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Crime and Punishment - Setting the Trap to
Catch the Corrupt

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[Source: CBI Crime Manual]
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Setting The Trap to Catch the Corrupt
What is a Trap?

It is a process to catch the offender red-handed, while in the act of receiving corrupt money. It is no doubt a powerful weapon and approved for use in detection of criminals. But like any other powerful tool, this also can be misused. Careful planning and preparation is called for and the veracity of the complaint maker is to be thoroughly checked and satisfied.

Likely Misuses Of The Trap Or Illegitimate Trap

In a legitimate trap, there is demand for bribery by the public servant from a member of the public for discharging a bonafide service for which the member of public is legally entitled. The public servant refuses to discharge his duty without bribe. In this case it is justified for the aggrieved member of the public to approach the Police Investigator and lodge a complaint to arrange for trap of the bribe-demanding public servant.

In an illegitimate trap there is no demand by the public servant, but the offer or inducement is made by the member of the public at his own, or as per advice of the investigating officer by way of temptation and where the public servant agrees and receive the gratification, he is caught in the act. This is not only illegal, but also all unprofessional and unethical.

An Instance Of False Case On The Public Servant, When Trap Failed

This is a live case, where the complainant (borrower) made a false case against Manager of MYBANK, in a branch at Arrah District of Bihar. The Manager of the bank had sanctioned a composite loan to the borrower for setting up an atta chakki. The first part of the composite loan is a term loan for purchase of the equipment. The loan amount was disbursed to the supplier of the machinery named by the borrower and the equipment was duly supplied and installed. The working capital of Rs.25000/- sanctioned was due for disbursement then. The Bank issued another pay order to the supplier of raw materials, as furnished by the borrower, but the borrower demanded the amount in cash, which the bank manager refused. The pay order already issued was in the custody of the borrower, though it was issued by the Bank and forwarded to the supplier direct.

Thereupon the borrower approached an inspector of CBI at Patna and made a false complaint that the bank manager is demanding bribe for releasing the working capital. Blindly believing the story without verification, the inspector of CBI secured permission from his Superintendent to set a trap and catch the bank manager red handed in the act of receiving the bribe allegedly demanded by him. The Supdt. Of Police is reported to have sent another Inspector of Police to conduct a discrete inquiry in the matter. The 2nd inspector is reported to have approached the BDO's office located near the bank premises and informally or casually inquired the Block Development Manager, if any corrupt practices are obtaining in the Branch. "Now a days where corruption is not prevailing?" is reported to be the cryptic reply of the BDO, more by way of worldly philosophy, than out of an real information or knowledge. The inspector No.2 submitted a positive report about his discrete investigation. Whereupon the trap was authorized by the SP of CBI.

A trap party was organized. It included two Inspectors of CBI, two constables, two independent witnesses (from Food Corporation of India) and the complainant. The police people gave a rehearsal for the exercise, occupying the first class waiting room in Arrah Railway Station. Currency notes representing the amount alleged to be demanded by the bank manger was given to the complainant by the police. These notes were treated with chemicals. We will deal with 'use of chemicals in a Trap' later in detail. The party were to stay outside the bank premises, but very nearer to it. The complainant was to go to the bank, enter the Manager's cabin and hand over the tainted currency notes to the Bank manager, who will receive in his hands and deposit the same in his pockets, as per normal happenings anticipated. He will then come out and make a signal, whereupon the trap party will rush to the bank premises and catch the bank manager with possession of the money in his person.

But things did not happen as anticipated. It was the first of the month. There was more than normal absentee-staff that day and heavy disbursement of pension was to be made to Pensioners. The bank manager was therefore sitting in the counter and attending to routine counter transactions. The party waited outside the bank premises for about 2 hours The inspectors were getting restive and they abused the complainant of dire consequences if he did not arrange to deliver the tainted cash to the bank manager as programmed.

For once the bank manager entered his chamber to get some record. The complainant entered the chamber following the bank manager and he forcibly thrust the currency notes into side pocket of the manager's shirt.

Immediately the trap party rushed inside, the CBI inspectors holding the identity cards in hand. They forcibly made thew bank manager to take out the notes from his pocket. The bank manager was taken into custody. His house was searched, but the CBI inspectors hardly could find anything valuable in his house. However a panchanama was prepared. The bank manager was detained in the custody of the CBI that night and the next day he was produced before the Magistrate, who committed the case for trial by the special judge for CBI cases. A preliminary trial was held after three days. The bank manager submitted that there was no scope for demanding bribe in this case, as the loan amount in full had already been disbursed to the borrower.

The Magistrate heard the defence coolly and then asked the bank manager if he could prove through bank records that he had already issued pay order for the amount of working capital. An young but devoted clerk of the branch was present in the Court and he submitted to the court as witness the facts and offered to rush to the branch and produce the records within 3 hours. He covered the distance of 22 KM to the branch located in the suburban area by speeding in his motor byke and produced the material records to the satisfaction of the Magistrate. Thereupon the magistrate declined sanction for prosecution.

