Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of A. Hariprasad and N. Anil Kumar JJ., disposed of writ petition by holding that Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau is a specialized police force and exercised the same powers as that of a police officer.

In the present case, the petitioner had been alleged to have abused his official position by demanding illegal gratification from the respondent while being on duty as a public servant. The bribe was for receiving land tax for three acres of land and upon various negotiations, the complainant paid the agreed amount. Allegations against the petitioners were that they abused their official positions and committed criminal misconduct by demanding and accepting bribe. Allegations were also raised regarding the commission of criminal conspiracy and causing the disappearance of evidence. The issues framed under the writ petitions questions whether the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (“VACB”) is a police force constituted under the State Government’s legislative power conferred by the Constitution of India and whether they have any lawful authority to register First Information Reports (FIR), investigate crimes, submit charge sheets and prosecute the alleged offenders?

 The advocates representing the petitioner, D. Kishore and Mini Gopinath submitted that the registration of FIR and submission of final report in both cases by the Deputy Superintendents of Police, VACB was without any lawful authority since they are not “police officer” within the meaning of Section 17 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. They also put forth that there is no law laying down the formation of VACB. Thus, registration of FIR, arrest, investigation, filing of chargesheet and prosecution of offenders cannot be permitted to be done by the officers of VACB.

The respondent State being represented by its chief secretary submitted that all the police personnel working in the VACB continues to be police officers and can exercise all the powers vested in them under various statutes and rules. They put forth that VACB is headed by a Director, who is one of the senior-most police officers in the rank of Director General of Police. Director, VACB exercises the power of superintendence over the investigations conducted by all the officers having powers to investigate. All the police officers, as well as policemen working in VACB, are drawn from the Police Department.

The Court upon perusal of all the facts and evidences stated that the Vigilance Officers were well within their rights to file FIR and submit final reports. It held that Police Act, 1960 was enacted in accordance with the authority under List II in the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India. The Court laid down that “The police officers who worked in the erstwhile Vigilance Department derived power and authority from the Police Act, 1960. Likewise, the same statute empowers to investigate those who at present work in VACB. Therefore, we find no merit in the challenge against Ext.P4.” [K. Karunanidhi v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 539, decided on 10-02-2020]

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