Karnataka High Court: While deliberating over three petitions challenging State Government’s order of sanction for prosecution initiated against the petitioners under Section 13(1)(c) [pre 2018 amendment] and Section 13(2) Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Bench of K. Natrajan, J.*, allowed the petitions and set aside the impugned orders of sanction for prosecution for offences under the 1988 Act.
It was case of the petitioner/accused 4 was that in 2015 when he reported for duty as Sub-Inspector of Police in Parapanna Agrahara Jail, he was deputed as security in-charge for main entrance and outer visitor’s area. On 15-02-2017, noted politician Sasikala Natarajan and Ilavarasi had surrendered and were detained in the jail after they were convicted by the Supreme Court in disproportionate assets case. After their detention in the jail, strict instructions were issued regarding security and permit for private vehicles etc.
On 12-07-2017, the Deputy Inspector General of Police submitted a complaint regarding irregularities in the Central Jail, Bengaluru. 2 days later i.e., on 14-07-2017, an anonymous letter titled “Aggrieved Jail Officers and Personnel” was addressed to Director General of Police- Prisons, where it was alleged that the petitioner was acting as a broker in facilitating luxury facilities to Sasikala, who was said to be receiving ‘royal treatment’ in the jail. It was alleged in the letter that the petitioner was taking bribes to allow the entry of MPs and MLAs inside the jail to meet Sasikala without recording their entries in the visitor’s register.
After subsequent enquiries into the matter where no irregularities were found, the State Government passed an order to hand over the investigation to Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) against former DGP- Prisons, H.N. Sathyanarayana and a case was registered under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. However, after the investigations, Sathyanarayana was given clean chit. Similarly other two petitioners/ accused persons (1 and 2) were also alleged to have provided undue advantages to Sasikala Natarajan, which led to the State Government giving sanction to the ACB/Lokayukta to prosecute the cases against accused persons 1, 2 and 4.
Perusing the facts of the case, the Court noted that there were 5 charges against accused 1, that enquiries against him are still in progress and that he has not questioned the departmental enquiry ordered against him by the State Government.
Vis-à-vis accused 2, the Court noted that she was posted as escort to Sasikala which was done upon an order passed by accused 1, who was also the Chief Jail Superintendent at the time and the petitioner/accused no. 2 acted in accordance with the orders given to her. The Court further noted that allegations against petitioner/accused 2 were set aside by Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal in 2020, however, the same authority issued the order of sanction in 2021 against her in ignorance of their previous order. The Court pointed out that issuing order of sanction for prosecution against the accused 2 on same set of allegations is nothing but abuse of process of law and is liable to be set aside.
Regarding accused 4, the Court noted the contentions raised him stating that are no specific allegations for demand, acceptance or conspiracy against him, nor there has been any departmental enquiry initiated against him.
Based on the afore-stated analysis, the Court allowed the petitions and quashed the impugned orders sanctioning to prosecute the petitioners/accused persons under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Court however, granted liberty to the sanctioning authority to reconsider the sanction against accused 1 with application of mind.
[Gajaraja v. State of Karnataka, WP No. 16978 of 2022, decided on 18-05-2023]
*Judgment was written by Justice K. Natarajan
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Petitioners- Hiremath Akkamahadev, Adv; Chandrakanth R. Goulay, Adv; Vikram Huilgol, Sr. Adv for Prince Isac, Adv.;
Respondents- B.J. Rohith, HCGP for R1 and B.B. Patil for R2 and R3/Lokayuktha.