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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The CJM, Srinagar, granted opportunity to Army to exercise the option as to whether the competent military authority would prefer to try the case by way of court-martial by taking over the case under the provisions of Section 125 of the Army Act, 1950 (hereinafter called the `Army Act’). On 24.5.2006, the Army officers filed an application before the court pointing out that no prosecution could be instituted except with the previous sanction of the Central Government in view of the provisions of Section 7 of the Act 1990 and, therefore, the proceedings be closed by returning the chargesheet to the CBI. H. The CJM vide order dated 24.8.2006 dismissed the application holding that the said court had no jurisdiction to go into the documents filed by the investigating agency and it was for the trial court to find out whether the action complained of falls within the ambit of the discharge of official duty or not. The provisions of the Act 1990 would apply in consonance with the provisions of the Army Act. Section 7 of the Act 1990 does not contain non-obstante clause. Therefore, once the option is made that accused is to be tried by a court-martial, further proceedings would be in accordance with the provisions of Section 70 of the Army Act and for that purpose, sanction of the Central Government is not required. The court-martial has been defined under Section 3(VII) of the Army Act which is definitely different from the suit and prosecution as explained hereinabove, and has not been referred to in the Act 1990. 65. Undoubtedly, the court-martial proceedings are akin to criminal prosecution and this fact has been dealt with elaborately by this Court in Union of India & Ors. v. Major A. Hussain, AIR 1998 SC 577. However, once the matter stands transferred to the Army for conducting a court-martial, the court-martial has to be as per the provisions of the Army Act. The Army Act does not provide for sanction of the Central Government. Thus, we do not find any force in the contention raised by the appellant and the same is rejected. 66. Sum up: i) The conjoint reading of the relevant statutory provisions and rules make it clear that the term “institution” contained in Section 7 of the Act 1990 means taking cognizance of the offence and not mere presentation of the chargesheet by the investigating agency. ii) The competent Army Authority has to exercise his discretion to opt as to whether the trial would be by a court-martial or criminal court after filing of the chargesheet and not after the cognizance of the offence is taken by the court. iii) Facts of this case require sanction of the Central Government to proceed with the criminal prosecution/trial. iv) In case option is made to try the accused by a court-martial, sanction of the Central Government is not required. 67. In view of the above, the appeals stand disposed of with the following directions: I. The competent authority in the Army shall take a decision within a period of eight weeks from today as to whether the trial would be by the criminal court or by a court-martial and communicate the same to the Chief Judicial Magistrate concerned immediately thereafter. II. In case the option is made to try the case by a court-martial, the said proceedings would commence immediately and would be concluded strictly in accordance with law expeditiously. III. In case the option is made that the accused would be tried by the criminal court, the CBI shall make an application to the Central Government for grant of sanction within four weeks from the receipt of such option and in case such an application is filed, the Central Government shall take a final decision on the said application within a period of three months from the date of receipt of such an application. IV. In case sanction is granted by the Central Government, the criminal court shall proceed with the trial and conclude the same expeditiously.


                                                                  REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 257 of 2011






    General Officer Commanding                             …Appellant




                                   Versus


    CBI & Anr.                                                 …Respondents


                                    WITH




                        CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.55 of 2006






    Additional Director General                                 …Appellant




                                   Versus


    Central Bureau  Investigation                              …Respondents






                               J U D G M E N T




    Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN, J.




    1.      Criminal Appeal  No. 257 of 2011 has been preferred against the
    impugned judgment and order dated 10.7.2007 passed by the High Court of
    Jammu and Kashmir in Petition Nos. 78 and 80 of 2006 under Section 561-
    A of the Code of  Criminal  Procedure,  (J&K)  (hereinafter  called  as
    `Code’) by which the High  Court  upheld  the  order  dated  30.11.2006
    passed  by  the  Additional  Sessions  Judge,  Srinagar  in  File   No.
    16/Revision of 2006, and by the  Chief  Judicial  Magistrate,  Srinagar
    dated  24.8.2006,  rejecting  the  appellant’s  application   for   not
    entertaining  the  chargesheet  filed  by  the   Central    Bureau   of
    Investigation (hereinafter called ‘CBI’).


    2.        Brief facts relevant to the disposal of this  appeal  are  as
    under:
    A.      In Village Chittising Pora, District Anantnag,  J&K,  36  Sikhs
    were killed by terrorists on 20.3.2000.  Immediately thereafter, search
    for the terrorists started in the entire area and 5 persons,  purported
    to be  terrorists,  were  killed  at  village  Pathribal   Punchalthan,
    District Anantnag, J & K by 7 Rashtriya Rifles (hereinafter  called  as
    `RR’) Personnel on 25.3.2000 in an encounter.


    B.          In respect of killing of 5 persons by 7 RR on 25.3.2000  at
    Pathribal claiming  them  to  be  responsible  for  Sikhs  massacre  at
    Chittising Pora, a complaint bearing No. 241/GS(Ops.)  dated  25.3.2000
    was sent to Police Station Achchabal, District Anantnag, J&K  by  Major
    Amit Saxena, the then Adjutant, 7 RR,  for  lodging  FIR  stating  that
    during a  special  cordon  and  search  operation  in  the  forests  of
    Panchalthan from 0515 hr. to 1500 hrs. on 25.3.2000, an encounter  took
    place between terrorists and troops of that unit and in that operation,
    5 unidentified terrorists were killed in the said  operation.   On  the
    receipt of the complaint, FIR No. 15/2000 under Section 307  of  Ranbir
    Penal Code (hereinafter called ‘RPC’) and Sections 7/25 Arms Act,  1959
    was registered against unknown persons.  A seizure memo was prepared by
    Major Amit Saxena (Adjutant) on 25.3.2000 showing seizure of  arms  and
    ammunition from  all  the  5  unidentified  terrorists  killed  in  the
    aforesaid operation which included AK-47  rifles  (5),  AK-47  Magazine
    rifles (12),  radio  sets  (2),  AK-48  ammunition  (44  rounds),  hand
    grenades (2) detonators (4) and detonator time devices (2).   The  said
    seizure memo was signed by the witnesses Farooq Ahmad Gujjar and  Mohd.
    Ayub Gujjar, residents of Wuzukhan, Panchalthan, J & K.


