SUPREME COURT VALIDATES GOVERNMENT SANCTION A MUST FOR LEGAL ACTION AGAINST PUBLIC SERVANTS

The #SupremeCourt has in a recent case of D. Devaraja vs Owais Sabeer Hussain passed a #Judgment dated 18-06-2020, where the Court held that when any person files a #complaint against a #publicservant, say, a #judge or #policeofficer, etc, accusing him of any #offence committed during the discharge of his #officialduties, the courts shall take #cognizance of such offence, only if there is a prior #sanction of the #Government.

In this case, the Appellant-Police Officer at Karnataka had detained the Respondent for conducting investigation of multiple pending criminal cases lodged against him. Thereafter, when the case was transferred to the Central Crime Branch and the Respondent was released, he filed a private complaint before the Magistrate alleging ill-treatment and police excesses by the Appellant and other police officers when he was in police custody. The Magistrate took cognizance against the Appellant in the said complaint case. Being aggrieved, the Appellant filed a Petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC) in the Karnataka High Court to quash the order passed by the Magistrate. But the High Court redirected the case for proper hearing to the Trial Court. Being aggrieved, the Appellant filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court made the following observations in this case:

1- That Section 197 (1) of CrPC requires a court to take cognizance of an offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant during the discharge of his official duties, only if there is a prior sanction of the Central Government or State Government, as the case may be.

2- Further, Section 170 (1) of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 as amended in 2013 (the Act) also requires a court to take cognizance of an offence alleged to have been committed by a commissioner, magistrate, police officer, etc during his official duty, only if there is a prior sanction of the Government.

3- The object of the aforesaid provisions of CrPC and the Act is to protect a public servant or a police officer discharging official duties from facing frivolous, revengeful and vexatious criminal proceedings that may be possibly filed against them.

4- But the said protection is a limited one as it is available only when the alleged act done by the public servant is reasonably connected with the discharge of duties in his official capacity, and not in his private capacity.

5- That it is the duty of the trial court to determine whether prior sanction of the Government has been obtained or not in a complaint case. Failing which, such a complaint has to be rejected.

6- Once a sanction is granted in a particular case, the Government would have the complete control of the prosecution.

But in the present case, as there was no Government sanction issued, the Supreme Court held that the Magistrate erred in taking cognizance against the Appellant in the said complaint case, and quashed the complaint filed against the Appellant.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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