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No Obligatory Requirement To Secure Prior Sanction For Institution Of FIR Against A Public Servant

Adv. Sanjeev Sirohi ,
  19 February 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Allahabad HC
Brief :
While delivering most courageously a very simple, significant, short and straightforward judgment titled Ranjeet vs State of UP in Criminal Misc Anticipatory Bail Application u/s 438 Cr.P.C. No.-872 of 2024 that was cited as Neutral Citation No. - 2024:AHC:24501 that was pronounced as recently as on February 13, 2024, the Allahabad High Court has held most unequivocally that there is no mandatory need for prior sanction for lodging an FIR and conducting an investigation, even against a public servant. It must be mentioned here most emphatically that the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon'ble Mr Krishan Pahal also made it absolutely clear that if obtaining sanction is required for commencing legal proceedings, it should be obtained when presenting the chargesheet before the Magistrate and when the Magistrate takes cognizance of the matter. Very rightly so!
Citation :
Citation No. - 2024:AHC:24501

While delivering most courageously a very simple, significant, short and straightforward judgment titled Ranjeet vs State of UP in Criminal Misc Anticipatory Bail Application u/s 438 Cr.P.C. No.-872 of 2024 that was cited as Neutral Citation No. - 2024:AHC:24501 that was pronounced as recently as on February 13, 2024, the Allahabad High Court has held most unequivocally that there is no mandatory need for prior sanction for lodging an FIR and conducting an investigation, even against a public servant. It must be mentioned here most emphatically that the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon'ble Mr Krishan Pahal also made it absolutely clear that if obtaining sanction is required for commencing legal proceedings, it should be obtained when presenting the chargesheet before the Magistrate and when the Magistrate takes cognizance of the matter. Very rightly so!

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon'ble Mr Krishan Pahal of Allahabad High Court sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, "List has been revised."

Needless to say, the Bench then states in para 2 that, "Heard Sri Harsh Vardhan Singh, learned counsel for applicant as well as Sri Ram Mohit Yadav, learned A.G.A. for State and also perused the material available on record."

As we see, the Bench then discloses in para 3 that, "The present application for anticipatory bail has been filed for protection in regard to FIR/Case Crime No. 444 of 2023, under Sections 419, 420, 467, 468, 471 I.P.C. and 12 of Passport Act, 1967, P.S.- Barhalganj, District- Gorakhpur."

PROSECUTION STORY

To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 4 that, "The FIR was instituted by the SI Gyan Prakash Shukla PS Barhalganj, Distt. Gorakhpur on 26.06.2023 with the allegations that it has come to his knowledge that RANJEET s/o Ram Bahadur has procured three passports i.e. No. K3464309 as Ranjeet Sahani s/o Ram Bahadur Sahani, No. P4364782 as Ranjeet Nishad s/o Bahadur Nishad and No. W8305151 as Ranjeet Nishad s/o Bahadur Nishad."

On the one hand, the Bench states aptly in para 5 that, "Learned counsel for the applicant has stated that he is maliciously being prosecuted in the present case due to ulterior motive and has the apprehension of his arrest. The applicant has nothing to do with the said offence as alleged by the prosecution. Learned counsel has next stated that the informant is the Sub Inspector and he has not divulged the person from whom he had received the said information. The applicant is an illiterate and rustic person and for the sake of employment he had got his passport applications filed through broker and the discrepancy, if any, is due to his negligence."

Further, the Bench states in para 6 that, "Learned counsel for the applicant has further argued that the passports have been issued after due enquiry and investigation. The police had demanded bribe from him and after the refusal to grease their palm, the instant FIR has been instituted."

Furthermore, the Bench mentions in para 7 that, "It is also argued by the counsel for the applicant that after getting the knowledge of the said multiplicity of applications for passport, he had given an application for the closure of the File on 10.04.2023. The same is filed as Annexure-4 to the affidavit filed with the anticipatory bail application. The instant FIR has been lodged two months thereafter. The files of the applicant have been closed and the same have been filed as Annexure-5 to the affidavit filed with the bail application, as such nothing remains against the applicant."

Still more, the Bench adds in para 8 that, "It is further argued that a letter for apology has been sent by the applicant to the Regional Passport Officer, Lucknow on 04.07.2023 which is filed as annexure-7 to the affidavit filed with the anticipatory bail application."

In addition, the Bench reveals in para 9 that, "Learned Counsel for the applicant has vehemently argued that the instant FIR has no legs to stand as it has been lodged without mandatory previous sanction of the Central government as provided under Section 15 of the Passports Act, 1967. The said provision is as under:

15. Previous sanction of Central Government necessary.— No prosecution shall be instituted against any person in respect of any offence under this Act without the previous sanction of the Central Government or such officer or authority as may be authorized by that Government by order in writing in this behalf."

Also, the Bench states in para 10 that, "Learned counsel for the applicant has further specified that the applicant had filed a criminal Miscellaneous Writ No. 17320 of 2023 which was dismissed for want of prosecution and not on merits. There is no iota of evidence against him and he has no criminal antecedents."