    C.      The 7 RR deposited the said recovered  weapons  and  ammunition
    with 2 Field Ordnance Depot.   However, the local police insisted  that
    the Army  failed  to  hand  over  the  arms  and  ammunition  allegedly
    recovered  from  the  terrorists  killed  in   the   encounter,   which
    tantamounts to causing of disappearance of the  evidence,  constituting
    an offence under Section 201 RPC.   In  this  regard,  there  had  been
    correspondence and a Special Situation Report dated 25.3.2000 was  sent
    by Major Amit Saxena, the then Adjutant,  to Head Quarter–I, Sector  RR
    stating that, based on police inputs, a joint operation  with  STF  was
    launched  in  the  forest  of  Pathribal  valley  on  25.3.2000,  as  a
    consequence, the said incident occurred.  However, it  was  added  that
    ammunition allegedly recovered from the killed militants had been taken
    away by the STF.


    D.      There had been long processions in the  valley  in  protest  of
    killing of these 5 persons on 25.3.2000 by 7 RR alleging that they were
    civilians and  had  been  killed  by  the  Army  personnel  in  a  fake
    encounter.  The local population treated it to be  a  barbaric  act  of
    violence and there had been a demand of independent  inquiry  into  the
    whole incident.  Thus, in view thereof, on the request of Government of
    J & K, a Notification dated 19.12.2000 under Section 6 of Delhi  Police
    Special Establishment Act, 1946 (hereinafter called as `Act 1946’)  was
    issued. In pursuance thereof,  Ministry  of  Personnel,  Government  of
    India, also issued Notification dated 22.1.2003 under Section 5 of  the
    Act 1946 asking the  CBI  to   investigate  four  cases  including  the
    alleged encounter at Pathribal resulting in the death of 5  persons  on
    25.3.2000.


    E.      The CBI conducted the investigation in Pathribal  incident  and
    filed a chargesheet in the  court  of  Chief  Judicial  Magistrate-cum-
    Special Magistrate, CBI, (hereinafter called the ‘CJM’)   Srinagar,  on
    9.5.2006, alleging that it was a fake encounter, an outcome of criminal
    conspiracy hatched by Col. Ajay Saxena (A-1),  Major  Brajendra  Pratap
    Singh (A-2), Major Sourabh Sharma (A-3), Subedar Idrees Khan (A-4)  and
    some members of the troops of 7 RR  were  responsible  for  killing  of
    innocent persons. Major  Amit Saxena (A-5) (Adjutant) prepared a  false
    seizure memo showing recovery  of  arms  and  ammunition  in  the  said
    incident,  and also gave a false complaint to the  police  station  for
    registration of the case against the said five civilians  showing  some
    of them as foreign  militants  and  false  information  to  the  senior
    officers to create an impression that the encounter  was  genuine  and,
    therefore, caused  disappearance of the evidence of  commission of  the
    aforesaid offence under Section 120-B read with Sections 342, 304, 302,
    201 RPC and substantive offences thereof.   Major   Amit  Saxena  (A-5)
    (Adjutant) was further alleged to  have  committed  offence  punishable
    under Section 120-B read with Section 201 RPC and  substantive  offence
    under Section 201 RPC with regard to the aforesaid offences.


    F.           The learned CJM  on consideration  of  the  matter,  found
    that veracity of the  allegations  made  in  the  chargesheet  and  the
    analysis of the evidence cannot be gone into as it would tantamount  to
    assuming jurisdiction not vested in him.  It was  so  in  view  of  the
    provisions  of  Armed  Forces  J  &  K  (Special  Powers)   Act,   1990
    (hereinafter called ‘Act 1990’),  which  offer  protection  to  persons
    acting under the said Act.


    G.        The CJM, Srinagar, granted opportunity to  Army  to  exercise
    the option as to whether the competent military authority would  prefer
    to try the case by way of court-martial by taking over the  case  under
    the provisions of Section 125 of the Army Act, 1950 (hereinafter called
    the  `Army  Act’).    On   24.5.2006,  the  Army  officers   filed   an
    application before the court pointing out that no prosecution could  be
    instituted except with the previous sanction of the Central  Government
    in view of the provisions of Section 7 of the Act 1990 and,  therefore,
    the proceedings  be  closed by returning the chargesheet to the CBI.


    H.    The CJM  vide order dated  24.8.2006  dismissed  the  application
    holding that the  said  court  had  no  jurisdiction  to  go  into  the
    documents filed by the investigating agency and it was  for  the  trial
    court to find out whether the action complained  of  falls  within  the
    ambit of the discharge of official duty or not.  The CJM himself  could
    not  analyse  the  evidence  and  other  material  produced  with   the
    chargesheet for considering the fact, as to whether the  officials  had
    committed the act in good faith in discharge of  their  official  duty;
    otherwise the act of such officials was illegal or unlawful  in view of
    the nature of the offence.


    I.           Aggrieved  by  the  order  of  CJM  dated  24.8.2006,  the
    appellant filed revision petition before the Sessions  Court,  Srinagar
    and the same stood dismissed vide  order dated 30.11.2006. However, the
    revisional court directed the CJM to give one more opportunity  to  the
    Army officials for exercise of option under Section  125  of  the  Army
    Act.


    J.       The appellant approached the High Court under Section 561-A of
    the Code. The Court vide impugned order dated  10.7.2007  affirmed  the
    orders of the  courts  below  and  held  that  the  very  objective  of
    sanctions is to enable  the  Army  officers  to  perform  their  duties
    fearlessly by  protecting  them  from  vexatious,  malafide  and  false
    prosecution for the act done in performance of their duties.   However,
    it has to be examined as to whether their action falls  under  the  Act
    1990.  The CJM does not have the power to examine such an issue at  the
    time of committal of proceedings. At this stage,  the  Committal  Court
    has to examine only as to whether any case is made out and, if so,  the
    offence is triable by whom.
            Hence, this appeal.
    3.      Criminal Appeal No. 55 of 2006 has been preferred  against  the
    impugned judgment and order dated 28.3.2005 passed by the High Court of
    Guwahati in Criminal Revision No.117 of 2004 by which it has upheld the
    order of the  Special  Judicial  Magistrate,  Kamrup  dated  10.11.2003
    rejecting the application of the appellant seeking  protection  of  the
    provisions of Section 6 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,  1958
    (hereinafter called the `Act 1958’) in  respect  of  the  armed  forces
    personnel.


    4.      Facts and circumstances giving  rise  to  this  appeal  are  as
    under:
    A.      In  order  to  curb  the  insurgency  in  the  North-East,  the
    Parliament enacted the Act 1958 authorising the Central  Government  as
    well as the Governor of the State to declare, by way of Notification in
    the official Gazette, the whole or part of the State as disturbed area.
     Section 4 of the  Act  1958  conferred  certain  powers  on  the  Army
    personnel acting under the Act which include power  to  arrest  without
    warrant on reasonable suspicion, destroy any arms,  ammunitions  dumped
    and hide out, and also to open fire or otherwise use powers even to the
    extent of causing death against any person acting in  contravention  of
    law and order and further to carry out search and seizure.  The  entire
    State of Assam was declared disturbed area  under  the  Act  1958  vide
    Notification dated 27.11.1990 and Army was requisitioned  and  deployed
    in various parts of the State to fight insurgency and  to  restore  law
    and order.


