UNION OF INDIA & ORS. VS MAJOR R. METRI Case

UNION OF INDIA & ORS. VS MAJOR R. METRI  Case

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION 
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2196 OF 2017
UNION OF INDIA & ORS.   ...APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
MAJOR R. METRI NO. 08585N    ...RESPONDENT(S)
WITH 
CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 537­538 OF 2018
JUDGMENT
B.R. GAVAI, J.
1. These   two   cross­appeals   challenge   the   judgments   and
orders passed by the learned Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional
bench,   Kochi   (hereinafter   referred   to   as   “the   learned   AFT”)
dated 2nd  March, 2017, passed in O.A. (Appeal) No.2 of 2014
and 30th May, 2017, passed in M.A. No.271 of 2017.  
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2. Criminal Appeal No.2196 of 2017 is filed by the Union of
India and others, challenging that part of the judgment and
order dated 2nd March, 2017, of the learned AFT, vide which the
learned AFT, while setting aside the order of conviction, under
Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (hereinafter
referred to as “the P.C. Act”) read with Section 69 of the Army
Act, 1950 (hereinafter referred to as “the Army Act”) and the
sentence of cashiering from service and suffering of rigorous
imprisonment for one year, dated 28th April, 2013 passed by the
General Court Martial (hereinafter referred to as “GCM”), has
convicted   the   respondent­Major   R.   Metri   (appellant   in
connected appeals being Criminal Appeal Nos.537­538 of 2018)
[hereinafter   referred   to   as   “the   respondent­officer”]   under
Section 63 of the Army Act, and in turn, sentenced him to
punishment of forfeiture of seniority of rank of Major and of
severe reprimand.  The learned AFT has also directed that the
respondent­officer be reinstated in service, with no pay and
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allowance   for   the   period   he   remained   out   of   service,   but,
without any service break.  
3. Criminal Appeal Nos. 537­538 of 2018 have been filed by
the   respondent­officer,   aggrieved   by   that   part   of   the   said
judgment  and  order  of the  learned  AFT,  convicting him  for
offence   punishable   under   Section   63   of   the   Army   Act   and
sentencing him to punishment of forfeiture of seniority of rank
and of severe reprimand.  
4. The facts necessary for adjudication of the present appeals
are as under:  
5. For the sake of convenience, the parties are referred to
hereunder as are found in Criminal Appeal No. 2196 of 2017.  
6. In the year 2008, the respondent­officer was posted as the
Recruiting Medical Officer, Army Recruiting Office, Jhunjhunu,
Rajasthan.  At the relevant time, P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore
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was the Director of the Army Recruiting Office, Jhunjhunu,
Rajasthan. 
7. Between 16th  December, 2008 and 18th  December, 2008,
an Army Recruitment Rally took place in Udaipur. According to
the prosecution, P.W.8­Major BSRK Prasad as well as P.W.12­
Major D. Srinivas, who were also working as Recruiting Medical
Officers,  contacted  the  respondent­officer  and  told  him  that
they help the candidates by making them medically fit and
asked his help for clearing certain candidates by declaring them
medically fit.  It is the case of the prosecution that, though, at
first, the respondent­officer was reluctant, at the insistence of
P.W.8­Major   BSRK   Prasad,   he   helped   clearing   certain
candidates within acceptable range.  
8. It   is   further   the   prosecution   case   that   when   the
respondent­officer went to his native place at Dharwad on 28th
December,   2008,   he   was   informed   by   P.W.8­Major   BSRK
Prasad that an amount of Rs.65,000/­ would be paid to him
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towards his share.  It is further the prosecution case that the
respondent­officer asked P.W.8­Major BSRK Prasad  that  the
said amount be deposited in the account of his father­in­law.
Accordingly, an amount of Rs.65,000/­ was deposited in the
account of the father­in­law of the respondent­officer.  
9. It is the further case of the prosecution that there was
another Recruitment Rally in Dausa in January, 2009.  In the
said rally, P.W.12­Major D. Srinivas requested the respondentofficer   to   help   some   candidates   and   the   respondent­officer,
though reluctant, helped in clearing some candidates within the
acceptable   range.     It   is   the   prosecution   case   that   the
respondent­officer’s wife delivered a baby girl on 16th February,
2009,   and   as   such,   the   respondent­officer   wanted   to
immediately rush to his native place.  Since he was not having
sufficient funds to buy an air­ticket, he requested P.W.12­Major
D.   Srinivas   to   lend   an   amount   of   Rs.   20,000/­.   The   said
amount of Rs.20,000/­ was deposited in the account of the
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respondent­officer   by   P.W.10­Varalakshmi   Srinivas,   i.e.,   the
wife   of   P.W.12­Major   D.   Srinivas.     It   is   the   case   of   the
prosecution that P.W.12­Major D. Srinivas told the respondentofficer that the said amount of Rs.20,000/­ was towards his
share for helping the candidates in Dausa Recruitment Rally.  
