandal and Sagar Mohan Pathak also. On finding the accused at the Munshikhana, Mr. Horo informed him that he had come to make a search of his pocket, and asked him to produce the currency notes, if any. He, thereupon, produced 13 ten rupee notes and 13 five rupee notes. On a further request, he produced the 7 ten rupee notes and one five rupee note which were alleged to have been given to him by Ramlagan by way of illegal gratification. Mr. Horo took down the numbers of all the notes, and made a written report to the Sub-divisional Officer who then examined Ramlagan as well as the accused, and a case was on the aforesaid allegations instituted by him against the respondent. The receipt of money by the respondent is accepted. The explanation given by him in hjs examination, under Section 342, Criminal P. C. for receiving that money was that Ramlagan went to him that day, and told. him that he was in great trouble owing to loss of his cow and horse and asked him to keep-the above monty with him, as there was a great crowd in the Court premises that day, and there was a risk of pick-pocketing. He further stated that he would take back the money in the evening, and so he took and kept the money as he was well acquainted with him from before. This appears to be true that there was some crowd on that day in the court compound. This has been admitted by P. W. 1 Ramlagan Bhagat in his cross-examination.
(3.) The point to be considered, therefore, is whether this money given by Ramlagan to the respondent was by way of gratification, as alleged by the prosecution, or was given for some other purpose. The only witness in support of the prosecution on the point that the-money had been paid to the Kanungo by way of gratification is Ramlagan himself (P. W. 1). His case was that he was in possession of the land, and also that he was the maternal nephew of Chirkut, and, therefore, he was interested in getting a favourable report in support of the fact that the land was in possession of Chirkut, and that it had not been alienated by him in favour of any third party. It was for this reason, according to him, that he was anxious to gel a favourable report and it was with that motive that he had offered to pay Rs. 75/- to the respondent in order to get a favourable report. There is no doubt that Ramlagan was anxious to grab this land of his uncle, Chirkut, in some way or the other. The report of Mr. Horo, however, discloses that, on the relevant date, Ramlagan, in fact, was not in possession of the land. He may have, however, been trying to keep the interest of Chirkut alive under the impression that he may possibly get this property by way of inheritance from him on his death, though there-is no direct proof on the record to support clearly this fact that he was the next heir of Chirkut. This much, however, is clear that he was his maternal nephew by relation and for some time at least he enjoyed the confidence of Chirkut. So it cannot be negatived altogether that he was not the least interested in the-land at the 'time when the enquiry was proceeding. The question that, however, deserves-serious consideration is whether his evidence-alone is sufficient for coming to the conclusion that the money paid to the Kanungo by him-had been given by way of illegal gratification. The learned Magistrate, who had the advantage of seeing him in the witness box and hearing his deposition has come to the following conclusion :
"P. W. Ramlagan who is a main prosecution. witness in this case is, however, hardly a witness of this type. Although he poses to be a Congress worker, his own evidence shows that he is a man without any moral scruples when his own interest is concerned. In answer to a question in cross-examination as to whether he considered it proper as a Congress worker to ask the accused to submit a report in his favour, his answer was that 'a maa forgets what is just or unjust when he has his own interest to look alter.' Again according to his own evidence when the accused asked him for a bribe of Rs. 100/- he negotiated with him about the .amount and ultimately settled the same at Rs. 75/- and actually agreed to pay the same although on subsequent thought some days later on he decided on 11-11-48 to make a report about it to the Congress office at Godda. Thus according to his own evidence ho had agreed to give a bribe to a public servant for getting a report in his favour. It is thus apparent that Ramlagan is a man whose evidence has to be treated with great caution and cannot be accepted without cor-roboration by independent evidence." It is also indeed very strange that though he was, as stated by him, very anxious to get a favourable report at a time when the enquiry was pending before the respondent; yet sub-sequently when it was transferred to the file of Mr. Horo, he was not the least careful to take any interest whatsoever in that enquiry. This conduct of Ramlagan is not consistent with his anxiety to save his interest, if any, which, according to him, he had in the land. Further, his statement that he was in possession of the land on the date of the enquiry is also proved to be false. The petition (Ex. 4) filed in the Congress Office has been -- and I think rightly -- held by the learned Magistrate to be suspicious. Therefore, in these circumstances, the integrity of this witness cannot be held to be above suspicion. It is also proved from the report that the power of attorney which had been given to him by his uncle Chirkut had been subsequently cancelled, In cross-examination, he was not willing to accept even this simple fact, which must be known to him, and he tried to answer the question in a very evasive manner. There can be no doubt that while in the witness-box he was not making a straightforward statement. On the other hand, the conduct of the respondent in accepting the money in the circumstances given by him is also not beyond suspicion, and the explanation given by him has not been accepted by the Court below. It is also not clear further from the record as to what was exactly the motive for Ramlagan for falsely implicating the respondent by passing on the aforesaid notes to him, and thereafter for making a false allegation o bribery against the respondent. The only suggestion that has been made by the defence is that, in connection with another enquiry wherein Ramlagan was a petitioner, the respondent had submitted a report against Ramlagan. That enquiry related to a certain encroachment on a road by Lalji. This Lalji appears to be the same person who was alleged by Maral Murmu as the vendee of Chirkut. In that enquiry matter the respondent had reported that Lalji had removed the encroachment after the filing of the case and, therefore, there was no need of any further action against him. Thus the scheme of Ramlagan may have been foiled to get a proceeding started against Lalji because of the report submitted by the respondent; but all the same, it cannot be said that the report was against the case of Ramlagan on the point of encroachment. It dees not, in my view, afford a reasonable ground to hold that this provided a motive strong enough for Ramlagan to falsely implicate the respondent under the aforesaid charge. This weakness alone, however, will not lend support to the truth oil the prosecution case. The onus is always on the prosecution to prove the charge against the accused. It has already been stated that there is no evidence or any other circumstance on the record to corroborate the statement of Ramlagan on the point that the money had been paid by him to the respondent by way of illegal gratification. His own credibility even, as discussed above, is not free from doubt. In the circumstances, therefore, there is no material to hold that the conclusions arrived at by the trial Court are not warranted by the evidence on the record; nor can it be held that the prosecution has proved the case of bribery against the respondent beyond reasonable doubt.The appeal is accordingly dismissed.;