Two Public Works Department (PWD) officials have been acquitted in a bribery case, with a Delhi court granting them benefit of doubt saying the prosecution evidence was unreliable and "cast a shadow of doubt".
Special CBI Judge Manoj Jain absolved the accused-- a junior engineer and an assistant engineer of the PWD -- of the graft charges for allegedly accepting Rs 70,000 bribe from a contractor who was incharge of maintaining and repairing three schools in south-west Delhi.
"In the instant case, the material contradictions in prosecution evidence cast a shadow of doubt upon prosecution story and render the same unreliable and untrustworthy to a large extent.
"I am compelled to give benefit of doubt to both the accused. Both of them are, therefore, acquitted of all the charges," the judge said.
The court also pulled up the CBI for roughing up the accused who were arrested after a trap was laid and noted that none of the probe agency officers had seen the alleged bribe transaction despite being in the vicinity.
"None of the CBI official and independent witnesses, surprisingly, saw the bribe-transaction at all despite being in the vicinity. Moreover, there was no reason for CBI team to have roughed up the accused," the court said.
It, however, clarified that any departmental inquiry, if pending against them, should be concluded independent of the court's decision.
"Nonetheless, my conclusion should not automatically sway the disciplinary authority in relation to any departmental proceedings pending against the accused wherein the evaluation is on a lesser stringent parameter of preponderance of probabilities, instead of proving the case beyond shadow of doubt," it said.
According to the CBI, contractor Kailash Chand had approached it with a complaint in 2009 alleging that the PWD officials were demanding Rs 1.30 lakh from him for certifying the completion of maintenance work and releasing the payment for the bill raised by him.
The probe agency laid a trap, deployed shadow witnesses who followed the complainant till the office of the accused in the Tihar Jail complex here to carry out the bribe transaction and catch the accused red-handed.
During the proceedings, the accused denied making any demand at any point of time and claimed that the CBI and the complainant had trapped him in a fabricated case.