A.N. Ray, J.
1. This is an appeal by special leave from the judgment dated 7/8 March. 1968 of the High Court of Gujarat convicting the appellant under Section 105A of the Indian Penal Code and sentencing him to rigorous imprisonment for one year and imposing a fine of Rs. 1000/- and in default of payment of fine a further rigorous imprisonment for 8 months.
2. The appellant and two other accused were owners of Mahendra Silk Mills (hereinafter referred to as the Mills) a unit of Mahendra Silk Mills Private Ltd., at Ahmedabad. All the three accused were brothers. They were charged under Section 165A of the Indian Penal Code and in the alternative under Section 165A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code on the allegation that on or about 17 December, 1964 when the Central Excise Inspector Aillawadi had shown his intention to take legal steps while investigating the act of evasion of excise duty in respect of certain silk cases, all the three accused in order to prevent him from doing so had offered a sum of Rs. 700/- by way of, bribe. The subordinate Judge, Ahmedabad convicted the appellant and the second accused Jayantilal Gordhandas Patel and acquitted the third accused Mahendra Gordhandas Patel. The High Court on appeal acquitted the second accused.
3. The prosecution case in short was as follows. According to the arrangement made by the Central excise Department for collection of excise duty on excisable goods manufactured by mills, an inspector was posted at every mill, One Gokani was the Excise Inspector in charge of the mills, a unit of the Mahendra Silk Mills Private Limited. The goods manufactured in the mills remained in the mill premises which were known as the bonded godown. Only those goods on which excise duty had been paid were permitted to be removed from the bonded godown and could be brought to the duty paid godown, Excise duty wan paid either in cash or by operating a personal ledger account. The mills adopted the personal ledger account. Under that system a minimum balance was to be maintained. Excise duty payable on the goods would be permitted to be removed to the duty paid godown by debiting the proper entries? in the personal ledger account. The mills manufactured cotton fabrics as well as art silk fabrics. Removal of excisable goods supervised by the Excise Officer posted at the mills. Whenever goods were picked, packing slips were prepared in triplicate. One of which remained in the mills, the other went to the Excise Inspector and the third slip used to remain in the bale in case of cotton fabrics and in the wooden case in the case of art silk fabrics. The Excise Inspector used to carry out test checking upto about 10% of the total number of packing slips. After carrying out the said test check, he would grant packing permission. After completion of packing each case of goods would be numbered according to the serial number of the mills and there would also be an entry in a register known as 'E.B. 4 Register' maintained by the mills. When the goods were to be removed from the mill premises, viz., from the bonded godown, the mills would submit an application in the form known as 'A.R.I.' and at that moment duty on the goods would be assessable and payable as assessed by the Excise Inspector. He would permit removal after making a debit entry against the personal ledger account of the mills. After duty was paid by debit entry the excise inspector would issue a gate pass in triplicate for the goods. Passes would be prepared by the mills and would be countersigned by the Inspector. On removal of the goods to the duty paid godown, the mills would keep the goods in the duty paid godown or take them outside.
4. Gokani proceeded on leave for 8 days in the month of December, 1964. Aillawadi who had retired from military service and worked as an Excise Inspector at Jamnagar was transferred to Ahmedabad in January, 1964. Aillawadi was asked to take charge of the mills though Aillawadi was then in charge of Bharat Suruoday Mills. On 17 December 1904 Aillawadi went to the mills at about 4 p.m. and at about 5 p. m. accompanied by Jitendra Pal went out of the office of the Excise Inspector which was on the upper floor of the mill premises near the duty paid godown of the mills. Pal was a clerk of the mills and he used to attend to excise matters of the mills. There was a duty paid godown at the mills.
5. On the relevant date, 17 December, 1964 when Aillawadi went near the duty paid godown after talk with Jitendra Pal at about 5.30 P. M he found workers opening out some cases in the duty paid godown. Actually, three cases of goods were found which did not bear excise numbers. When Aillawadi questioned Jitendra Pal as to how those cases without excise numbers happened to come to the duty paid godown, Pal at first told him that there were clearance papers showing payment of excise duty in respect of those cases. Pal could not show any clearance papers and he admitted before Aillawadi that through oversight these three cases had been removed from the licensed premises of the mills, namely, bonded godown to the duty paid godown and that it was a mistake. Aillawadi thereupon told Pal that Aillawadi would start a case for removal of three cases Pal then asked Aillawadi to wait for some time so that Pal could call his masters. Pal then brought the appellant and accused No. 2 and introduced them to Aillawadi. The appellant at that time told Aillawadi that he wanted to inspect the cases in the duty paid godown. Thereupon the appellant, accused No. 2 Pal and Aillawadi went to the duty paid godown and the cases were shown When the appellant found that the cases had been removed from the bonded godown to the duty paid godown without payment of duty, the appellant asked Pal to go out of the room.