10. It is further the case of the prosecution that there were
also Recruitment Rallies in Jodhpur and Ganganagar in May,
2009 and June, 2009 respectively. It is the allegation that in
the   said   rallies   also,   certain   malpractices   of   clearing   some
candidates as medically fit, who were not otherwise fit, took
place.  
11. It is further the prosecution case that in the month of
July, 2009, there was another Recruitment Rally at Ajmer. The
respondent­officer, along with P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore,
went to Ajmer to take part in the said Recruitment Rally.  When
the   Recruitment   process   was   going   on   at   Ajmer,   a   First
Information Report (hereinafter referred to as “FIR”) No.125 of
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2009, came to be registered in Police Station Adarsh Nagar,
Ajmer on 11th  July, 2009, at the instance of one Narendra
Singh, under Sections 406 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code,
1860 (hereinafter referred to as “IPC”), complaining about the
malpractices in the Army Recruitment Rally.   P.W.6­ Mohd.
Anwar Khan, Circle Inspector, took up the investigation and
arrested 10 persons, who were alleged to be touts.  
12. It is the prosecution case that on 13th July, 2009, certain
reports   were   published   in   Media   at   Ajmer.     In   the   media
reports, the name of three officers, namely, (1) the respondentofficer; (2) P.W.8­Major BSRK Prasad; and (3) P.W.12­Major D.
Srinivas and three Junior Commissioned Officers, namely, (1)
Subedar Major VP Singh; (2) Subedar Surjan Singh and (3)
Subedar Major Jaswant Singh were mentioned.
13. It is the case of the prosecution that, on 14th July, 2009,
in the evening, the respondent­officer went to P.W.1­Col. Anil
Singh Rathore. They had gone to a nearby temple and on the
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stairs of the temple, the respondent­officer confessed about his
involvement.     P.W.1­Col.   Anil   Singh   Rathore   asked   the
respondent­officer to give his confession in writing.  It is further
the case of the prosecution that the respondent­officer initially
came with a draft confession on 15th  July, 2009, on which,
P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore told him that there was no need
for him to see the draft and he should submit a final statement.
Accordingly,   on   the   same   day,   at   around   8.00   p.m.,   the
respondent­officer gave a written statement to P.W.1­ Col. Anil
Singh Rathore in the presence of P.W. 3­ Col. Bharat Kumar
and P.W.4­Col. Balraj Singh Sohi.     On 16th  July, 2009, the
Office of Superintendent of Police sought the presence of the
respondent­officer to interrogate him and others in the FIR in
question.  The statement of the respondent­officer was recorded
by the Police on 18th July, 2009.  
14. On 14th December, 2009, the Court of Inquiry proceedings
were   convened.     The   General   Officer   in   Commanding
8
(hereinafter referred to as “GOC”), South West Command, vide
Note dated 14th December, 2009, directed disciplinary action to
be taken against the respondent­officer and two other officers,
namely   P.W.12­Major   D.   Srinivas   and   P.W.8­Major   BSRK
Prasad and three Junior Commissioned Officers.
15. The respondent­officer and others challenged the Court of
Inquiry proceedings by way of Original Applications before the
learned AFT, Jaipur. The same were rejected by the learned
AFT, Jaipur, vide order dated 9th April, 2010.  
16. The   GCM   proceedings   were   ordered   to   be   instituted
against the respondent­officer and five others on 28th  June,
2012, on the following Charges:
"a)  Charge No.1: 
Army   Act   Sec   69   Committing   a   civil
offence, that is to say, being a public
servant,   obtaining   for   himself   a
gratification   other   than   legal
remuneration as a reward for doing an
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official   act,   contrary   to   section   7   of
Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. 
In that he 
At   Dharwad   during   January   2009,
which   came   to   the   knowledge   of
authority   competent   to   initiate   action
on 14 Dec 2009, while performing the
duties   of   Recruiting   Medical   Officer
Jhunjhunu,   being   a   public   servant,
obtained Rs.65000/­ from MR­08309 L
Major BSRK Prasad as a reward of his
share   for   helping   the   candidates   for
recruitment   in   the   Army,   in   Udaipur
rally. 
b)  Charge No.2: 
Army   Act   Sec   69   Committing   a   civil
offence, that is to say, being a public
servant,   obtaining   for   himself   a
gratification   other   than   legal
remuneration as a reward for doing an
official   act,   contrary   to   Section   7   of
Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. 