The Supdt of Police, CBI then transferred this case to another Inspector of Police, CBI, Mr.Chubey, a pious and god-fearing gentleman. Mr.Chubey threatened the complainant with dire consequences, who out fear of arrest told the truth that he made a false complaint. He gave a report that the complainant had made a false complaint and that no bribe was demanded. However to save the face of the CBI, and to protect the Inspectors who conducted the trap raid, diluted allegations were substituted and the case entrusted to MYBANK for disposal departmentally. Inquiry was conducted by inquiry Officer of MYBANK at Patna and I happened to defend the charged officer. Our officer was acquitted. The evidence of Mr.Chubey was used more by me for the benefit of the defence case.

This is stated to prove how a powerful weapon intended to catch a hardcore bribe acceptor was misused by the Police due to over zeal and hasty conclusions.

Sequence Of Steps For A Genuine Laying Of Trap

Trap should be used to catch public servants, who habitually demand and accept bribe, as per reliable dossier collected. What is a dossier? Within every society the overall profile of a person, who is part of the society gets known in about two or three years. Thus all managers of a region in MYBANK knows if their Regional manager is honest or otherwise. Thus a trap should be set to catch a public servant, which suffers the reputation of a chronic demander of illegal gratification. After the public servant is caught in the trap, his house is raided possession of disproportionate assets could be proved, unless the public servant fitters all ill gotten amount in costly vice, he has developed. If these developments follow. It is justified that the case is properly selected for the trap.

The three essential elements for a successful trap are:

  • There should have been an earlier demand for illegal gratification by the Public servant from the complaint maker. It should not be an offer for providing gratification by the complainant. As part of his public office, the public servant must have the power to provide the service/benefit to the complainant. The complainant must be in a position to pay the amount of illegal gratification. This amount should not be contributed by the investigating agency.

  • During the trap the demand should be reiterated by the public servant and on the complainant offering the amount, the public servant must accept it.
  • When the trap party appears rushing to the scene immediately, they must be in a position to recover the amount from the corrupt public servant. While such recovery should be made before witnesses, it is necessary to prove in the court the identify of the money and the fact that it was handled by the corrupt officer. The serial numbers of the currency note tendered are to be noted down before the trap and the witnesses should be able to identify these notes. Additionally the currency notes would be treated with chemical substances like Anthracene or Phenolphthalein.

Procedure to be followed by the investigating agency.

Exact details of time, place and date when the corrupt person meet the public servant, the details of background transactions, and the amount of illegal gratification demanded by the public servant should be clearly specified in the FIR. Officers competent to conduct investigation as per P.C. Act, 1988 should conduct the trap. Otherwise prior permission should be obtained from the competent Magistrate, if officer junior in rank conduct the trap.

Independent witness should be secured to evidence and depose the facts of the trap. The bribe-giver is in law an accomplish and his evidence itself may not be sufficient, though by tendering evidence, he secures immunity from prosecution. (P.C.Act, 1988, Section-24. Statement by bribe giver not to subject him to prosecution). The witness selected should be independent, respectable and intelligent enough to observe events taking place and depose in a court at a later date. He should be thoroughly briefed beforehand the procedure to be followed in the trap. The witness should not handle the witness after these are treated by chemicals. But should be handled only by the complainant.

Before proceeding on the trap all these details will be recorded. The complainant will be searched and he must possess only the chemically treated money and nothing else. The panchanama should cover all these details.

The complainant and one witness should go to meet the corrupt public servant with the trap money. The investigating officer and some constables and another witness should follow and wait at a place close by. After the corrupt person demands and accepts the bribe money from the complainant, a pre-arranged signal will be made by the complainant. After this the investigating officer, his party and the 2nd witness would rush to the meeting place.

The Investigating officer will disclose his identify and ask the corrupt person to produce the amount of illegal gratification received by him. In case of non-cooperation he will be subjected to a search, including the premises, where the meeting took place, if needed. Chemical test of the palm, finders, shirt pockets, pant pockets etc. should be conducted to establish handling of the money by the corrupt official and serial numbers of the currency seized should be tallied with what had been noted down earlier to prove their identify. The entire proceedings should be recorded and signed by the two witnesses.

Additionally the house of the public servant could also be searched immediately to investigate possession of assets disproportionate to his normal earnings/means, if the information collected about him earlier discloses him to be a habitual bribe collector. A proper panchanama with independent witnesses should be prepared for such search.

Purpose Of Using Chemicals

The use of chemicals will prove conclusively that the bribe money was not planted at the place by any one, but had actually been received and handled by the public servant. As stated earlier Anthracene and Phenolphthalein are the commonly used chemicals.

Anthracene is a chemical powder. It emits a light blue fluorescent light under influence of ultra violet rays. The effects stick to cloths after once contacting this powder and remain for a long time even after repeated washes. Wen the money treated with Anthracene is recovered from the corrupt person, his hands, or cloths coming into contact with the money, if exposed will emit blue fluorescent light.

