Criminal Law

Evaluation of Evidence in Police Trap Cases

 

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Written by – Amaresh Patel

Courts, traditionally, considered police trap as failing in two broad categories, that is, “Legitimate and “illegitimate” traps. Among bride-givers there are various types and gradations. There is the person who is compelled to give bribe on the demand of  a public servant, there is a another who voluntarily offers a bribe and after securing his ends files a complaint, who can be regarded as “particeps criminis”, and hence an accomplice. The former is a case where an un-willing person is forced an accomplice. The former is a case where a un-willing person is forced to offer a bribe under threat or coercion; the latter is a case where a person offers a bribe under to achieve his own purpose. The former bribe-giver should be treated as an “interested” witness whose evidence requires corroboration required careful scrutiny. Even in illegitimate traps, the nature of corroboration required should not be subjected to the same rigorous tests, which are generally applied to the cases of approvers. The court has to consider the degree of their complicity and then look for corroborations, if necessary, as a rule of prudence, the extent and nature of which may vary having regard to the facts and circumstances of each case.

The evidence of ‘Particeps Criminis’ must be treated like the evidence of accomplice. If the witness is not an accomplice in that sense, but is only a ‘partisan” or “interested” witness who is concerned in the success of the trap. His evidence must be tested in the same way as other interested evidence is tested, which may vary from case to case. corroboration  in such a case can be of an approver. However, as a rule of prudence, the court has to scrutinize evidence of such an interested witness carefully. Quantum of corroborative evidence required would depend on the particulars facts of the case like, the nature of the crime, the character of the trap witness etc., and other general requirements necessary to substain the case. whether corroboration is necessary, and if so, to what extent and what should be in its nature differs from case to case. in a case of a  bribe , the bribe-giver and the intermediates, if any, are the only persons who can ordinarily be expected to give evidence about the payment of bribe. However, their evidence has to be scrutinised very carefully and duly appreciated in a proper manner to decide whether conviction can be based on it or not in those circumstance.[1]

In Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh v. State of Vindhya Pradesh,[2] the Supreme Court observed that the unwilling bribe-givers were only actuated with the motive of trapping the accused and hence the evidence could not be treated as evidence of accomplices. Their evidence was nevertheless the evidence of “partisan” witness.

In State of Bihar v. Basawan Singh,[3]the case arose on a ‘legitimate’ trap laid to catch a police officer, who was, in due course, convicted. The High Court in appeal held that the decision in Rao Bahadur Singh laid down an inflexible rule that in case of this nature testimony of the witness who formed the raiding party must be discarded, unless that testimony is corroborated by independent witness. The constitution bench which decided State of Bihar v. Basawan Singh proceeded to point out the distinction between a witness who is an accomplice and on who is not, and reiterated the law laid down in Rameshwar v. State of Rajasthan,[4] regarding accomplice evidence which is the same as the law laid down in King v. Baskerville, [5] namely that the judge should give some indication in his judgment that he has had the rule of cautionin mind and should proceed to give reasons for considering it unnecessary to require corroboration on the facts of the particular case before him and and show why he considers it safe to convict without corroboration in that particular case.

References-

[1] M.O. Shamsudhin v. State of Karala, (1995) 3 SCC 351

[2] AIR 1954 SC 322

[3] AIR 1958 SC 500

[4] AIR 1952 SC 54

[5] (1916) 2 KB 658

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