In that he 
At   Dharwad   during   Feb   2009,   which
came   to   the   knowledge   of   authority
competent to initiate action on 14 Dec
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2009,   while   performing   the   duties   of
Recruiting   Medical   Officer   Army
Recruiting   Office   Jhunjhunu,   being   a
public   servant,   obtained   Rs.20,000/­
from Mrs. Vara Laxmi wife of MR­08205
K Major D Srinivas as a reward of his
share   for   helping   the   candidates   for
recruitment in the Army in Dausa rally.
(c) Charge No.3: 
Army   Act   Sec   69   Committing   a   civil
offence, that is to say, being a public,
servant,   obtaining   for   himself   a
gratification   other   than   legal
remuneration as a reward for doing an
official   act,   contrary   to   Section   7   of
Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. 
In that he 
At Jodhpur, between January 2009 and
April   2009,   which   came   to   the
knowledge   of   authority   competent   to
initiate action, on 14 Dec 2009, while
performing   the   duties   of   Recruiting
Medical Officer, Army Recruiting Office
Jhunjhunu,   being   a   public   servant
obtained SIM No.9784341343 from Mr.
Taru Lai, as a motive for helping his
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candidates   for   recruitment   in   the
Army."
17. At   the   conclusion   of   the   trial,   the   GCM   found   the
respondent­officer guilty of charge Nos.1 and 2 and not guilty of
charge No.3.  The GCM, therefore, vide order dated 28th April,
2013, sentenced the respondent­officer to be cashiered from
service and to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year.  The
GOC confirmed the findings and sentence of the GCM, but
remitted   the   unexpired   portion   of   the   sentence   of   rigorous
imprisonment, vide order dated 29th  December, 2013. Being
aggrieved thereby, the respondent­officer preferred an appeal
before the learned AFT by way of O.A. (Appeal) No.2 of 2014.
The same has been partly allowed by the impugned judgment
and order dated 2nd March, 2017, as aforesaid.  Being aggrieved
thereby, the present appeals. 
18. We have heard Shri Vikramjit Banerjee, learned Additional
Solicitor General (“ASG” for short), appearing on behalf of the
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Union of India and others and Shri Gaurav Agrawal, learned
counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent­officer.
19. Shri Vikramjit Banerjee, learned ASG, submits that the
scope of interference by the learned AFT under Section 15 of
the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 (hereinafter referred to as
“the   AFT   Act”)   is   very   limited.     He   submitted   that   the
reappreciation   of   evidence   by   the   learned   AFT   is   not
permissible.  It is submitted that the interference by the learned
AFT   would   be   warranted   only   on   three   grounds,   as   is
mentioned under sub­section (4) of Section 15 of the AFT Act.
In this respect, reliance is placed on the judgment of this Court
in the case of Union of India and others vs. Sandeep Kumar
and others1
.  
20. Shri Banerjee further submitted that the learned AFT has
grossly erred in holding that the confessional statement made
by the respondent­officer was not voluntary.   It is submitted
1 (2019) 10 SCC 496
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that   when   the   respondent­officer   made   the   confessional
statement, he was not an accused, and as such, the learned
AFT   has   grossly   erred   in   relying   on   Article   20(3)   of   the
Constitution of India.  In this respect, he relies on the judgment
of Eleven­judge Bench of this Court in the case of The State of
Bombay vs. Kathi Kalu Oghad and others2
.
21. Shri Banerjee further submits that the learned AFT itself
has   come   to   a   conclusion   that   the   respondent­officer   has
indulged   in   financial   misconduct,   and   therefore,   the
punishment   of  cashiering from  service  for  such  misconduct
ought not to have been sustained.  Reliance in this respect is
placed on the judgment of this Court in the case of Chandra
Kumar Chopra vs. Union of India and others3
.
22. Shri Gaurav Agrawal, learned counsel appearing on behalf
of the respondent­officer, on the contrary, submits that the
2 (1962) 3 SCR 10
3 (2012) 6 SCC 369
14
learned AFT has rightly held that the confessional statement
was   not   voluntary.       He   submitted   that   the   extra­judicial
confession is a very weak piece of evidence and conviction on
the basis of the same cannot be sustained, unless there is some
corroboration. He submits that the news about the respondentofficer being already involved in the FIR, registered on 11th July,
2009, was already published in the newspapers on 13th  July,
2009.     He   submits   that   the   Police   had   already   started
interrogation with regard to the FIR and there was discussion
between   the   Police   officials   and   the   Army   officials.     He
submitted that the learned AFT has come to a conclusion that
it was a huge recruitment scam and in order to save the higher
officials, the possibility of the respondent­officer being forced to
give such a confession by promising him that he would also be
saved,   is   a   possible   view.     He,   therefore,   submits   that   no
interference   would   be   warranted   with   the   findings   of   the
learned AFT in that regard. 