Phenolphthalein is available in the form of fine powder. It is a coal tar product. It reacts to Sodium Carbonate to produce a pink solution. Notes treated with this powder, when handled by the corrupt persons, tiny particles stock to his hand or to his clothes. A solution of Sodium Carbonate, which is colourless, when applied to his hands or to the clothes will turn to pink colour.

Guidelines of CVC for Laying Traps Laying Of Traps

Whenever the Special Police Establishment desire to lay a trap for any public servant who is suspected to be about to accept a bribe, the SPE will give prior information to the Head of Department/Office concerned. If the circumstances of the case cannot permit this being done, the S.P.E. will furnish details of the case to the Head of the Department/Office immediately after the trap. Before searching or trapping a person on duty in office, the Special Police Establishment will inform the Head of Department/Office concerned.

In trap cases, it is necessary that some responsible and impartial person or persons should have witnessed the transaction and/or overheard the conversation of the suspect public servant. All public servants, particularly gazetted officers, should assist and witness a trap, whenever they are approached by the S.P.E. to do so. The Head of Department/ Office will, when requested by the Special Police Establishment, detail suitable person or persons to be present at the scene of trap. Refusal to assist or witness a trap may be regarded as a breach of duty and disciplinary action may be taken against the officer concerned. Unless of course, the officer concerned represents that he is personally known to the person to be trapped or that he has already appeared as a Trap Witness in earlier Trap cases.

Action to be taken when a bribe is offered

Dishonest and unscrupulous traders, contractors, etc. frequently attempt to bribe a public servant to get official favour or to avoid official disfavour. Public servants must always be on their guard and should avail themselves of the assistance of the SPE or the local police in apprehending such cases. Failure to take correct and timely action may result in the escape of the guilty person. It is not enough for the public servant to refuse the bribe and later report the matter to the higher authorities. When an attempt to bribe him is suspected, action should be taken as follows:

The proposed interview should, where possible be tactfully postponed to some future time. Meanwhile, the matter should be reported to the Superintendent of Police of the Special Police Establishment Branch, if there is a branch office of the S.P.E. in that station, otherwise to the Superintendent of Police or to the senior most officer of the local police available in the station. The S.P.E. or the local police, as the case may be, will arrange to lay a trap. If for some reason it is not possible to contact the S.P.E. or the local police authorities, the matter should be brought to the notice of the senior-most district officer in the station who may arrange to lay a trap. The Head of the Department/Office/Establishment should also be informed as early as possible. Should it not be possible to follow the above course of action, the bribe-giver may be detained for a short time and any person or persons who may be readily available may be requested to witness the transaction and to overhear the conversation between the bribe given and the public servant.

The Head of the Department/Office/Establishment will take care to maintain an impartial position and will in no case act as an agent of the Special Police Establishment or the local police either by arranging for money or other instrument of offence subsequently to be passed on to the suspect or by being a witness to the transaction.

Administrative Orders of CVC

CVC has also advised all Department of Government And other statutory bodies as under through its Circular letter No.3 (v)/99/10 dated 01.12.99

"Subject: Effective punishment of the corrupt through traps

In order to ensure that effective punishment is quickly meted out to the corrupt, the following instructions are issued under the powers vested in the CVC in para 3(v) of DOPT Resolution No. 371/20/99-AVD III dated April 4, 1999.

In every organisation, those who are corrupt are well known. The Disciplinary Authorities and the CVOs as well as those who are hurt by such corrupt persons can arrange for traps against such public servants. The local Police or CBI can be contacted for arranging the traps.

  1. The CBI and the Police will complete the documentation after the traps within a period of two months. They will make available legible, authorised photocopies of all the documents to the disciplinary authority within two months from the date of trap for action at their end.
  2. Once the photocopies of the documents are received, the disciplinary authority should initiate action to launch departmental inquiry. There will be no danger of double jeopardy because the prosecution which will be launched by the CBI or the Police based on the trap documents would relate to the criminal aspect of the case and the disciplinary proceedings will relate to the misconduct under the Conduct, Discipline and Appeal Rules.
  3. Retired, honest people may be appointed as special inquiry officers so that within a period of two months, the inquiry against the corrupt pubic servants involved in traps can be completed.
  4. On completion of the departmental process, appropriate punishment must be awarded to the trapped charged officer or public servant, if the charge is held as proved.
  5. If and when the court judgement comes in the prosecution case, action to implement the court decision may be taken appropriately.

The intention of the above instruction is to ensure that there is a sharp focus on meting out effective punishment to the corrupt in every organisation. Once these instructions are implemented, the atmosphere in organisations is bound to improve because the corrupt will get the signal that they could not survive as in the past banking on the delays taking place both in the departmental inquiry process as well as in the prosecution process. This order may be implemented by all departments effectively.

This order is also available on web site of the CVC at http://cvc.nic.in"

[End of Module on CBI ]
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