P. Pugalenthi, Director, Prisoners Rights Forum v. The State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.
DATE OF ORDER:
8th March 2022
Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy
Petitioner : P. Pugalenthi, Director, Prisoners Rights Forum
Respondent : The State of Tamil Nadu & Ors
The Madras High Court instructed the petitioner to seek registration of a FIR or to file a private complaint using Section 190 of the Criminal Procedure Code in order to direct the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption to investigate the alleged scam involving the supply of stationery items by the employees of Madurai Central Prison.
Section 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure - Cognizance of Offences By Magistrates
According to Section 190 of the Code, a Magistrate may declare an offence to have been committed either :-
(a) after receiving a complaint
(b) after receiving a police report
(c) after receiving information from a source other than a police officer, or even after developing his own information or suspicion.
In accordance with Article 226 of The Constitution of India, a petition was filed asking for the issuance of a Writ of Mandamus ordering respondent No. 4 to start and finish the investigation into the petitioner's complaint, dated December 16, 2021, regarding the scam involving the supply of stationery items to various government departments, including the judicial department, by respondent No. 3 - Central Prison, Madurai, between 2016 and 2021, within a reasonable amount of time as may be determined.
The issues here were the maintainability of the petition and whether the petitioner had the right to invoke Section 190 of the CrPC to register a FIR or make a private complaint against the respondents.
ARGUMENTS OF THE PETITIONER:
- The petitioner claimed to have gathered a wealth of information about the scheme. His appeals to the DVAC and the District and Sessions Courts in Madurai and Ramanathapuram, however, were unsuccessful.
- In order to obtain a writ of mandamus, the current writ petition was submitted to the High Court in the public interest.
- The learned attorney for the petitioner further asserted that since the Supreme Court made clear in Vineet Narain v. Union of India [1998 (1) SCC 226] that holders of public offices are entrusted with certain powers to be used in the public interest only and as a result, the office is held by them in trust for the people, any lapse in moral behaviour by any of them constitutes a breach of trust and must be punished severely.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- The petitioner's complaint was the basis for the court's observation that no FIR had been filed. Additionally, a private complaint pursuant to Section 190 of CrPC. was submitted by the petitioner.
- In response to the question of whether it may direct DVAC to begin an investigation in the absence of a FIR, the court cited the same and responded in the negative.
- The first bench stated that the Criminal Procedure Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 must be followed in order to initiate an inquiry into the aforementioned complaint.
- The court remarked that it does not follow from Article 14 that an investigation should be launched as soon as an individual makes a complaint.
As a result, the petition was dismissed with the court giving the petitioner the option of registering a FIR or filing a private complaint about the stationery supply scam.
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