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23. He further submitted that even the evidence of P.W.1­Col.
Anil   Singh   Rathore,   Director,   Army   Recruitment   Centre,
Jhunjhunu;   P.W.2­Brigadier   Arun   Kumar   Tuli,   Dy.   Director
General, Recruitment Zone Rajasthan at Jaipur; and P.W. 4­
Col. Balraj Singh Sohi, Director Recruiting Office, Jaipur would
reveal that not a single person was found, who could be said to
have   been   medically   declared   fit,   though   being   unfit.     He
further submitted that, on the contrary, the evidence of the
prosecution witnesses would itself reveal that actual tests were
conducted by independent members and the medical team was
only   assisting   the   independent   members   in   the   conduct   of
tests, measurements and the medical examination.  He further
submits that the evidence of prosecution witnesses would itself
show   that   there   was   no   material   to   establish   that   the
respondent­officer had received any amount from the touts as a
consideration for clearing any candidate. 
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24. Shri Agrawal further submits that from the evidence of
P.W.10­Varalakshmi Srinivas, it is clear that the amount of
Rs.20,000/­ was deposited by her, on the directions of her
husband,  P.W.12­Major   D.   Srinivas,  since   the   respondentofficer was in dire need of the said money as he had to rush to
his home­ town at Dharwad by flight.  He submitted that from
the evidence of P.W.12­Major D. Srinivas, it would be clear that
the   said   amount   of   Rs.20,000/­   was   returned   by   the
respondent­officer to  P.W.12­Major D. Srinivas,  on his return
from Dharwad. 
25. Insofar as the amount of Rs.65,000/­ alleged to have been
received   from   P.W.8­Major   BSRK   Prasad   is   concerned,   Shri
Agrawal   would   submit   that  P.W.8­Major   BSRK   Prasad  had
taken   a   loan   of   Rs.65,000/­   from   the   father­in­law   of   the
respondent­officer, since he wanted to purchase a plot of land.
He submits that the amount of Rs.65,000/­ deposited in the
account   of   the   father­in­law   of   the   respondent­officer   was
17
towards the repayment of the said loan. He submits that the
said fact would be evident from the evidence of P.W.8­Major
BSRK Prasad. 
26. With the assistance of the learned counsel for the parties,
we have scrutinized the material on record.  Insofar as the first
submission with regard to scope of Section 15 of the AFT Act is
concerned,   it   will   be   relevant   to   refer   to   sub­section   (4)   of
Section 15 of the AFT Act, which reads as under:  
“15.  Jurisdiction,  powers  and  authority
in   matters   of   appeal   against   courtmartial.­ (1) ………………………………
(2) ……………………………………….
(3) ……………………………………….
(4) The   Tribunal   shall   allow   an   appeal
against   conviction   by   a   court­martial
where­ 
(a) the   finding   of   the   court­martial   is
legally   not   sustainable   due   to   any
reason whatsoever; or
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(b) the   finding   involves   wrong   decision
on a question of law; or
(c) there was a material irregularity in
the   course   of   the   trial   resulting   in
miscarriage of justice, but, 
in any other case, may dismiss the appeal
where   the   Tribunal   considers   that   no
miscarriage of justice is likely to be caused
or has actually resulted to the appellant:
Provided   that   no   order   dismissing   the
appeal   by   the   Tribunal   shall   be   passed
unless such order is made after recording
reasons therefor in writing.”
27. It could thus be seen that, in view of clause (a) of subsection (4) of Section 15 of the AFT Act, the learned AFT would
be justified in interfering with the finding of the court­martial
where its finding is legally not sustainable due to any reason
whatsoever.  Under clause (b) thereof, it would be permissible
for the learned AFT to interfere with such a finding when it
involves a wrong decision on a question of law.  Under clause
(c) thereof, the learned AFT would be justified in allowing an
19
appeal against conviction by a court­martial when there was a
material   irregularity   in   the   course   of   the   trial   resulting   in
miscarriage of justice.  