    B.      On  22.2.1994,  the  18th  Battalion  of  Punjab  Regiment  was
    deployed in Tinsukhia District  of  Assam  to  carry  out  the  counter
    insurgency operation in the area of Saikhowa Reserve Forest.  The  said
    Army personnel faced the insurgents who opened  fire  from  an  ambush.
    The armed battalion returned fire and in the  process,  some  militants
    died.  The Battalion continued search at the  place  of  encounter  and
    consequently, 5 bodies of the  militants  alongwith  certain  arms  and
    ammunitions were recovered.  In respect of the said  incident,  an  FIR
    was lodged at P.S. Doom Dooma.  Local Police also visited the place  on
    23.2.1994 and 1.3.1994 and investigated the  case.   The  incident  was
    investigated by the Army under the Army Court of  enquiry  as  provided
    under the Army Act.    Two Magisterial enquiries were held as  per  the
    directions issued by the State Government and as per the appellant, the
    version of the Army personnel was found to be true and  a  finding  was
    recorded that ‘the counter insurgency operation was done in exercise of
    the official duty’.


    C.      Two writ petitions were filed before the High Court by the non-
    parties alleging that the Army officials apprehended 9 individuals  and
    killed 5 of them in a fake encounter.  The High Court directed the  CBI
    to investigate the matter.


    D.      The CBI  completed  the  investigation  and  filed  chargesheet
    against 7 Army personnel in the Court of Special  Judicial  Magistrate,
    Kamrup under Section 302/201 read with Section 109 of the Indian  Penal
    Code, 1860 (hereinafter called `IPC’).  The Special Judicial Magistrate
    issued notice dated 30.5.2002 to the appellant i.e. Army Headquarter to
    collect the said chargesheet.  The appellant requested the  said  Court
    not to proceed with the matter as the action had been  carried  out  by
    the Army personnel in performance of their official duty and thus, they
    were protected under the Act 1958 and in order to  proceed  further  in
    the matter, sanction of the  Central  Government  was  necessary.   The
    learned Special Judicial Magistrate rejected the case of the  appellant
    vide order dated 10.11.2003.  Being aggrieved, the appellant  preferred
    the revision petition which has been rejected vide impugned order dated
    28.3.2005 by the High Court.
              Hence, this appeal.
    5.      As the facts and legal issues involved in both the appeals  are
    similar, we decide both the appeals by a  common  judgment  taking  the
    Criminal Appeal No. 257 of 2011 as a leading case.


    6.      Shri Mohan Parasaran and  Shri  P.P.  Malhotra,  learned  Addl.
    Solicitor Generals appearing on behalf of the Union of India  and  Army
    personnel, have contended that mandate of Section 7 of the Act 1990  is
    clear and it clearly provides that no prosecution shall  be  instituted
    and, therefore, cannot be instituted  without  prior  sanction  of  the
    Central Government.  It is contended  that  the  prosecution  would  be
    deemed to have instituted/initiated at the moment  the  chargesheet  is
    filed and received by the court. Such an acceptance/receipt is  without
    jurisdiction. The previous sanction of the competent authority is a pre-
    condition for the court in taking the  chargesheet  on  record  if  the
    offence alleged to have been committed in discharge  of  official  duty
    and such issue touches the jurisdiction of the court.


    7.      On the other hand, Shri H.P. Raval,  learned  ASG,  Shri  Ashok
    Bhan, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the  CBI,  and  Mr.
    M.S. Ganesh appearing  for  the  interveners  (though  application  for
    intervention  not  allowed)  have  vehemently   opposed   the   appeals
    contending that  the  institution  of  a  criminal  case  means  taking
    cognizance of the case, mere presentation/filing of the chargesheet  in
    the court does not amount to institution. The  court  of  CJM  has  not
    taken cognizance of the offence, therefore, the appeals are  premature.
    Even otherwise,  killing  innocent  persons  in  a  fake  encounter  in
    execution of a conspiracy cannot be a part of official duty  and  thus,
    in view of the facts of the case no sanction is required.  The  appeals
    are liable to be dismissed.


    8.      We have considered the rival submissions made  by  the  learned
    counsel for the parties and perused the record.


    9.      The matter is required to be examined taking into consideration
    the statutory provisions of the  Act  1990  and  also  considering  the
    object of the said Act. It is to be examined as to whether  the  court,
    after the chargesheet is filed, can entertain the same and  proceed  to
    frame charges without previous sanction of the Central Government.  The
    Act 1990 confers certain special  powers  upon  members  of  the  Armed
    Forces in the disturbed area in the State of J & K. The disturbed  area
    is defined and there is no dispute  that the place where  the  incident
    occurred stood notified under the Act 1990. Section 4 of the  Act  1990
    confers special powers on the officer of armed forces to take measures,
    where he considers it necessary to do so, for the maintenance of public
    order. However, he must give due warning according to the circumstances
     and even fire upon or use force that may also result in causing  death
    against any person  acting in contravention of law  and  order  in  the
    disturbed area and prohibit the assembly of five  or  more  persons  or
    carrying of weapons etc.  Such an officer has further been empowered to
    destroy any arms dump,  arrest  any  person  without  warrant  who  has
    committed a cognizable offence and enter and search without warrant any
    premises to make any arrest. Section 6 of the Act  1990  requires  that
    such arrested person and seized property be handed over  to  the  local
    police by such an officer.


    10.     Section 7 of the Act 1990 provides for umbrella  protection  to
    the Army personnel in respect of anything done or purported to be  done
    in exercise of  powers  conferred  by  the  Act.  The  whole  issue  is
    regarding the interpretation of Section  7  of  the  Act  1990,  as  to
    whether    the    term     ‘institution’     used     therein     means
    filing/presenting/submitting the chargesheet in the  court   or  taking
    cognizance and whether the court can proceed  with  the  trial  without
    previous sanction of the Central Government.


