Central Bureau of Investigation v. V.C. Shukla [1998 SC]

Section 3 declares that a fact is relevant to another when it is connected with the other in any of the ways referred to in the provisions of the Act relating to the relevancy of facts; and those provisions are to be found in Sections 6 to 55 appearing in Chapter II. Section 5, with which Chapter II opens, expressly provides that evidence may be given in any suit or proceeding of the existence or non-existence of every fact in issue and the facts declared relevant in the aforesaid sections, and of no others.

We may now turn to the principle and scope of Section 10 of the Act and its applicability to the entries in question. This section reads as under:-

“Things said or done by conspirator in reference to common design –

Where there is reasonable ground to believe that two or more persons have conspired together to commit an offence or an actionable wrong, anything said, done or written by any one of such persons in reference to their common intention, after the time when such intention was first entertained by any one of them, is a relevant fact as against each of the persons believed to be so conspiring, as well for the purpose of proving the existence of the conspiracy as for the purpose of showing that any such person was a party to it.”

Mr. Altaf Ahmed submitted that the materials collected during investigation and placed on record clearly establish the existence of a general conspiracy amongst Jains to promote their economic interest by corrupting public servants. He next contended that the materials further disclosed that in order to accomplish the design of the general conspiracy, a number of separate conspiracies with similar purpose had been hatched up between Jains and different public servants.

At the outset we may point out that no charge was framed against the Jains for having entered into a criminal conspiracy amongst themselves (even though such was the allegation in the charge sheet). We need not, therefore, consider the materials collected during investigation from that perspective. Indeed, according to the charges of conspiracy all the respondents were parties thereto and the conspiracy existed for the period from February, 1990 to January, 1991.

On perusal of their [witnesses] statements we find that some of them are irrelevant to the charges of conspiracy with which we are now concerned while others, to the extent they can be translated into legally admissible evidence, only indicate that Shri Shukla was known to the Jain brothers and had gone to their residence on formal occasions. The above statements cannot be made a reasonable ground to believe that all of them have conspired together. So far as Shri Advani is concerned, we find that no one has even spoke about him in their statements. Since the first requirement of Section 10 is not fulfilled the entries in the documents cannot be pressed into service under its latter part.

In the light of the preceding discussion we proceed to consider the validity of the arguments canvassed by Shri Altaf Ahmed in this regard. Mr. Altaf Ahmed urged that it being a settled principle of law that statements in account books of a person are ‘admissions’ and can be used against him even though those statements were never communicated to any other person, the entries would be admissible as admission of J.K. Jain, who made them that apart, he contended, they would be admissible against Jain brothers also as they were made under their authority as would be evident from their endorsements/signatures appearing against/below some of those entries. In support of his first contention he relied upon the following passage from the judgment of his Court in Bhogilal Chunilal Pandya v. State of Bombay [(1959) Supp. 1 SCR 310]:

“The first group of sections in the Act in which the word ‘statement ‘occurs, are Ss. 17 to 21, which deal with admissions. Section 17 defines the word ‘admission’, Ss. 18 to 21 lay down what statements are admissions, and s. 21 deals with the proof of admissions against persons making them. The words used in Ss. 18 to 21 in this connection are ‘statements made by.’. It is not disputed that statements made by persons may be used as admissions against them even though they may not have been communicated to any other person. For example, statements in the Account books of a person showing that he was indebted to another person are admissions which can be used against him even though these statements were never communicated to any other person. Illustration (b) of s. 21 also shows that the word ‘statement’ used in these sections does not necessarily imply that they must have been communicated to any other person. In the Illustration in question entries made in the book kept by a ship’s captain in the ordinary course of business are called statements, though these entries are not communicated to any other person. An examination, therefore, of these sections show that in this part of the Act the word ‘statement’ has been used in its primary meaning namely, ‘something that is stated’ communication is not necessary in order that it may be a statement.”.

Even if we are to accept the above contentions of Mr. Altaf Ahmed the entries, which are statements as held by this Court in Bhogilal Chunilal and, being ‘admissions’ – and not ‘confession’ – cannot be used as against Shri Advani or Shri Shukla. However, as against Jains the statements may be proved as admissions under Section 18 read with Section 21 of the Act provided they relate to ‘any fact in issue or relevant fact.’ Needless to say, what will be ‘facts in issue’ or ‘relevant facts’ in a criminal trial will depend upon, and will be delineated by, the nature of accusations made or charges levelled against the person indicated. In the two cases with which we are concerned in these appeals, the gravamen of the charges which were framed against Jains in one of them (quoted earlier) and were to be framed in the other pursuant to the order of the trial Court (quoted earlier) is that they entered into two separate agreements; one with Shri Shukla and the other with Shri Advani, in terms of which they were to make certain payments to them as a gratification other than legal remuneration as a motive or reward for getting their favour while they were ‘public servants’ and in pursuance of the said agreements payments were actually made to them. Thereby the Jains committed the offence of conspiracy under Section 120B of the Indian Penal code; and under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (P.C. Act for short), in that, they abetted the commission of offences under Section 7 of the Act by Shri Shukla and Shri Advani.

It is thus seen that the prosecution sought to prove that there were two separate conspiracies, in both of which Jains together figured as the common party and Shri Advani or Shri Shukla, as the other. Since we have already found that the prosecution has not been able to made out a prima facie case to prove that Shri Advani and Shri shukla were parties to such conspiracies, the charges of conspiracy, as framed/sought to be framed, cannot stand also against the Jains, for the simple reason that in a conspiracy there must be two parties. Resultantly, the statements cannot be proved as admission of Jains of such conspiracy.