6. After Pal had left the appellant asked Aillawadi to look to his age and to hush up the matter, when Aillawadi said that he could not do so accused No. 2 is also alleged to have requested Aillawadi to hash up the matter. When Aillawadi declined to do so, both accused No. 1 & 2 took Aillawadi to their office under the pretext that they would show him the relevant papers. On entering the office Aillawdi found accused No. 3 sitting in the office. The appellant (accused No. 1) then asked accused No. 3 if he had any money and if so, to take them out. Accused No. 3 took out money from his pocket and also collected some moneys from accused No. 2 and gave the total sum to the appellant. The appellant offered this amount to Aillawadi and asked him to hush up the matter. Aillawadi told the accused that they were educated persons and they should not behave in that manner. Thereupon the appellant asked Mahendra accused No. 3 to bring a brief case of the mills Accused No. 3 picked up a brief case from a cabinet and gave it to the appellant. The appellant put the moneys which had been collected from accused No. 2 inside the brief case, fastened its zip fastener and told Aillawadi. that this was not a big amount that they gave and that he should accept this amount and hush up the matter. Aillawadi then asked the accused not to offer moneys to him. In spite to this, the appellant put the brief case on the lap of Aillawadi. This irritated Aillawadi. He got up and telephoned to the Assistant Collector, Lakshapati and infromed him the managing agents did not allow him to make out an excise case & that they were offering him bribe for hushing up the matter. Aillawadi asked Lakshapati to come to the mills with the Anticorruption staff.
7. Lakshapati deputed Superintendent saiyed who arrived at the mills. Aillawadi shoed the brief case to Saiyed and told him that the brief case containing money was being given to him for not making out excise case in respect of three cases lying in the duty paid godown without payment of duty, Aillawadi contacted the emergency police. The Police Sub-Inspector Rathod came at about 8 p m at the place. Aillawadi also told Rathod as to what had happened and he wanted to hand over the brief case containing money to him. Rathod advised Aillawaidi to contact Anticorruption Bureau, as a result of which the police sub-inspector Patel came to the spot and recorded the complaint of Aillawadi and attached the brief case produced by Aillawadi and searched the person of the accused. A panchnama was drawn up by the Excise authorities. The three cases of goods were handed over for safe custody to the mills. The packing cases were reopened on 7 January, 1965. Investigation was thereafter done and charge sheet was sent up on 1 April, 1905.
8. The defence was that the accused did not know about the excise matters which in the mills were attended to by other persons. The other defence was that they were falsely implicated. The_ mills, it is said, had long pending disputes with the Excise department in connection with certain demand notices which were challenged by the mills by a writ application in the High Court. As a result of the said application the Excise department according to the accused started proceedings against many of the inspectors and officers and those officers bore grudge against the mills. Therefore, the accused were falsely involved in this case.
9. Counsel for the appellant contended that the sum of Rs. 700/-was paid to Aillawdi representing penalty of Rs. 200/- and a further sum of Rs. 500/- in lieu of confiscation of goods. Secondly, it was said that unless there was corroboration it would not be safe to act on the words of Aillawadi alone in this case. It was emphasised that corroboration would be vitally necessary in this case by reason of the conclusion of the High Court that Exhibit 69 which was the complaint of Aillawadi was found to be inadmissible in evidence. Thirdly, it was said that the complaint was full of irrational features and therefore the conviction should be set aside.
10. We shall first deal with the question whether Aillawadi's evidence requires corroboration Generally, the court may act on the testimony of one witness. Corroboration is required as a matter of law in some cases. To illustrate Section 114 illustration (h) of the evidence Act states that the court may presume that as accomplice is unworthy of credit unless he is corroborated in material particulars. In the present case, it cannot be said that Aillawadi is an accomplice. It was said that Aillawadi would be in the nature of partisan witness and therefore his evidence required corroboration. We are unable to take that view. It has to be remembered that in the present case Aillawadi did not have any other person to witness the offer of bribe. Such a case may not be uncommon. One would not offer bribe in the presence of others. Ordinarily where a trap is laid because of prior information witnesses are arranged. In the present appeal, the detection of three cases of goods in the duty paid godown was sudden and events also happened with certain amount of rapidity. Therefore in a case of this description the court would look at the entire evidence with care and caution to find out whether there is any interested evidence or whether the case is manufactured out of malice and enmity. If the court finds on an examination of the entire evidence that it is reliable and there are reasons to accept the evidence. There will be no legal impediment to the proof of the case. The law requiring a warning of the danger of convincing a person on uncorrobrated evidence has been built up in criminal cases. Most of the cases are concerned with accomplices. The primary meaning of an accomplice is any party to the crime charged or some one who aids and abets the commission of a crime.