    11.     The analogous provision to Section 7 of the Act 1990 exists  in
    Sections 45(1) and 197(2) of  the  Code  of  Criminal  Procedure,  1973
    (hereinafter called ‘Cr.P.C.’). The provisions of Section 7 of the  Act
    1990 are mandatory and if not complied with in letter and spirit before
    institution of any suit, prosecution or legal proceedings  against  any
    persons in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise
    of the powers conferred by the Act 1990, the  same  could  be  rendered
    invalid and illegal as the provisions require the previous sanction  of
    the Central Government before institution of the prosecution.
            According to the appellants, institution of  prosecution  is  a
    stage prior to taking cognizance and, therefore, the word ‘institution’
    is different from the words taking  ‘cognizance’.
            The scheme of  the  Act  requires  that  any  legal  proceeding
    instituted against any Army official working under the Act 1990 has  to
    be subjected to stringent  test  before  any  such  proceeding  can  be
    instituted. Special powers have been conferred upon Army  officials  to
    meet the dangerous conditions i.e.  use of the armed forces in  aid  of
    civil force to prevent activities  involving  terrorist  acts  directed
    towards overawing the  government  or  striking  terror  in  people  or
    alienating any section of the people or adversely affecting the harmony
    amongst different sections of the  people.   Therefore,  Section  7  is
    required to be interpreted keeping the aforesaid objectives in mind.


    12.     The ‘prosecution’ means a criminal action before the  court  of
    law for the purpose of determining ‘guilt’ or ‘innocence’ of  a  person
    charged with a crime.  Civil suit refers to a civil  action  instituted
    before a court of law for realisation of a right vested in a  party  by
    law.  The phrase ‘legal proceeding’ connotes a  term  which  means  the
    proceedings in a court of justice to get a remedy which the law permits
    to the person aggrieved. It  includes  any  formal  steps  or  measures
    employed therein. It is not synonymous with the ‘judicial proceedings’.
    Every judicial proceeding is a legal proceeding but not vice-versa, for
    the reason that there may be a ‘legal  proceeding’  which  may  not  be
    judicial at all, e.g. statutory remedies like assessment  under  Income
    Tax Act, Sales Tax Act, arbitration proceedings etc. So, the  ambit  of
    expression  ‘legal  proceedings’   is   much   wider   than   ‘judicial
    proceedings’. The expression ‘legal proceeding’ is to be  construed  in
    its  ordinary  meaning  but  it  is  quite  distinguishable  from   the
    departmental  and  administrative  proceedings,  e.g.  proceedings  for
    registration of  trade marks etc.   The terms used in  Section  7  i.e.
    suit, prosecution and legal proceedings  are  not  inter-changeable  or
    convey the same meaning.  The  phrase  `legal  proceedings’  is  to  be
    understood in the context of the statutory provision  applicable  in  a
    particular case, and considering the preceding words used therein.   In
    Assistant  Collector  of  Central  Excise,  Guntur  v.  Ramdev  Tobacco
    Company, AIR 1991 SC 506, this  Court  explained  the  meaning  of  the
    phrase  “other legal proceedings” contained in  Section  40(2)  of  the
    Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944, wherein these words have been  used
    after suit and prosecution.  The Court held that these  words  must  be
    read as  ejusdem  generis  with  the  preceding  words  i.e.  suit  and
    prosecution, as they constitute  a  genus.  Therefore,  issuance  of  a
    notice calling upon the dealer to show cause why  duty  should  not  be
    demanded under the Rules and why penalty  should  not  be  imposed  for
    infraction  of  the  statutory  rules  and  enjoin   of   consequential
    adjudication proceedings by the  appellate  authority  would  not  fall
    within the expression “other legal proceedings” as in  the  context  of
    the said statute. ‘Legal proceedings’ do not include the administrative
    proceedings.


            In Maharashtra Tubes Ltd.  v.  State  Industrial  &  Investment
    Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd. & Anr., (1993) 2 SCC  144,  this  Court
    dealt with the expressions ‘proceedings’ and  ‘legal  proceedings’  and
    placed reliance  upon  the  dictionary  meaning  of  expression  ‘legal
    proceedings’ as found in Black Law Dictionary (Fourth  Edition)   which
    read as under:

                “Any proceedings in court of justice ... by which  property
             of debtor is seized and diverted  from  his  general  creditors
             ....  This  term  includes  all   proceedings   authorised   or
             sanctioned by law, and brought or  instituted  in  a  court  of
             justice or legal tribunal, for the acquiring of a right or  the
             enforcement of a remedy.”




             The Court came  to  the  conclusion  that  proceedings  before
    statutory authorities under the provisions of the Act do not amount  to
    legal proceedings.


          ‘Legal proceedings’ means proceedings regulated or  prescribed  by
    law in which a judicial decision may be given; it means proceedings  in
    a court of justice by which a  party  pursues  a  remedy  which  a  law
    provides,  but  does  not  include  administrative   and   departmental
    proceedings. (See also: S. V. Kondaskar, Official  Liquidator  v.  V.M.
    Deshpande, I.T.O. & Anr.,  AIR 1972 SC 878; Babulal v. M/s. Hajari  Lal
    Kishori Lal & Ors., AIR 1982 SC 818; and Binod Mills Co.  Ltd.,  Ujjain
    v. Shri. Suresh Chandra Mahaveer Prasad Mantri,  Bombay,  AIR  1987  SC
    1739).


              The  provision  of  Section  7  of  the  Act  1990  prohibits
    institution of legal proceedings against  any  Army  personnel  without
    prior sanction of the Central Government. Therefore, chargesheet cannot
    be instituted without prior sanction of the  Central  Government.   The
    use of the words ‘anything done’ or ‘purported to be done’ in  exercise
    of powers conferred by the Act 1990 is very wide in its scope and ambit
    and it consists of twin test. Firstly, the act or  omission  complained
    of must have been done in the course  of  exercising  powers  conferred
    under the Act, i.e., while carrying out the duty in the course  of  his
    service and secondly, once it  is  found  to  have  been  performed  in
    discharge of his official duty, then the protection given under Section
    7 must be construed  liberally.   Therefore,  the  provision  contained
    under Section 7 of the Act 1990 touches the very issue of  jurisdiction
    of               launching               the               prosecution.












































    (i)     INSTITUTION OF A CASE:

    13.     The meaning of the aforesaid term has to be ascertained  taking
    into consideration the  scheme  of  the  Act/Statute  applicable.   The
    expression may mean filing/presentation or received or  entertained  by
    the court.  The question does arise as to whether it simply means  mere
    presentation/filing or something further where the application  of  the
    mind of the court is to be applied for passing an order.


