Ker HC | No prosecution against public servants without prior approval of government; HC dismisses CBI’s revision petition

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: Narayana Pisharadi, J., dismissed the revision petition filed by CBI due to its failure to obtain prior sanction of government before prosecuting public servants.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed the instant revision petition to assail the order of the Special Judge for CBI Cases, Lakshadweep by which it allowed the applications for discharge filed under Section 239 of the CrPC by accused 4 and 8. The accused were alleged for committing the offences punishable under Sections 7, 12 and 13(1)(d) read with 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and also under Sections 468, 471, 420 and 120B of the Penal Code.

Background

The prosecution case was that the Directorate of Education of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep had directed to supply, free of cost, ready-made uniforms to the school children for the academic year 2005-06. A Uniform Tender Evaluation, Sample Selection and Procurement Committee was formed in this regard. Pursuant to a conspiracy hatched by the members of the committee with one Nagendran, the approver, sub-standard uniforms were purchased, violating the tender conditions and by making false and forged entries on record. Thereby, the accused who were member of the committee were alleged for benefiting with wrongful gain and causing wrongful loss to the Lakshadweep Administration and a criminal case was registered against them.

Decision of Special CBI Court

However, the Special Court had held that prior sanction under Section 197 of CrPC was necessary to prosecute the accused as they were public servant, accordingly, the prosecution against accused 4 and 8 was held bad for want of sanction and the accused were discharged.

Analysis and Decision

As per Section 197(1) of CrPC, when any person who is or was a Judge or Magistrate or a public servant not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the Government is accused of any offence alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty, no Court shall take cognizance of such offence except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or the State Government.

In Amrik Singh v. State of Pepsu, (1955) 1 SCR 1302, the Supreme Court had held that, “If the acts complained of are so integrally connected with the duties attaching to the office as to be inseparable from them, then sanction under Section 197(1) would be necessary; but if there was no necessary connection between them and the performance of those duties, the official status furnishing only the occasion or opportunity for the acts, then no sanction would be required”. Similarly, in D.Devaraja v. Owais Sabeer Hussain, (2020) 7 SCC 695, after an elaborate discussion of the question, it was held that, “To decide whether sanction is necessary, the test is whether the act is totally unconnected with official duty or whether there is a reasonable connection with the official duty”.

Affirming the reasoning of the Special Court that both the accused did not have expertise in the matter of quality control or checking the standards of stitching or clothes supplied, at the most, they could be blamed only for the omissions in not insisting meetings of the committee. In all probability they might have gone by the certificates issued by the technical member in the committee, hence, they could only be blamed for non feasance, at the most, the Bench stated that the sum and substance of the allegation against accused was that they blindly accepted the certificate issued by Accused 9 without conducting inspection of the uniform materials and consequently, sub-standard materials happened to be purchased.  Hence, the act of accused, who were not experts in the field, in accepting the certificate issued by the technical member of the committee would not take them out of the protection under Section 197(1), which was otherwise available to them.

In the backdrop of above, the Bench held that it was necessary to obtain sanction under Section 197 for prosecution and cognizance of the offences taken against them, without such sanction, was bad in law. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. [CBI v. Syed Shaikoya, Crl. Rev.Pet No. 509 of 2012, decided on 01-09-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the State: ASG P.Vijayakumar

For the Respondents: Advocate Glen Antony, Advocate P.Sanjay and Advocate M.Vanaja

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