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Land revenue officer arrested for Rs 1,000 bribe, acquitted by Bombay High Court after 20 years

The Kolhapur Sessions Court had in 2007 sentenced Baburao Bhoi, the land revenue official, to one year in prison and imposed a fine of Rs 500 on him.

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After hearing the arguments, the HC judge said the defence of Bhoi was reasonably probable, and hence acquitted him.

By Vidya : The prosecution case was that Baburao Bhoi, who was working as a Talathi at Sake-Sajja in Kagal Taluka of Kolhapur district in Maharashtra from 1997 to 2002, had sought Rs 1,000 as a bribe for changing a land record.

The case was that the government was acquiring land in the area for a canal construction project. While many land owners were adequately compensated, one particular person who claimed to be a land owner had filed a complaint saying that in spite of him owning a property that was taken for the project, he did not get compensation.

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The complainant had approached Bhoi, who worked in the land revenue department, about making corrections in the revenue record so that they could be shown as owners of the land and not as mere licensees. It was alleged that Bhoi demanded Rs.1,000 for doing their work. The complainant went to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and lodged a complaint against Bhoi for demanding a bribe.

Bhoi was allegedly arrested red-handed and a charge-sheet was filed and he was arrested. A trial ensued in which he told the court that the land never belonged to the complainant. The government was shown as the owner and the complainant was a mere licensee. He had never demanded any bribe, but said he had demanded the arrears of the revenue. According to the complainant, they were not liable to pay any arrears.

According to Bhoi, the money that the complainant had given to him was the arrear money and he had issued a receipt for the flag fund and was about to prepare the receipt for payment of the arrears of the land revenue when he was suddenly arrested.

However, Bhoi was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 500 by the Kolhapur Sessions Court in 2007.

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In the high court, advocates Satyavrat Joshi and Nitesh Mohite submitted before the court that prosecution evidence itself shows that arrears of land revenue came to around Rs 929. Apart from that, the flag fund of Rs 25 was also collected and hence the amount of Rs.1,000, which was accepted by Bhoi, was this particular amount and it was not a bribe or an amount towards illegal gratification.

Justice Sarang Kotwal, too, while acquitting Bhoi, said the complainant himself had accepted in the trial court that Bhoi had been asking him and his cousin to deposit the outstanding dues of land assessment amounting to Rs 929 and that they were not ready to pay that amount.

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"This figure of Rs 929 together with the flag fund comes very near to the amount of Rs1,000 involved in this case," said Justice Kotwal, while observing that the Deputy Collector of the area had also deposed that the Talathis were given duty to collect the arrears of land revenue and also to collect the flag funds. "Therefore, the defence of Bhoi has become reasonably probable," said Justice Kotwal while acqitting him.

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