    14.        In  M/s.  Lakshmiratan  Engineering  Works  Ltd.  v.   Asst.
    Commissioner (Judicial) I, Sales Tax, Kanpur Range, Kanpur & Anr.,  AIR
    1968 SC 488, this Court dealt with the provisions  of  U.P.  Sales  Tax
    Act, 1948 and rules made under it and while interpreting the proviso to
    Section 9 thereof, which provided the mode of  filing  the  appeal  and
    further provided that appeal could be  “entertained”  on  depositing  a
    part of the assessed/admitted amount of tax.   The  question  arose  as
    what was the meaning of the word ‘entertain’ in the said context, as to
    whether it meant that no appeal would be received or filed or it  meant
    that no appeal would be  admitted  or  heard  and  disposed  of  unless
    satisfactory proof of deposit  was  available.  This  Court  held  that
    dictionary meaning of the word ‘entertain’ was either ‘to deal with’ or
    ‘admit to consideration’.  However, the court had to  consider  whether
    filing or receiving the memorandum of appeal was not permitted  without
    depositing the required amount of tax or it  could  not  be  heard  and
    decided on merits without depositing the  same.  The  court  took  into
    consideration the words ‘filed or received’ in Section 6 of  the  Court
    Fees Act and held that in the context of the said  Act  it  would  mean
    ‘admit for consideration’. Mere filing or presentation or receiving the
    memorandum of appeal was inconsequential. The provisions provided  that
    the appeal filed would not be admitted  for  consideration  unless  the
    required tax was deposited.


    15.       In Lala Ram v.  Hari  Ram,  AIR  1970  SC  1093,  this  Court
    considered the word ‘entertain’ contained in the provisions of  Section
    417(4) of the Code of Criminal  Procedure, 1898 (analogous  to  Section
    378 Cr.P.C.)  providing for the period of limitation  of  60  days  for
    filing the application  for  leave  to  appeal  against  the  order  of
    acquittal. Thus, the question arose as to whether 60 days are  required
    for filing/presenting the  application  for  leave  to  appeal  or  the
    application should be heard by the court within that period. This Court
    held that in  that  context,  the  word  ‘entertain’  meant  ‘filed  or
    received by the court’ and it had no reference to the actual hearing of
    the application for leave to appeal. So, in  that  context  ‘entertain’
    was explained to receive or file the application for leave to appeal.


    16.      In Hindustan  Commercial   Bank  Ltd.  v.  Punnu  Sahu  (dead)
    through LRs., AIR 1970 SC 1384, this Court dealt  with  the  expression
    ‘entertain’ contained in the proviso to Order XXI Rule 90 Code of Civil
    Procedure, 1908 as amended by the High Court of Allahabad and  rejected
    the contention that it meant initiation of the proceeding  and  not  to
    the stage when the court takes up the  application  for  consideration,
    observing that ‘entertain’ means to “adjudicate upon”  or  “proceed  to
    consider on merits”.


    17.       In Martin and Harris Ltd. v. VIth Additional District Judge &
    Ors., AIR 1998 SC 492, while dealing with  the  provisions  of  Section
    21(1) of the U.P. Urban Buildings  (Regulation  of  Letting,  Rent  and
    Eviction)  Act,  1972,  the  word  “entertain”   was   interpreted   as
    considering the grounds for the purpose of adjudication on merits  i.e.
    thereby taking cognizance of an application by the statutory authority.
    The Court rejected the contention that the term  ‘entertain’  contained
    in  the  said  statutory  provision  was  synonymous  with   the   word
    ‘institute’.


    18.       In Jamuna Singh & Ors. v. Bhadai Shah, AIR 1964 SC 1541, this
    Court dealt with the expression ‘institution of a case’ and held that a
    case can be said to be instituted in a court only when the  court takes
    cognizance of the offence  alleged  therein.   Section  190(1)  Cr.P.C.
    contains  the  provision  for  taking  cognizance  of  offence  (s)  by
    Magistrate.  Section 193 Cr.P.C. provides for cognizance of offence (s)
    being taken by courts of Sessions on commitment to it by  a  Magistrate
    duly empowered in that behalf.
            This view has been reiterated, approved and  followed  by  this
    Court in Satyavir Singh Rathi, ACP & Ors. v. State through CBI,  (2011)
    6 SCC 1.
    19.     A similar view has been reiterated by this Court in  Kamalapati
    Trivedi v. The State of West Bengal, AIR 1979 SC  777,  observing  that
    when a Magistrate applies his mind under Chapter XVI, he must  be  held
    to have taken cognizance of the offences mentioned  in  the  complaint.
    Such a situation would not arise  while  passing  order  under  Section
    156(3) Cr.P.C. or while issuing a search warrant  for  the  purpose  of
    investigation.  In Devarapalli  Lakshminarayana  Reddy  &  Ors.  v.  V.
    Narayana Reddy  &  Ors.,  AIR  1976  SC  1672,  this  Court  held  that
    ‘institution’ means taking cognizance of the  offence  alleged  in  the
    chargesheet.


    20.        Mere presentation of a complaint cannot be held to mean that
    the Magistrate has taken the cognizance. (Vide: Narsingh Das Tapadia v.
    Goverdhan Das Partani & Anr., AIR 2000 SC 2946).


    21.        Thus,  in  view  of  the  above,  it  is  evident  that  the
    expression “Institution” has to be understood in  the  context  of  the
    scheme of the Act applicable in a particular  case.    So  far  as  the
    criminal proceedings are concerned, “Institution” does not mean filing;
    presenting or  initiating  the  proceedings,  rather  it  means  taking
    cognizance as per the provisions contained in the Cr.P.C.






    (ii)    SANCTION FOR PROSECUTION:


    22.     The protection given under Section 197 Cr.P.C.  is  to  protect
    responsible  public  servants  against  the  institution  of   possibly
    vexatious criminal  proceedings  for  offences  alleged  to  have  been
    committed by them while they are acting or purporting to act as  public
    servants.  The  policy  of  the  legislature  is  to  afford   adequate
    protection to public servants to ensure that they  are  not  prosecuted
    for anything done by them in the discharge  of  their  official  duties
    without reasonable cause, and if sanction is granted, to confer on  the
    Government, if they choose to exercise  it,  complete  control  of  the
    prosecution. This protection has certain limits and is  available  only
    when the alleged act done by the public servant is reasonably connected
    with the discharge of his official duty and is not merely a  cloak  for
    doing the objectionable act.   Use of the  expression  “official  duty”
    implies that the act or omission must have  been  done  by  the  public
    servant in the course of his service and that it should have been  done
    in discharge of his duty. The section does not  extend  its  protective
    cover to every act or omission done by a public servant in service  but
    restricts its scope of operation to only those acts or omissions  which
    are done by a public servant in discharge  of  official  duty.   If  on
    facts, therefore, it is prima facie found that the act or omission  for
    which the accused was charged had reasonable connection with  discharge
    of his duty, then it must be held to be official to which applicability
    of Section 197 Cr.P.C. cannot be disputed. (See: R. Balakrishna  Pillai
    v. State of Kerala & Anr., AIR 1996 SC 901; S.K. Zutshi & Anr. v. Bimal
    Debnath & Anr., AIR 2004 SC 4174; Center for Public Interest Litigation
    & Anr. v. Union of India & Anr., AIR 2005 SC 4413; Rakesh Kumar  Mishra
    v. State of Bihar & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 820; Anjani  Kumar  v.  State  of
    Bihar & Ors., AIR 2008 SC 1992; and State of Madhya Pradesh v.  Sheetla
    Sahai & Ors., (2009) 8 SCC 617).


