Part 1: What happens in a trap case | What is the role of sub inspector in it?

Part 1: What happens in a trap case | What is the role of sub inspector in it?

As the name suggests, a trap is a method of deliberate laying of the bait and catch the accused person red handed. It is one of the highly successful methods for securing a conviction; at least for the CBI which has a conviction rate of 90% in trap cases. It is generally the ACB (Anti-corruption Bureau) which is tasked with handling the trap cases.

A trap can be laid in 3 scenarios. To catch the bribe taker, to catch the bribe giver, and the cross-trap: to catch both, the bribe giver and the bribe taker. The third type of trap is usually done with an intelligent input from an independent third source.

The complaint:

The registration of a complaint is a must step for laying of the trap. When a person (called complainant) approaches CBI (ACB) he has to give a complaint in writing. It doesn’t matter if he is illiterate, it is he who has to provide a complaint in writing. No official of CBI can write a complaint on his behalf nor can anybody from CBI dictate the contents of the complaint for him.

The reason for such punctiliousness is that when the case goes on the trial, the defense lawyer asks the complainant if the complaint was written down or dictated by a CBI official. If he says yes, that would be tantamount to the mala-fide intention on behalf of CBI from the outset against the accused person. CBI being the professional animal that it is follows the guidelines of CBI manual to the letter.

The CBI manual is a handbook of CBI which has its own rules and instructions. It is not a statute law book but it contains the guidelines to be followed by CBI officials during any procedure.

In some of the ACBs of CBI, It is an established practice that not even the paper and the pen is given to the complainant from the office. No relation whatsoever, of CBI office with the complainant should be established before the complaint has been filed.

Furthermore, the complainant should be a first timer in CBI. No complainant in CBI is entertained twice for two different cases otherwise it may lead the court to believe that the complainant is a pet person of CBI. This may seriously jeopardize the case.

Verification of the complaint and the complainant:

The complaint at this stage is called Preliminary Enquiry (PE). After the complaint has been filed by the complainant, it is time to verify the complaint and the complainant.

CBI is a very professional department. They won’t take action on a complaint unless it has been verified to be true and genuine by an official of the branch. The complaint must be true to the letter and the complainant must not have any relation with the accused other than that of the fiduciary relationship of a public servant with the general public at large. The complainant must not have had a personal enmity or grudge against the accused. It is also to be verified that complaint is not filed to settle some old disputes or to take revenge. The official who generally verifies the complaint is a sub-inspector.

For verification of a complaint, a Sub-Inspector may have to install a button camera and a bugging device on his person and may have to visit the premises where the accused generally does these ‘dealings’. During the verification, it is up to the skills of the sub-inspector how clearly he elicits the demand of bribe in the words of the accused.

What happens in a CBI trap case
The Button camera is worn by the SI or the complainant. Its a secret surveillance device like a collar camera or a bugging device.

The demand should be clearly made by the accused and not in some oblique reference to it. For eg. If he says that ‘ho jayga’, ‘le aana’, ‘kar denge’, ‘dekh lenge’, ‘ghar ki hi baat hai’, ‘kal aana phir dekhte hain’ etc then this is weak verification. It doesn’t contain any word which has a strong connotation of demand. But if he says something like ‘kuch seva paani?’, ‘chai paani?’, ‘suvidha shulk?’, ‘kitna doge?’, ‘itne se ek rupya kam nahi’, ‘isse kam mein kuch nhi ho skta’, ‘poora ek saath chahiye’, etc or If he indicates an amount non-verbally, for e.g. with his fingers and the same is recorded in the video camera, than it is a strong verification as these words or signal have a more strong connotation of demand of bribe.

The sub-inspector doing this verification must be a smart kid and should have an excellent presence of mind. The role of the sub-inspector cannot be overemphasized in the verification process as it is this verification that decides whether an FIR can be registered in the case or not.

Read Part-1: MythBusters | Does a CBI SP enjoy facilities (bungalow, blue light vehicle, constables) like a state police SP does?

It is also to be ensured by the sub-inspector that the complainant should not bring up the topic of bribe before the accused on his own, just for the sake of recording the audio/video. This is not acceptable in CBI as It is tantamount to putting words in the mouth of the accused. The demand has to come from the accused of his own accord revealing ‘mens rea’ on his part ( mens rea is the intention to commit a crime ). If a complainant makes an offer from himself, then as per the law, he is also to be booked for offering the bribe in the first place.

The prevention of corruption act, 1988 (PC Act), under which the CBI works for corruption cases, considers accepting the bribe and obtaining the bribe as two different elements.

Accepting the bribe: The word ‘accept’ implies a passive acceptance of the bribe. Somebody offered him a bribe and he simply accepted it without any negotiation or coercion.

Obtaining the bribe: The word ‘obtain’ implies an active role on the part of the accused.  It means that the accused proactively demanded a bribe on his own accord and probably negotiated too. CBI tries to book the accused in this section as this section (Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988) implies stronger ‘mens rea’ on the part of the accused. The punishment in this section is a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 7 years.

It should be apparent from above that the courts tend to award more punishment for ‘obtaining the bribe’ than ‘accepting the bribe’.

For verification, a sub-inspector may have to go with the complainant impersonating as his friend/brother/relative. It is a pre-planned arrangement between them that the complainant will simply request the accused to process his file/do his public duty without any hint of any bribe or the money. The accused must himself demand the bribe in exchange for discharging his public duties. The complainant is asked to keep this communication as brief as possible as more time with accused means more chances of error.

Once the demand has been made, the complainant, then, in the course of communication, may try to negotiate the amount with the accused so that the demand made by the accused gets confirmed and the same is recorded on the camera and the bugging device. Note that in any condition, the complainant should not initiate any mention of the money by himself. The accused may smell something fishy and the case may go bust. It also weakens the case at later stages of the trial.

TRap case proceedings IN CBI
The complainant should not offer any money in the first place.

Every endeavor is to be made by the sub-inspector to appear as casual as possible. Sometimes it also happens that the accused wants to talk with the complainant alone. The sub-inspector should, respecting their privacy, immediately leave the premises and come out of the building and wait for the complainant to come out. Anticipating such a scenario, a voice recorder is also installed on the body of the complainant also.

After it has been confirmed that the complaint is genuine and free of mala-fide intentions on the part of the complainant, CBI registers a case. This is known as RC (Regular case) in CBI. In other words, it is also known as FIR.

It is imperative to note here that the sub-inspector should not use his personal phone or his own electronic articles to record any audio/video of the case. These articles will be seized permanently and may or may not be considered a reliable evidence during the trial.

…Continued in Part 2: What happens in a trap case | Watch the drama unfold -Red handed.

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