Extent of protection granted to public servant under section 197 of CrPC and role of sanctions from competent authority.
Criminal Appeal No. 593 of 2021
Date of Judgement:
23 July 2021
Justice Sanjay KishanKaul
Justice Hemant Gupta
Appellant – Indra Devi
Respondent – State of Rajasthan and Anr.
The following judgement deals with the question as to what extent a public servant acting under a duty, is protected under Section 197 of CrPC and does sanction play an integral part in prosecuting such public servants.
- The appellant along with her husband (both belonging to Scheduled Caste) had two plots in Barmer Dist. of Rajasthan, which they had sold to one Megharam and Chetan Choudhary each.
- It is alleged that Megharam, with the intent to defraud, had enlarged the dimensions of the plot, thereby committing forgery of documents. The plot number is also found to be changed by him.
- As a result, Indira Devi had filed an FIR under Sections 420,467,468,471,120B of the Indian Penal Code along with Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act.
- Therefore, the accused were alleged to have committed the offence of fraudulently making a scheduled caste woman and her husband homeless.
- Though not mentioned in the FIR, Yogesh Acharya is Respondent no.2 and apparently stated to be “the concerned clerk”.”
- Yogesh Acharya made an application under Section 197 CrPC seeking protection because the act was done during the course of his official duties and hence is entitled to receive protection under the aforementioned Act.
- He also made an application to quash the chargesheet because it was filed without obtaining the proper sanction of the competent authority, which is required by the law according to the said provisions of the CrPC.
- Section 197 CrPC – Prosecution of Judges and public servants
- Section 420 IPC – Cheating
- Section 120B IPC - Punishment for criminal conspiracy
- Section 467 IPC – Forgery of valuable security
- Section 3 Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989 – Punishment for offences of atrocities.
- Whether respondent no.2 has the right to seek protection under Section 197 CrPC.
- Whether the act committed by him is directly concerned with his official duties as a public servant.
Analysis of the Judgement
- While pronouncing the judgement, Justice Sanjay KishanKaul observed that the purpose of Section 197 is to protect the public servant from unnecessary harassment. He believed that they are given a special status to protect them from malicious and vexatious prosecution. However, it cannot be used to protect corrupt officers.
- The Court also acknowledged the fact that Surendra and Sandeep Mathur were granted similar protection from the lower courts, even though they were part of the alleged transaction. They were the Executive Officers.
- The Court also pointed out the fact that the State and the complainant both had failed to make an objection against the protection granted to these other two officers under Section 197 of the CrPC.
- The citations given by the learned counsel of the respondent were the case of B. Saha&Ors. Vs. M.S. Kochar and State of Maharashtra Vs. Dr.Budhikota Subbarao.
- The counsel for the respondent also contended that this provision of CrPC was made to be read with a liberal sense. According to him, the reason was to protect public servants against their own actions, which though constitute an offence, but are connected to their official duties.
- As a result, questions were raised by the hon’ble Supreme Court as to why similar protection shall not be granted to respondent no. 2.
- The Court also took cognizance of the fact that a sanction is essential under Section 197 CrPC to prosecute a public servant, if the alleged act is directly concerned with the official duties of the said public servant. And no such sanction has been obtained for any of the public officers.
- In the end, the Apex Court held that the appeals stand dismissed and the parties have to bear their own costs.
In conclusion, after listening and comprehending the contentions of both the parties, the appeal against the judgement of the Rajasthan High Court was dismissed by the Apex Court. In addition to this, it held that a sanction under Section 197 CrPC, from a competent authority, was imperative.
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