    23.     The question to examine as to whether the sanction is  required
    or not under a statute has to be  considered  at  the  time  of  taking
    cognizance of the offence and  not  during  enquiry  or  investigation.
    There is a  marked  distinction  in  the  stage  of  investigation  and
    prosecution.  The prosecution starts when the cognizance of offence  is
    taken. It is also to be kept in mind that the cognizance  is  taken  of
    the offence and not of the offender. The sanction  of  the  appropriate
    authority is necessary to protect a  public  servant  from  unnecessary
    harassment or  prosecution.  Such  a  protection  is  necessary  as  an
    assurance to an honest and sincere officer to perform his  public  duty
    honestly and to the best of his  ability.  The  threat  of  prosecution
    demoralises the honest officer. However, performance  of   public  duty
    under colour of duty cannot be  camouflaged  to  commit  a  crime.  The
    public duty may provide such a public servant an opportunity to  commit
    crime and such issue is required to  be  examined  by  the  sanctioning
    authority or by the court. It  is  quite  possible  that  the  official
    capacity may enable the pubic servant to fabricate the record  or  mis-
    appropriate public funds etc.  Such  activities  definitely  cannot  be
    integrally  connected  or  inseparably  inter-linked  with  the   crime
    committed in the course of the same transaction. Thus, all acts done by
    a public servant in the purported  discharge  of  his  official  duties
    cannot as a matter of course be brought under the  protective  umbrella
    of requirement of sanction. (Vide:  Bhanuprasad Hariprasad Dave &  Anr.
    v.  The State of Gujarat, AIR 1968 SC 1323; Hareram Satpathy v. Tikaram
    Agarwala & Ors., AIR  1978  SC  1568;   State  of  Maharashtra  v.  Dr.
    Budhikota Subbarao, (1993) 3 SCC 339; Anil Saran v. State  of  Bihar  &
    Anr., AIR 1996 SC 204; Shambhoo Nath Misra v State of U.P. & Ors.,  AIR
    1997 SC 2102; and Choudhury Parveen Sultana v. State of West  Bengal  &
    Anr., AIR 2009 SC 1404).


    24.     In fact, the issue of sanction becomes a question of  paramount
    importance when a public servant is alleged to have  acted  beyond  his
    authority or his acts complained of are in dereliction of the duty.  In
    such an eventuality, if the offence is alleged to have  been  committed
    by him while acting or purporting to act in discharge of  his  official
    duty, grant of prior sanction becomes imperative.  It is  so,  for  the
    reason that the power  of  the  State  is  performed  by  an  executive
    authority authorised in this behalf in terms of the  Rules of Executive
    Business framed under Article 166 of the Constitution of India  insofar
    as such a power has to be exercised in terms of  Article  162  thereof.
    (See : State of Punjab & Anr. v. Mohammed Iqbal Bhatti, (2009)  17  SCC
    92).


    25.      In Satyavir Singh  Rathi,  (Supra),   this  Court   considered
    the provisions of Section 140 of the Delhi Police Act 1978  which  bars
    the suit and prosecution in any alleged offence by a police officer  in
    respect of the act done under colour of duty or authority  in  exercise
    of any such duty or authority without the sanction and the  same  shall
    not be entertained if  it is instituted more than 3  months  after  the
    date of the act complained of. A complaint may be entertained  in  this
    regard by the court if instituted with the  previous  sanction  of  the
    administrator within one year from the date of the offence. This  Court
    after considering its earlier judgments including Jamuna Singh (supra);
    The State of Andhra Pradesh v. N. Venugopal & Ors.,  AIR  1964  SC  33;
    State of Maharashtra v.  Narhar  Rao,  AIR  1966  SC  1783;   State  of
    Maharashtra v. Atma Ram & Ors., AIR 1966  SC  1786;  and   Prof.  Sumer
    Chand v. Union of  India  &  Ors.,  (1994)   1  SCC  64,  came  to  the
    conclusion that the prosecution  has been initiated on the basis of the
    FIR and it was the duty of the police officer to investigate the matter
    and to file a chargesheet, if necessary.  If  there  is  a  discernible
    connection between the act complained of by the accused and his  powers
    and duties as police officer, the act complained of may fall within the
    description of colour of  duty.  However,  in  a  case  where  the  act
    complained of does not fall within the description of colour  of  duty,
    the provisions of Section 140 of the Delhi Police Act 1978 would not be
    attracted.


    26.     This Court in State of Orissa & Ors. v. Ganesh Chandra Jew, AIR
    2004 SC 2179, while dealing with the issue  held as under:
             “….. It is the quality of the act which is  important  and  the
             protection of this section is available if the act falls within
             the scope and range of his official duty. There cannot  be  any
             universal rule to  determine  whether  there  is  a  reasonable
             connection between the act done and the official duty,  nor  is
             it possible to lay down any such rule. One safe and  sure  test
             in this regard would be to consider if the omission or  neglect
             on the part of the public servant to commit the act  complained
             of could have made him answerable for a charge  of  dereliction
             of his official duty. If the answer to this question is in  the
             affirmative, it may be said that such act was committed by  the
             public servant while acting in the discharge  of  his  official
             duty and there was every connection with the act complained  of
             and   the   official   duty    of    the    public    servant.”
                                (Emphasis added)


    (See also: P. Arulswami v. State of Madras, AIR 1967 SC 776).