11. In the present case, the material evidence of Aillawadi was that he found the three cases in the duty paid godown without any excise numbers. Jitendra Pal, an employee of the mills first said that duty was paid on those cases hut he could not show the relevant papers to support it. Later on the appellant, offered Aillawdi the sum of Rs. 700/- in currency notes in a brief case and asked Aillawadi to hush up the matter, Lakshapati who can contacted by Aillawadi on the telephone gave evidence that Aillawadi telephonic message was that the mill owners had offered money to Aillawadi to hush up the matter. Saiyed another witness from the police said that when he came to the mills he saw Aillawadi near the duty paid godown with a brief case in his hand and Aillawadi said that the money had been given to him for not making out the case in respect of the excisable goods lying in the duty paid godown without payment of duty. Patal, the Anti-Corruption Officer said that Aillawadi handed over the brief case to him. Patel asked the clerk of the mills for relevant papers of the payment of duty but the clerk was unable to show that any duty was paid on those goods. Patel's evidence was almost unchallenged that Aillawadi immediately conveyed to Patel that the briefcase containing moneys was given to Aillawadi by the mill management for not making out a case. Some criticism was made as to whether the exact words were 'mill management' or 'mill owners'. There is a little difference between the two words in the context of events in the present appeal Aillawadi could not know the legal nuisance of the words. Therefore, it is established that the version of Aillawadi was supported by the evidence of the three witnesses, Lakshapati, Saiyed and Patel.
12. Corroboration of an important particular is also furnished by the find of the three cases of goods in the duty godown, Saiyed, Superintendent of Police said that the three cases with mill numbers 2030, 2031 and 2032 had no excise numbers but there were no papers to show that any duty was paid. The three cases were removed after the release order on 9 April, 1965 and thereafter a penalty of Rs. 200/- was imposed and in lieu of confiscation of the goods an amount of Rs. 500/- was required to be paid. The mills paid that amount of Rs. 700/- on 27 May, 1985 along with the excise amount for three cases amounting to Rs. 342-61. It is indisputable that duty was not paid on those three cases.
13. Counsel on behalf of the appellant contended that the sum of Rs. 700/- represented penalty of Rs. 200/- and the payment of Rs. 500/- in lieu of confiscation of goods. This contention is not unworthy of belief but is also unmeritorious. It is just strange accidental coincidence that the sum paid to Aillawadi and the total amount of penalty and confiscation was Rs. 790/ in each instance. It is only on 4 June, 1965 that the Deputy Collector of Excise passed an order imposing a penalty of Rs. 200 - and demanding Rs. 500 - in liu of confiscation of goods. Therefore on 17 December, 1964 when Aillawadi detected the three cases in the duty paid godown there could not be any question of imposition of penalty or of any payable in lieu of confiscation of goods. It is also in evidence that the Excise Officers have no authority whatever to accept any payment in cash whether it is a penalty or any amount in lieu of confiscation. It is unbelieveable that immediately there was detection that the goods were kept in the Duty paid godown without payment of any duty, the mills would at once know that there would be imposition of penalty and payment of a sum in lieu of confiscation of goods. Aillawadi said that Jitendera Pal after having a talk with him went out and then called the accused. It was suggested to Aillawadi that Jitendra Pal gave Allawadi Rs. 700/- after collecting the amount from one Ajitbhai who worked at the mills. Ajitbhai was working at the mills at a salary of Rs. 225 - p.m. The High Court rightly rejected that evidence. An important piece of circumstantial evidence is that if the defence were true, namely, that Aillawadi wanted to involve the accused with a case of offering bribe, the conduct of the accused would have been entirely different. They would all have raised a furore over the whole episode.
14. The suggestion on behalf of the defence that there were disputes between the mills and the excise authorities and that is why this case was brought against the accused was rightly rejected by the High Court. The mills were claiming refund of certain sums of money. Such dispute would not indicate any hostility. Further more, Aillawadi came to the mills for the first time on 1 December, 1904 and there was no suggestion to him that any departmental proceeding was pending against Aillawadi.
15. Counsel for the appellant contended that there was sufficient balance in the personal ledger account of the mills for payment of duty and if the mills wanted to remove the goods from the duty paid godown they could have done so. Both the contentions are answered by the facts that duty was not paid and the three cases were lying in the duty paid godown. It would be strange to believe that the three cases which had been packed on 27 October, 1964 and did not bear any excise marks were in the duty paid godown by reason of mistake. It would be unreasonable to accept such a plea. It was said on behalf of the appellant that there was sufficient balance in the personal ledger account and therefore it was not a deliberate act. The date of packing, in the month of October 1964 nullifies any case of inadvertence and establishes on the contrary deliberate act to evade duty.
16. There was a faint suggsetion that Jitendra Pal should have been called on behalf of the prosecution and that the prosecution had withheld a material witness. The excise authorities rightly answered that by stating that his examination was not essential to unforl the prosecution narrative and he was likely to show a strong bias in favour of the defence and hostile attitude towards the prosecution and that the defence in any event could examine him as a defence witness, Jitendra Pal was kept in court but the defence did not call him as a witness.
17. The High Court rightly relied on the evidence of Aillawadi. He came to the mills for the first time on 17 December, 1964. He did not know any one. He found three cases lying in the duty paid godown. The cases did not bear excise numbers. The mills first said that duty had been paid but failed to show any relevant papers. The mills pad 700 - to Aillawidi. The defence that it was paid to represent penalty and payment in lieu of confiscation of goods was an after-thought & had no basis, because there was no adjudication of penalty or confiscation. The detection of the three cases, the find of Rs. 700 - in the brief case bearing the name of the mills lend full support to Aillawadi's evidence.
18. For these reason, we are of opinion that the High Court rightly convicted the appellant. The appeal fails and the appellant will surrender to his bail.