28. Insofar   as   reliance   placed   by   Shri   Vikramjit   Banerjee,
learned  ASG  on  the  judgment   of  this  Court  in  the  case  of
Sandeep Kumar and others  (supra) is concerned, this Court
in the said case itself has observed thus:
“46. Section   15   of   the   Act   confers   wide
power on  the Tribunal  so as to allow  an
appeal against conviction by a court martial
where   the   finding   of   the   court   martial   is
legally not sustainable due to any reason;
the   finding   involves   wrong   decision   on   a
question   of   law   or   there   was   a   material
irregularity   in   the   course   of   the   trial
resulting   in   miscarriage   of   justice.   Even
though the power of the Tribunal is wide
but it is not merely a different opinion on
the appreciation of the evidence to interfere
with   the   findings   recorded   by   the   court
martial. The first ground of interference is
whether the finding of the court martial is
“legally   not   sustainable”.   Therefore,   to
exercise such power, there has to be error of
law by the court martial which would confer
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jurisdiction   on   the   Tribunal   to   interfere
against the conviction recorded by the court
martial.   The   second   ground   is   “wrong
application on a question of law”. However,
the   Tribunal,   in   the   present   case,   has
committed grave error in interfering with the
finding of the court martial by misreading
an   Army   Order.   There   is   no   material
irregularity   pointed   out   by   the   Tribunal
inasmuch as the irregularity pointed out is
with regard to confessional statements by
military   officer   which   is   not   a   bar   either
under the Evidence Act or under the Army
Order issued under the Act. The Tribunal
could   reappreciate   evidence   to   find   out   if
any findings of the court martial are legally
not sustainable due to any reason; or that
the   finding   involves wrong   decision   on   a
question   of   law   or   there   was   a   material
irregularity   in   the   course   of   the   trial
resulting in miscarriage of justice. But such
wide powers do not confer jurisdiction to the
Tribunal   to   reverse   the   findings   merely
because   it   finds   that   different   view   is
possible.”
29. It could thus be seen that this Court itself has held that
the learned AFT was entitled to reappreciate evidence  to find
out   if   any   findings   of   the   court   martial   are   legally   not
21
sustainable due   to   any   reason;   or   that   the   finding   involves
wrong decision on a question of law; or there was a material
irregularity in the course of the trial resulting in miscarriage of
justice. We find that the reliance placed by the learned ASG on
the   sentence,   i.e.,   “But   such   wide   powers   do   not   confer
jurisdiction   to   the   Tribunal   to   reverse   the   findings   merely
because it finds that different view is possible”, is being pressed
into service without context.   In the said case, on facts, this
Court   came   to   the   conclusion   that   there   was   no  material
irregularity   pointed   out   by   the   Tribunal   inasmuch   as   the
irregularity   pointed   out   was   with   regard   to   confessional
statements by military officer which was not a bar either under
the Evidence Act or under the Army Order issued under the
Act.   This Court, therefore, came to a specific conclusion that
the finding recorded by the Tribunal was on misreading of an
Army order.   The sentence which is pressed into service will
have to be read in the context of those findings.  We are unable
22
to accept the contention urged on behalf of the Union of India
that   the   learned   AFT   is   not   entitled   to   reappreciate   the
evidence.  Such reappreciation of evidence is permissible to find
out   if   any  findings   of   the   court   martial   are   legally   not
sustainable due to any reason.
30. It is not in dispute that the GCM has passed its conviction
basically   on   the   confessional   statement   made   by   the
respondent­officer.   Reliance in this respect is placed on the
judgment of the Eleven­judge Bench of this Court in the case of
The   State   of   Bombay   vs.   Kathi   Kalu   Oghad   and   others
(supra).  It will be relevant to refer to the following observations
of this Court in the said case:
“(1) An accused person cannot be said to
have   been   compelled   to   be   a   witness
against himself simply because he made
a   statement   while   in   police   custody,
without anything more. In other words,
the mere fact of being in police custody
at   the   time   when   the   statement   in
question was made would not, by itself,
23
as a proposition of law, lend itself to the
inference   that   the   accused   was
compelled   to   make   the   statement,
though   that   fact,   in   conjunction   with
other   circumstances   disclosed   in
evidence in a particular case, would be a
relevant   consideration   in   an   enquiry
whether or not the accused person had
been compelled to make the impugned
statement.”
31. It is to be noted that this Court, in the aforesaid case
itself, has held that the question, as to whether a person was
compelled to make a statement or not, is a question of fact in
each case to be determined by the Court on weighing the facts
and circumstances disclosed in the evidence before it.  
32. In the present case, the learned AFT, upon perusal of the
evidence of P.W.1­ Col. Anil Singh Rathore, P.W.3­ Col. Bharat
Kumar   and   P.W.4­Col.   Balraj   Singh   Sohi,   has   come   to   a
conclusion that from the circumstances as emerged, it cannot
be said that the confessional statement was voluntary.  