    27.     This Court in Suresh Kumar  Bhikamchand  Jain  v.  Pandey  Ajay
    Bhushan & Ors., AIR 1998 SC 1524, held as under:
             “……The legislative mandate  engrafted  in  sub-section  (1)  of
             Section 197 debarring a Court  from  taking  cognizance  of  an
             offence except  with  a  previous  sanction  of  the  concerned
             Government in a case where the acts complained of  are  alleged
             to have been committed by public servant in  discharge  of  his
             official duty or purporting to  be  in  the  discharge  of  his
             official duty and such public servant is not removable from his
             office save by or with the sanction of the  Government  touches
             the jurisdiction of the  Court  itself.  It  is  a  prohibition
             imposed by the statute  from  taking  cognizance,  the  accused
             after appearing before the Court on process being issued, by an
             application indicating that Section 197(1) is attracted  merely
             assists the Court to rectify its error where  jurisdiction  has
             been exercised which it does not possess. In such a case  there
             should not be any bar for the accused  producing  the  relevant
             documents and materials which will be  ipso  facto  admissible,
             for adjudication of the question as to whether in fact  Section
             197 has any application in the case in hand. It is no longer in
             dispute and has been indicated by this Court in  several  cases
             that the question of sanction can be considered at any stage of
             the proceedings.”         (Emphasis added)




    28.      In  Matajog  Dobey  v.  H.C.  Bhari,  AIR  1956  SC  44,   the
    Constitution Bench of this Court held that requirement of sanction  may
    arise at any stage of the proceedings as the complaint may not disclose
    all  the  facts  to  decide  the  question  of  immunity,   but   facts
    subsequently coming either to notice  of  the  police  or  in  judicial
    inquiry or even in the course of prosecution evidence may establish the
    necessity for sanction.  The necessity for sanction may surface  during
    the course of trial and it would be open to the accused  to  place  the
    material on record for showing what his duty  was  and  also  the  acts
    complained of were so inter-related or inseparably connected  with  his
    official duty so as to attract the  protection  accorded  by  law.  The
    court further observed that difference between “acting or purporting to
    act” in the discharge of his official duty is merely of a language  and
    not of substance.


            On the issue as to whether the court or the competent authority
    under the statute has to decide the requirement of sanction, the  court
    held:
           “Whether sanction is to be accorded or not is a matter  for  the
           government to consider. The absolute power to accord or withhold
           sanction conferred on the government is irrelevant  and  foreign
           to the duty cast on the Court, which  is  the  ascertainment  of
           the  true  nature  of  the  act……There  must  be  a   reasonable
           connection between the act and the official duty.  It  does  not
           matter even if the act exceeds what is  strictly  necessary  for
           the discharge of the duty, as this question will arise only at a
           later stage when the trial proceeds on the merits. What we  must
           find out is whether the act and the official duty are so  inter-
           related that one can postulate reasonably that it  was  done  by
           the accused in the performance  of  the  official  duty,  though
           possibly  in  excess  of  the  needs  and  requirements  of  the
           situation.”                                            (Emphasis
           added)




    29.     In Sankaran Moitra v. Sadhna Das &  Anr.,  AIR  2006  SC  1599,
    this Court held as under :
             “The High Court has stated that killing of a person by  use  of
             excessive force could never be performance of duty. It  may  be
             correct so far as it goes. But the question is whether that act
             was done in the performance of duty or in purported performance
             of duty. If it was done in performance  of  duty  or  purported
             performance of duty, Section  197(1)  of  the  Code  cannot  be
             bypassed by reasoning that killing a man could never be done in
             an official capacity and consequently  Section  197(1)  of  the
             Code could not be attracted.”




    (See also: Rizwan Ahmed Javed Shaikh & Ors. v. Jammal Patel & Ors., AIR
    2001 SC 2198).


    30.     In S.B. Saha & Ors. v. M.S. Kochar,  AIR  1979  SC  1841,  this
    Court dealt with the issue elaborately and  explained  the  meaning  of
    “official” as contained in  the  provisions  of  Section  197  Cr.P.C.,
    observing:
                 "In  considering  the  question   whether   sanction   for
           prosecution was  or  was  not  necessary,  these  criminal  acts
           attributed to the accused are to be  taken  as  alleged……..  The
           words 'any offence alleged to have been committed by  him  while
           acting or purporting to act in the  discharge  of  his  official
           duty' employed in Section 197(1) of the Code, are capable  of  a
           narrow as well as a wide  interpretation.  If  these  words  are
           construed too narrowly, the section will be rendered  altogether
           sterile, for, 'it is no part of an official duty  to  commit  an
           offence, and never can be'. In the wider sense, these words will
           take under their umbrella every  act  constituting  an  offence,
           committed in the course of the same  transaction  in  which  the
           official duty is performed or  purports  to  be  performed.  The
           right approach to the import of these  words  lies  between  two
           extremes. While on  the  one  hand,  it  is  not  every  offence
           committed by a public servant while engaged in  the  performance
           of his official duty, which is entitled  to  the  protection  of
           Section 197 (1), an act constituting an  offence,  directly  and
           reasonably  connected  with  his  official  duty  will   require
           sanction for prosecution under the said provision.”




    31.     In  Parkash Singh Badal & Anr. v. State of Punjab &  Ors.,  AIR
    2007 SC 1274, this Court reiterated the same  view  while  interpreting
    the phrase “official duty”, as under:
           “…Official duty therefore implies that the act or omission  must
           have been done by the public servant in course  of  his  service
           and such act or omission must have been  performed  as  part  of
           duty which further  must  have  been  official  in  nature.  The
           Section has, thus, to be construed strictly,  while  determining
           its applicability to any act or omission in course  of  service.
           Its operation has to  be  limited  to  those  duties  which  are
           discharged in course of duty. But once any act or  omission  has
           been found to  have  been  committed  by  a  public  servant  in
           discharge of his duty then it must be  given  liberal  and  wide
           construction so far its official nature is concerned……”




    32.     In P.K. Choudhury v. Commander, 48 BRTF (GREF), (2008)  13  SCC
    229, this Court dealt with  the  issue  wherein  an  Army  officer  had
    allegedly indulged in the offence punishable under Section 166  IPC   -
    public servant disobeying law, with  intent  to  cause  injury  to  any
    person and Section 167 IPC - public servant framing incorrect  document
    with  intention  to  cause  injury,  and  as  to  whether  in  such  an
    eventuality sanction under Section 197  Cr.P.C.    was  required.   The
    Court held as under:
             “As the offences under Sections 166 and 167 of the  Penal  Code
             have a direct nexus with commission of a criminal misconduct on
             the part of a public servant, indisputably an order of sanction
             was prerequisite before the learned Judicial  Magistrate  could
             issue summons upon the appellant.”


