Raj HC | Official status only provides an opportunity for commission of the offence; Court dismisses petition in the matter of Sections 409, 420, 467, 468 and 471 Penal Code, 1860

Rajasthan High Court: Sandeep Mehta, J., dismissed a petition which was filed aggrieved by the judgment and order passed by the Addl. Sessions Judge dismissing the revision petition filed by the petitioner and affirming the order passed by Addl. Chief Judicial Magistrate whereby, the application preferred by the petitioner under Section 197 Criminal Procedure Code was rejected.

The petitioner had the post of elected Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat Mokhamwala from the year 1995 to 2000. During his tenure, certain irregularities and illegalities were committed in relation to the works executed under the Indira Awas Yojana, a scheme of the Government whereupon FIR came to be registered for the offences under Sections 409, 420, 467, 468 and 471 Penal Code, 1860. The petitioner unsuccessfully challenged the order framing charges by filing a revision which was dismissed; as a result the petitioner moved an application under Section 197 CrPC before the trial court which was dismissed and revision petition preferred against such order had also been rejected. Hence, the instant petition was filed. The counsel for the petitioner, Mr. S.L. Jain urged that the petitioner being the elected Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat Mokhamwala was acting in bonafide discharge of his official duties. The counsel for the respondent, Mr. Mahipal Bishnoi urged that after thorough investigation, the petitioner was found involved in the offences of fraud, forgery and misappropriation while getting the works in relation to the Indira Awas Yojana. Rather than lawfully performing his obligations under the Scheme, the petitioner misused his position and indulged in the aforesaid offences which by no stretch of imagination can be considered as having been committed in bonafide discharge of official duties.

The Court observed that judgments of the Rajasthan High Court which have been relied upon by the counsel of the petitioner lay down the proposition that a Sarpanch cannot be prosecuted for the acts done by him in discharge of his official duties without prosecution sanction under Section 197 CrPC for want of sanction. However, the ratio of these decisions runs contrary to the following observations made by the Supreme Court in the case of Prakash Singh Badal v. State of Punjab, (2007) 1 SCC 1 where it was held,

“55. The offence of cheating under Section 420 or for that matter offences relatable to Sections 467, 468, 471 and 120B can by no stretch of imagination by their very nature be regarded as having been committed by any public servant while acting or purporting to act in discharge of official duty. In such cases, official status only provides an opportunity for commission of the offence.”

The Court dismissed the petition as being frivolous and devoid of merit.[Mahaveer Prasad v. State of Rajasthan,  2020 SCC OnLine Raj 547, decided on 20-03-2020]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant ahs put this story together

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