In a travesty of justice, it took 19 years for a Rs 500-bribe case to be heard by the Supreme Court. The net gainer, though, is the average babu.
P Satyanarayana Murthy, assistant director, Commisionerate of Technical Education, Hyderabad, in 1996, allegedly sought an illegal gratification of R500 for the renewal of the recognition of S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s Rama Typewriting Institute in Kurnool. While Reddy died in the interregnum and Murthy was caught red-handed, the verdict—“mere possession and recovery of currency notes from an accused without proof of demand would not establish the offence”—has ended up raising many questions.
The judgment states that proof of demand of illegal gratification is the most serious part of a complaint under 7 and 13(1)(d)(i)&(ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. So, while Murthy had received R500, there was no proof that he demanded the sum. That means, in future, it will be imperative to first get proof of a babu demanding a bribe. Post-that the said civil servant needs to be caught red-handed accepting the bribe before any action can be taken. While that makes life difficult for people who deal with government officials on a daily basis, it also provides a reprieve for babus just in case someone left a briefcase stashed with cash at his/her office or home with the sole intent of harassing.