24
33. The finding as recorded by the learned AFT, was recorded
while allowing the appeal preferred by the respondent­officer
against the judgment and order of the GCM dated 28th  April,
2013, as confirmed by the GOC vide order dated 29th December,
2013,   holding   him   guilty   for   the   offence   punishable   under
Section 7 of the P.C. Act read with Section 69 of the Army Act.
As such, in the present matter, while considering the appeal of
the   Union   of   India   and   others,   we   will   be   guided   by   the
parameters   that   weigh   while   considering   an   appeal   against
acquittal.  If the view taken by the learned AFT is found to be a
plausible   one,   it   will   not   be   permissible   for   this   Court   to
interfere with the same only because this court finds the other
view to be more probable/plausible.  Equally, unless the finding
of the learned AFT is found to be perverse or impossible, an
interference would not be justified.  
34. From  the   perusal  of  evidence  of  P.W.1­Col.  Anil  Singh
Rathore, it would reveal that he himself has stated that after he
25
was posted as Director, Army Recruiting Office, Jhunjhunu,
Rajasthan in  May, 2008,  he had received various calls from
unauthorized elements seeking favours for recruitment. He had
told them to lay off.  However, in spite of this, the said callers
increased the frequency of making calls seeking favours and
also started using threatening language.   He stated that the
issue was discussed in detail with all Directors of the Army
Recruiting   Office   under   the   zone.     He   stated   that,   in   the
Conference, he had informed the Additional Director General
Recruiting,   Integrated   Headquarters   of   Ministry   of   Defence
(Army) that, though the recruiting system was free and fair, yet
about 90% of the persons recruited, pay varying amounts to the
touts.  He further stated that in the month of May, 2009, when
the Recruitment Rally was held at Jodhpur, the respondentofficer was detailed as a member of the medical team for the
said Recruitment Rally.   When the Recruitment Rally was in
process,   he   received   a   call   from   the   respondent­officer
26
informing him that the respondent­officer had received calls
from undesirable elements asking favours from the respondentofficer.  P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore has further stated that
he told the respondent­officer not to do any favour to anyone
and report the matter to the Director of Host Army Recruiting
Office, i.e., P.W.3­Col. Bharat Kumar.  
35. P.W.1­Col.   Anil   Singh   Rathore  further   stated   in   his
evidence that another Recruitment Rally was held in June 2009
at Ganganagar, where he was the Host Army Recruiting Office.
He   had   a   meeting   with   Detachment   Commander   of   South
Western Command Intelligence Unit, who provided him some
inputs about the touts’ activities in the area. He has stated in
his   evidence   that   the   respondent­officer   was   one   of   the
members of the medical team at the Recruitment Rally held at
Ganganagar. 
36. It will be apposite to reproduce the following part of the
cross­examination of P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore:
27
“As   far   as   I   remember,   first   time   the
accused   informed   me   about   having
received   calls   from   undesirable   elements
was sometime in the month of December,
2008   when   I   came   back   from   leave.
Subsequently, he informed me about the
same   from   Jodhpur   recruitment   rally.
Further   in   Ganganagar,   I   heard   the
medical   officers   including   the   accused
discussing about such calls being received
by   them   on   the   dining   table   during
breakfast   time.     Finally   the   same
information was given by the accused in
his   verbal   and   written   confessional
statement made on 14 and 15 July 2009
respectively.”
37. P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore  has further stated in his
evidence that he along with the respondent­officer, who was
also one of the members of team ‘B’ as Medical Officer, went to
Ajmer on 9th July, 2009 for the Recruitment Rally to be held on
11th July, 2009.   He states about the news being published in
newspapers on 13th  July, 2009 about the Police taking action
against the touts.  He states that the respondent­officer came to
28
him on 14th July, 2009 and wanted to confess his involvement
in the recruitment racket with the touts.  They went to a nearby
temple   where   he   narrated   about   his   involvement   over   a
duration of two hours or so.   He told the respondent­officer to
give everything in writing about what he has narrated.  He has
further stated that on 15th  July, 2009, the respondent­officer
came   to   him   and   handed   over   a   written   statement   in   the
presence of  P.W.3­Col. Bharat Kumar and P.W.4­Col. Balraj
Singh Sohi.  
38. P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore, in  his cross­examination,
has admitted that he and the other Recruiting Officers had
been interacting with the Media at the site of the Recruitment
Rally.  He has further admitted that during interaction on 13th
July, 2009, a number of media persons had arrived in the
stadium, where the Recruitment Rally was being conducted.
Though he has denied that the details of information published
in the newspaper dated 13th July, 2009 were given by him, it is
29
not denied that he has interacted with the Police on 13th July,
2009.  
