Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K Agrawal, J. dismissed the petition being devoid of merits.
The facts of the case are such that the Chhattisgarh State Economic Crime Bureau and Anti Corruption Bureau registered an offence against the petitioner and other persons for offence under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act i.e. PC Act and Sections 120B & 420 of the Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC and sought sanction from respondent 1 for prosecution against the petitioner herein and other persons under Section 19(1)(b) of the PC Act and Section 197 of Criminal Procedure Code i.e. CrPC. The petitioner herein calls in question legality, validity and correctness of the impugned order dated 15-5-2019 passed by respondent No.1 in exercise of power conferred under Section 19(1)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (for short, ‘the PC Act’) read with Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, ‘the CrPC’) granting sanction for prosecution against him for offence under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the PC Act and Sections 120B & 420 of the IPC.
The sanction for prosecution ought to have been placed before the Sub- Committee of the Cabinet, as the Administrative Department has not accorded sanction for prosecution of the petitioner modified by subsequent circular. Since that procedure was not followed by respondent 1, the order granting sanction is illegal and liable to be set-aside
Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the order granting sanction is illegal, contrary to law and deserves to be set-aside because if there is difference of opinion between two Departments of the State i.e. parent Department, here Water Resources Department and the Law Department, then the procedure laid down in the circular and its clarification issued by the State Government is required to be followed. It was further submitted that sanction can only be obtained in coordination with the Minister of Council of Political Affairs or with its concurrence and no such procedure has been followed in the present case.
The Court perused section 19 of PC Act and stated that previous sanction for prosecution is required in respect of a public servant who is employed and is not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the State Government. The Court observed that the communication of alleged disagreement with respect to grant of sanction qua the petitioner has been made by the Chief Engineer, Water Resources Department, Raipur to the Secretary, Government of Chhattisgarh, Water Resources Department dated after the order granting sanction for prosecution under Section 19 of the PC Act and Section 197 of the CrPC was passed, whereas the disagreement was required to be expressed and to be sent by the Administrative Department before the question of sanction is considered by Respondent 1 herein.
The Court relied on judgment Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh, (2012) 3 SCC 64 and observed despite memo and reminder received by the Administrative Department – respondent 2, no response was served to respondent 1 who is the competent authority to consider the issue of grant of sanction and therefore in absence of any disagreement, the competent authority to grant sanction being the Department of Law & Legislative Affairs has proceeded to consider the matter and issued order granting sanction for prosecution against the petitioner and others. It was further established that despite memo dated 22-3-2019 reiterated by reminder dated 25-4- 2019, the Administrative Department kept pin-drop silence over the matter.
The Court further relied on judgment State of Madhya Pradesh v. Virender Kumar Tripathi, (2009) 15 SCC 533 and observed that interdicting a criminal proceeding midcourse on ground of invalidity of the sanction order will not be appropriate unless failure of justice has occasioned by any such error, omission or irregularity in the sanction and such failure of justice can be established not at the stage of framing of charge but only after the trial has commenced and the evidence is led.
The Court held “ultimately, finding no opinion of the Administrative Department (respondent 2) either way, the Department of Law & Legislative Affairs being the authority competent to grant sanction has rightly considered the issue and granted sanction for prosecution against the petitioner”.
[KK Vashishta v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 621, decided on 15-03-2021]
Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For Petitioner: Mr. B.P. Sharma and Mr. M.L. Sakat
For Respondents / State: – Mr. Jitendra Pali and Mr. Ravi Kumar Bhagat