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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016
Illegitimate Trap of Public Servant

Ram Janam Singh v. State of Bihar , AIR 1956 SC 643

The appellant Ram Janam Singh was prosecuted under section 161 of the Indian Penal Code, read with section 5, Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 for having accepted a bribe. He was acquitted by the trial Magistrate but was convicted by the High Court on an appeal against the acquittal and was sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment. He was given special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court. The appellant was Sub-Inspector of Police at all material times. He was in charge of the Dinapore Police Station and was investigating dacoity charges against the complainant Sitaram Dusadh on relevant dates. The prosecution story was that during the course of the investigation the appellant demanded ` 100 for himself and ` 25 for his Assistant Sub-Inspector as a bribe for dropping the proceedings against the complainant Sitaram Dusadh. On 17-10-1951 he was said to have been offered and to have accepted ` 100.

It was held by the Supreme Court that whatever the truth of this tale might be, it was evident from the prosecution case that this was not a case of laying a trap, in the usual way, for a man who was demanding a bribe but of deliberately tempting a man to his own undoing after his suggestion about breaking the law had been finally and conclusively rejected with considerable emphasis and decision.

It was further held by the Supreme Court that whatever the criminal tendencies of a man may be, he has a right to expect that he will not be deliberately tempted beyond the powers of his frail endurance and provoked into breaking the law, however regrettable the necessity of employing provocateurs may be (and the Court realised to the full that this is unfortunately often inevitable if corruption is to be detected and bribery stamped out). It was one thing to tempt a suspected offender to overt action when he was doing all he could to commit a crime and has every intention of carrying through his nefarious purpose from start to finish, and quite another to egg him on to do that which has been finally and firmly decided not to be done. The very best of men have moments of weakness and temptation and even the worst time when they repent of an evil thought and are given an inner strength to set Satan behind them ; and if they do, whether it is because of caution or because of their better instincts, or because some other had shown them either the futility or the wickedness of wrongdoing, it is upon the civil society and the State to protect them and help them in their good resolve; not to place further temptation in their way and start afresh a train of criminal thoughts which had been finally set aside.

What really seems to have weighed the scales in the High Court against the appellant is the fact that the learned Judges felt that they could not disbelieve the three official witnesses. But they have not weighed the fact that there was such a thing as over-zealousness even in responsible officials.

Finally in the opinion of the Supreme Court the High Court had not displaced the conclusion of the learned Trial Magistrate that this was a case of careful conspiracy against the appellant in which the notes were planted on him and in which the three government officials had been misled and duped by Sitaram Dusadh and Hiralal Parant and that their zeal outrunning their discretion led them to draw on their imagination for facts which they believed must have occurred and thus induced them to touch up their stories just enough to make what they honestly believed to have been the facts fool proof in the witness box. This was not to say that the Supreme Court held this to be the fact because that was not its function.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentence.

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