Case Summary: Central Bureau of Investigation vs. VC Shukla

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Facts in issue:

  1. Whether the books fulfill the other requirements of Section 34 so as to be admissible in evidence?
  2. Whether the entries are admissions within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act so as to be admissible as relevant evidence under Section 21?

Brief Facts:

On May 3, 1991, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), New Delhi, searched the premises of J.K. Jain at G-36, Saket, New Delhi to work out information received while investigating the case in New Delhi. In course of the search, they recovered, besides other articles and documents, two diaries, two small notebooks, and two files containing details of receipts of various amounts from different sources recorded in abbreviated forms of digits and initials and details of payments to various persons recorded in a similar fashion. Preliminary investigation taken up by the CBI to decode and comprehend those entries revealed payments amounting to Rs. 65.47 crores, out of which 53.5 crores had been illegally transferred from abroad through hawala channels, during the years 1988 to 1991 to 115 persons including politicians, some of whom were members of either House of Parliament during the relevant period, officials of Government and Public Sector Undertakings, and friends of S.K. Jain, B.R. Jain, and N.K. Jain, who is three brothers carrying on different businesses.

According to CBI the materials collected during investigation clearly disclosed that Jains were in the habit of making payments to influential public servants and political leaders of high status expecting official favors from them and the above payments were made to Shri Shukla and Shri Advani with that oblique motive. Thereby, the CBI averred, the above persons (the respondents in these appeals) committed offenses under Section 120B I.P.C. and Section 13(2) read with Sections 13(1)(d), 7 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Also, against Shri Advani, the specific allegation in the charge-sheet was mentioned that he received a sum of Rs. 25 lacs from Jains during his tenure as a member of the Parliament. In the other charge-sheet filed, it is alleged that during the period 1988 to 1991, while Shri Shukla was a member of the Parliament and for some time a Cabinet Minister of the central government he received Rs. 39 lacs from Jains.

Charges framed:

S.K. Jain, during the period from February 1990 to January 1991 at Delhi, with other co-accused V.C. Shukla, N.K. Jain, B.R. Jain and J.K. Jain to do an illegal act, to make payment of Rs. 38,85,834 to said Sh. V.C. Shukla, as a gratification other than legal remuneration as a motive or reward for getting general favor from, said V.C. Shukla who was holding the post of a Member of Parliament during the said period and also was Minister for External Affairs during the period from 21.11.90 to Jan. 91 and in pursuance of the said agreement, the pecuniary advantage was obtained by said V.C. Shukla by abusing his official position and without any public interest and the payment was made by you as aforesaid gratification and you, thereby, committed an offense punishable under section 120-B IPC r/w Sections 7, 12 and 13(2) r/w 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and within the cognizance.

S.K. Jain, during the said period and place, abetted the commission of an offense punishable under Section 7 of the P.C. Act, 1988 by offering a bribe of Rs. 38,85,834 to said V.C. Shukla, who was a public servant during the relevant period as a Member of Parliament and also as a Minister of External Affairs during the period from 21.11.90 to January 91 for getting general favor from him and you, thereby committed an offense punishable under section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and within the cognizance of this Court.”

Judgment:

The Hon’ble court acquitted the convicts as there was not enough evidence as the case was made on the basis of diaries and files. Since those documents were not books of accounts nor were maintained in the regular course of business they will not be relevant under section 34 of Indian evidence act 1872 and if they are amount to be relevant in plain language then they are termed as corroborative evidence.

The admissibility of the documents under Section 10 was resisted by the respondents contending that there was not an iota of material to show even, prima facie, that there was a conspiracy. Similar was the contention regarding the applicability of sections 17 and 21 in absence of any material to prove ‘admission’.

Conclusion

After this case, there were so many questions regarding political interference in CBI and that would jeopardize the clear judgments. As so many political leader names came and they were acquitted in 1997 and 1998  because the diaries were judged in court to be inadequate as the main evidence. Hon’ble Supreme court of India directed that the central vigilant commission should be given a supervisory role over the CBI. 

One of the most important points made in the judgment of the court was that it made it impossible for politicians in the government to remove the Director of the CBI for 2 years, thus ensuring that the CBI and its officers would have the freedom to carry out their work without political interference.

References 

  1. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/320053/#:~:text=According%20to%20CBI%20the%20materials,Shri%20Advani%20with%20that%20oblique

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