39. It could thus be seen that when the respondent­officer
allegedly made an oral confession on 14th July, 2009 and gave a
written statement on 15th July, 2009, the news with regard to
the recruitment racket was already known to one and all.  
40. P.W.3­Col. Bharat Kumar, who was the Director of Army
Recruiting   Office   at   the   relevant   time,   has   stated   in   his
examination­in­chief that during Jodhpur Recruitment Rally,
held   between   11th  May,   2009   and   21st  May,   2009,   the
respondent­officer had come to him, totally shattered with tears
in his eyes, and informed that he had received threatening calls
and SMS messages from the touts’ seeking favours for some
candidates. 
41. It is thus clear from the evidence of P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh
Rathore  and   P.W.3­Col.   Bharat   Kumar  that   from   December
30
2008 itself, they were aware about the racket of touts in the
recruitment scam.   Not only this, but P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh
Rathore  has gone on record to say that, in the recruitment
process, 90% of the persons recruited pay varying amount to
touts, though the selection process was free and fair.  P.W.1­
Col.   Anil   Singh   Rathore   has   admitted   that   the   respondentofficer had informed him about the phone calls as early as in
December,   2008.     Insofar   as   P.W.3­Col.   Bharat   Kumar  is
concerned, he has also admitted that the respondent­officer
had informed him about the phone calls in the month of May,
2009.   The finding of the learned AFT that, in view of the
circumstances, it appears unnatural that the respondent­officer
would make a voluntary confession on 14th July, 2009 and the
written   statement   on   15th  July,   2009   and   that   many   more
persons might be involved in the recruitment scam and in order
to find a scapegoat, the possibility of the respondent­officer
being   asked   to   make   a   confessional   statement   with   an
31
assurance that no action will be taken against him, cannot be
said to be an impossible view.  
42. P.W.2­ Brigadier Arun Kumar Tuli, at the relevant time,
was the Deputy Director General, Recruitment Zone Rajasthan
at Jaipur. He has also admitted in his examination­in­chief
that, when he assumed the office of Deputy Director General
Recruiting Zone, the first Recruitment Rally was conducted at
Jodhpur, sometime between 11th May, 2009 and 18th/19th May,
2009.  He has admitted that during this Recruitment Rally, he
came to know about the receipt of complaints from Medical
Officers,   including   the   respondent­officer,   that   they   had
received unwanted calls and SMS messages with threatening
contents.   He has also admitted in his evidence that, on 14th
July, 2009, he received local newspapers, which were full of
news on recruitment racket. He has also admitted that, on 14th
July, 2009, a meeting was arranged with the Superintendent of
Police, Ajmer, who informed him about the FIR.  
32
43. It could thus be seen that, on cumulative appreciation of
evidence  of  P.W.1­Col.  Anil  Singh  Rathore,  P.W.2­  Brigadier
Arun Kumar Tuli and P.W.3­Col. Bharat Kumar, the view that
the confessional statement made by the respondent­officer did
not appear to be voluntary cannot be said to be a perverse view.
This is particularly so, when P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore has
admitted that the respondent­officer had intimated him about
such calls as early as in December, 2008, and also, P.W.2­
Brigadier Arun Kumar Tuli and P.W.3­Col. Bharat Kumar have
admitted about they having knowledge about such calls much
earlier to 14th July, 2009 and 15th July, 2009, i.e., the dates of
oral/written confession. 
44. This Court in the case of  Sahadevan  and  another  vs.
State of Tamil Nadu4
, after surveying various judgments on
the issue, has laid down the following principles:
“The principles
4 (2012) 6 SCC 403
33
16. Upon   a   proper   analysis   of   the
abovereferred judgments of this Court, it
will be appropriate to state the principles
which   would   make   an   extra­judicial
confession an admissible piece of evidence
capable of forming the basis of conviction
of an accused. These precepts would guide
the judicial mind while dealing with the
veracity   of   cases   where   the   prosecution
heavily   relies   upon   an   extra­judicial
confession alleged to have been made by
the accused:
(i) The extra­judicial confession is a
weak   evidence   by   itself.   It   has   to   be
examined by the court with greater care
and caution.
(ii) It should be made voluntarily and
should be truthful.
(iii) It should inspire confidence.
(iv)   An   extra­judicial   confession
attains   greater   credibility   and
evidentiary value if it is supported by a
chain   of   cogent   circumstances   and   is
further   corroborated   by   other
prosecution evidence.
34
(v) For an extra­judicial confession to
be the basis of conviction, it should not
suffer from any material discrepancies
and inherent improbabilities.
(vi) Such statement essentially has to
be   proved   like   any   other   fact   and   in
accordance with law.”