Arguments for State

Simply put, the Bench states in para 11 that, "Learned AGA Shri. Ram Mohit Yadav has stated that the applicant is an imposter as he has procured three passports by altering his name and parentage altogether bearing No.'s K3464309 as Ranjeet Sahani s/o Ram Bahadur Sahani, P4364782 as Ranjeet Nishad s/o Bahadur Nishad and W8305151 as Ranjeet Nishad s/o Bahadur Nishad while his Aadhar card reveals his name to be RANJEET s/o Ram Bahadur. The applicant has obtained the passports by not only suppressing the information but has produced fake and doctored documents and got them issued."

What's more, the Bench mentions in para 12 that, "It is further argued by learned AGA that there is no plausible or proper explanation to the fact of applying for a passport thrice. It is an open and shut case, although he could not dispute the fact that the applicant has no criminal antecedents."

CONCLUSION

As things stands, the Bench observes in para 13 that, "The argument of learned counsel for the applicant as to whether FIR can be lodged without previous sanction of the Central government as provided under Section 15 of the Passports Act, 1967 requires further exploration."

Do note, the Bench notes in para 14 that, "The word used in section 15 of the Passports Act, 1967 is 'prosecution' and not the 'FIR.' As per the sixth edition of the BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY the word 'prosecution' is defined as:

'a proceeding instituted and carried on by due course of law, before a competent tribunal, for the purpose of determining the guilt or innocence of a person charged with crime.'"

Most significantly, the Bench mandates in para 15 propounding that, "Thus, the proper interpretation of the provision would be that for institution of a First Information Report (FIR) and investigation thereupon, there is no obligatory requirement to secure prior sanction, even against a public servant, as per the mandate of Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. It shall equally apply to the persons charged under The Passports Act, 1967. When obtaining sanction is a prerequisite for initiating legal proceedings, it must be secured at the stage of presentation of charge sheet before the magistrate and taking of the cognizance thereupon."

While citing a remarkable and relevant case law, the Bench observes in para 16 that, "In P. Prathapachandran Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, Ernakulam 1999 CrLJ 2002 (Ker), it was opined by the High Court that the point of time relevant for the competent authority to accord sanction to prosecute under Section 19(1)(c) of the Act is the time when the Court is called upon to take cognizance of the offence. Therefore, the contention raised by the petitioner against the validity of the sanction accorded under Section 19(I)(c) of the Act and the competency of the officer who granted the sanction are untenable."

While continuing in the same vein and citing yet another remarkable and relevant case law, the Bench then specifies in para 17 stating that, "In R.S. Nayak Vs. A.R. Antulay (1984) 2 SCC 183, the five-Judges Bench of the Supreme Court has observed that existence of a valid sanction is a prerequisite to the taking of cognizance of the enumerated offences alleged to have been committed. Thus, the said argument of non-availability of sanction to prosecute at the stage of FIR or investigation does not carry any force. Therefore, no sanction is required to investigate the instant matter."

Be it noted, the Bench notes in para 18 that, "Eminent jurist Benjamin N. Cardozo in his book 'Nature of the Judicial Process' at page 70 has stated "The general framework furnished by the statute is to be filled in for each case by means of interpretation, that is, by following out the principles of the statute. In every case, without exception, it is the business of the court to supply what the statute omits, but always by means of an interpretative function."

Truth be told, the Bench then points out in para 19 that, "Learned counsel has failed to highlight the animosity carried by the police against the applicant. The applicant has applied for Passport thrice by altering his name and parentage in them."

It cannot be lost on us that the Bench then postulates in para 20 that, "The satisfaction of the court for granting protection under Section 438 Cr.P.C. is different from the one under Section 439 Cr.P.C. while considering regular bail as settled by the Apex Court in Satpal Singh Vs. State of Punjab (2018) 13 SCC 813."

Most forthrightly, the Bench then while citing the most recent, remarkable and relevant case law points out in para 21 that, "The relief of anticipatory bail is aimed at safeguarding individual rights. While it serves as a crucial tool to prevent the misuse of the power of arrest and protects innocent individuals from harassment, it also presents challenges in maintaining a delicate balance between individual rights and the interests of justice. The tight rope we must walk lies in striking a balance between safeguarding individual rights and protecting public interest as laid down in the latest judgement of the Supreme Court in Pratibha Manchanda and another Vs. State of Haryana and another (2023) 8 SCC 181."

As a corollary, the Bench then hastens to add in para 22 directing that, "In view of the above, the present anticipatory bail application is found devoid of merits and is, accordingly, rejected."

Finally and for sake of clarity, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 23 that, "It is clarified that the observations made herein are limited to the facts brought in by the parties pertaining to the disposal of anticipatory bail application and the said observations shall have no bearing on the merits of the case."

In conclusion, it must be said that the Single Judge Bench of Allahabad High Court comprising of Hon'ble Mr Justice Krishan Pahal has made it indubitably clear that there is no obligatory requirement to secure a prior sanction for the institution of an FIR against a public servant. This must be definitely paid heed to also by all the Courts. There can be just no denying or disputing it!

 
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