45. It could thus be seen that the extra­judicial confession is a
weak piece of evidence.  Unless such a confession is found to be
voluntary, trustworthy and reliable, the conviction solely on the
basis of the same, without corroboration, would not be justified.
46. In the present case, there is no corroboration at all. On
the contrary, P.W.1­Col. Anil Singh Rathore in his evidence has
himself admitted that the respondent­officer was part of team
‘B’.   It will be relevant to refer to the following part of his
examination­in­chief:  
“In any recruitment rally there are three
teams,   Host   Army   Recruiting   Office,
35
team 'A' and 'B'. Host Army Recruiting
Office is responsible for documentation
and   administration.   Team   'A'   is
responsible   for   physical   tests   and   run
while   team   'B'   is   responsible   for
measurements of the candidate and their
medical   examination.   Actual   tests   are
conducted   by   independent   members.
These team only assist the independent
members   in   conduct   of   tests,
measurements   and   the   medical
examination.
47. It   could   thus   be   seen   that   a   single   officer   like   the
respondent­officer cannot declare a candidate medically fit, if
he is otherwise not.   His evidence would show that the team
like the one of which the respondent­officer was a member, only
assists   the   independent   members   in   the   conduct   of   tests,
measurements and the medical examination.  
48. All the three witnesses have admitted that they had no
knowledge if any candidate, declared fit by the respondentofficer, was subsequently found to have been medically unfit.
36
All the three witnesses have also admitted that there was no
material to establish that the amount, which was deposited in
the account of the respondent­officer and his father­in­law was
an amount received as illegal gratification.  
49. We are, therefore, of the view that no error could be found
with the findings of the learned AFT that the respondent­officer
deserves   to   be   acquitted   of   the   offence   punishable   under
section 7 of the P.C. Act.  
50. That leaves us with the appeals of the respondent­officer. 
51. Perusal of the evidence of P.W.10­Varalakshmi Srinivas
and   P.W.12­Major   D.   Srinivas   would   reveal   that   they   have
stated in their evidence, that since the wife of the respondentofficer had given birth to a girl child on 16th February, 2009, he
wanted to rush to his native place at Dharwad and did not have
sufficient funds. As such, he had requested  P.W.12­Major D.
Srinivas  to   give   a   loan   of   Rs.20,000/­,   which   amount   was
37
deposited by P.W.10­Varalakshmi Srinivas in the account of the
respondent­officer, on the instructions of her husband P.W.12­
Major D. Srinivas.     From the evidence of P.W.12­ Major D.
Srinivas, it would reveal that on his return from his native
place, the respondent­officer had returned the said amount.  
52. Insofar as the amount of Rs.65,000/­ is concerned, P.W.8­
Major BSRK Prasad, in his evidence, has stated that he had
taken   a   loan   of   Rs.65,000/­   from   the   father­in­law   of   the
respondent­officer for purchase of a plot of land.  The amount
of Rs.65,000/­ deposited by him in the account of the father­inlaw of the respondent­officer was towards repayment of the said
loan amount.  
53. It   could   thus   be   seen   that   the   respondent­officer   had
discharged the burden to prove, as to how the said amount of
Rs.20,000/­ was deposited in his account and as to how the
amount of Rs.65,000/­ was deposited in the account of his
father­in­law.   As such, that part of the order, which convicts
38
the respondent­officer for the offence punishable under Section
63 of the Army Act, in our view, is not sustainable.  
54. In the result, we pass the following order:
A. CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2196 OF 2017
(i) Criminal Appeal No. 2196 of 2017 filed on behalf of the
Union of India and others is dismissed. 
B. CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 537­538 OF 2018
(i) Criminal Appeal Nos.537­538 of 2018 filed on behalf of
the appellant­Major R. Metri No.08585N are allowed. 
(ii) The impugned judgment and order dated 2nd  March,
2017,   passed   by   the   learned   AFT,   convicting   the
appellant­Major   R.   Metri   No.08585N   for   the   offence
punishable   under   Section   63   of   the   Army   Act   and
sentencing him to forfeiture of seniority of rank and of
severe reprimand is quashed and set aside. 
39
(iii) The appellant­Major R. Metri No.08585N is acquitted of
all the charges, charged with. 
(iv) The appellant­Major R. Metri No.08585N is directed to
be   reinstated   forthwith   with   continuity   of   service.
However, in the facts and circumstances of the case,
the   appellant­Major   R.   Metri   No.08585N   will   not   be
entitled for back­wages for the period during which he
was out of employment.  
55. Pending applications, if any, shall stand disposed of. 
…..….......................J.
[L. NAGESWARA RAO]
…….........................J.       
[B.R. GAVAI]
NEW DELHI;
APRIL 04, 2022
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