          The Court further rejected the contention that  sanction  was  not
    required in view of the provisions of Sections 125 and 126 of the  Army
    Act, which provided for a choice of the competent authorities to try an
    accused either by a criminal court or  proceedings  for  court-martial.
    Section 126 provides for the power of the  criminal  court  to  require
    delivery of offender.  The  Court  held  that  in  case  the  competent
    authority takes a decision that the accused was to be tried by ordinary
    criminal court, the provisions  of  the  Cr.P.C.  would  be  applicable
    including the law of limitation and  the  criminal  court  cannot  take
    cognizance of offence if it is barred  by  limitation.   In  case,  the
    delay is not condoned, the court will have no jurisdiction to take  the
    cognizance.  Similarly, unless it is  held  that  a  sanction  was  not
    required to be obtained, the court’s jurisdiction will be barred.


    33.     This Court in Nagraj v. State of Mysore, AIR 1964 SC 269,  held
    that:
             “ The last question to consider is that if the Court  comes  at
             any stage to the conclusion that the prosecution could not have
             been instituted without the sanction of  the  Government,  what
             should be the procedure to be followed by it, i e., whether the
             Court should discharge the accused or acquit him of the  charge
             if framed against him or just drop the proceedings and pass  no
             formal order of discharge or acquittal as contemplated  in  the
             case of a prosecution under the Code. The High Court  has  said
             that when the Sessions Judge be satisfied that the facts proved
             bring the case within the mischief of S. 132 of the  Code  then
             he is at liberty to reject the complaint  holding  that  it  is
             barred by that section. We consider this to be the right  order
             to be passed in those circumstances. It is not  essential  that
             the Court must pass a formal order  discharging  or  acquitting
             the accused. In fact no such order can be  passed.  If  S.  132
             applies, the complaint could not have been  instituted  without
             the sanction  of  the  Government  and  the  proceedings  on  a
             complaint so instituted would be  void,  the  Court  having  no
             jurisdiction to take those proceedings. When the proceedings be
             void, the Court is not competent to pass any  order  except  an
             order that the proceedings be  dropped  and  the  complaint  is
             rejected.”                                   (Emphasis added)


    34.     In Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v.  Union  of  India,
    AIR 1998 SC 431, the Constitution Bench of  this  Court  while  dealing
    with the issue involved herein under the provisions of Section 6 of the
    Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958,  held as under:
             “Under Section 6 protection  has  been  given  to  the  persons
             acting under the Central Act and it has been prescribed that no
             prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted
             against any person in respect of anything done or purported  to
             be done in exercise of the powers conferred  by  the  said  Act
             except with the previous sanction of  the  Central  Government.
             The conferment of such a protection has been  assailed  on  the
             ground  that  it  virtually  provides   immunity   to   persons
             exercising the powers conferred under Section 4 inasmuch as  it
             extends the protection also to “anything purported to  be  done
             in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act”. It  has  been
             submitted that adequate protection for members of armed  forces
             from arrest and prosecution is contained in Sections 45 and 197
             CrPC and that a separate provision giving further protection is
             not called for.  It  has  also  been  submitted  that  even  if
             sanction for prosecution is granted,  the  person  in  question
             would  be  able  to  plead  a  statutory  defence  in  criminal
             proceedings under Sections 76 and 79 of the Indian Penal  Code.
             The protection given under Section 6 cannot, in our opinion, be
             regarded as conferment of an immunity on the persons exercising
             the  powers  under  the  Central  Act.  Section  6  only  gives
             protection in the form of  previous  sanction  of  the  Central
             Government before a criminal prosecution or  a  suit  or  other
             civil proceeding is instituted against such person. Insofar  as
             such protection against prosecution is concerned, the provision
             is similar to that contained in Section 197 CrPC  which  covers
             an offence alleged to have been committed by a  public  servant
             “while acting or purporting to act  in  the  discharge  of  his
             official duty”. Section 6 only extends this protection  in  the
             matter of institution of a suit or other legal proceeding.


                       xx               xx         xx


                  In order that the people may feel assured that there is an
             effective check against  misuse  or  abuse  of  powers  by  the
             members of the armed forces it is necessary  that  a  complaint
             containing an allegation about misuse or abuse  of  the  powers
             conferred under the Central Act should be  thoroughly  inquired
             into and, if it  is  found  that  there  is  substance  in  the
             allegation, the victim should be suitably  compensated  by  the
             State and the requisite sanction under Section 6 of the Central
             Act should be granted for institution of prosecution  and/or  a
             civil suit or  other  proceedings  against  the  person/persons
             responsible for such violation.”  (Emphasis added)


    35.     In Jamiruddin Ansari v. Central Bureau of Investigation & Anr.,
    (2009) 6 SCC 316, this  Court  while  dealing  with  the  provision  of
    Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (hereinafter called as
    ‘MCOCA’) held that:
               “As indicated hereinabove, the provisions of Section  23  are
             the  safeguards  provided  against  the   invocation   of   the
             provisions of the Act which are  extremely  stringent  and  far
             removed from the provisions of the general criminal law. If, as
             submitted on behalf of some of the respondents, it is  accepted
             that a private complaint under Section 9(1) is not  subject  to
             the rigours of Section 23, then the very purpose of introducing
             such safeguards lose their very  raison  d'être.  At  the  same
             time,  since  the  filing  of  a  private  complaint  is   also
             contemplated  under  Section  9(1)  of  MCOCA,  for  it  to  be
             entertained it has also to be subject to the rigours of Section
             23. Accordingly, in view of the bar imposed  under  sub-section
             (2) of Section 23 of the Act,  the  learned  Special  Judge  is
             precluded from taking cognizance on a private complaint upon  a
             separate inquiry under Section 156(3) CrPC. The bar of  Section
             23(2) continues to remain in respect of complaints, either of a
             private nature or on a police report.


                  In  order  to  give  a  harmonious  construction  to   the
             provisions of Section  9(1)  and  Section  23  of  MCOCA,  upon
             receipt of such private complaint the learned Special Judge has
             to forward the same to the officer indicated in clause  (a)  of
             sub-section (1) of Section 23 to have an inquiry conducted into
             the complaint by a police officer indicated in  clause  (b)  of
             sub-section (1) and only  thereafter  take  cognizance  of  the
             offence complained of, if sanction is accorded to  the  Special
             Court to take cognizance of such offence under sub-section  (2)
             of Section 23.”                           (Emphasis added)




    36.     This Court in Harpal Singh v. State of Punjab,  (2007)  13  SCC
    387, while  dealing  with  the  provision  of  Section  20A(2)  of  the
    Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (hereinafter
    called ‘TADA’)  held as under:
              “The important feature which  is  to  be  noted  is  that  the
             prosecution did not obtain sanction of the Inspector General of
             Police or of the Commissioner of Police for prosecution of  the
             appellant under TADA at any stage as is required by Section 20-
             A(2) of TADA. The trial of the appellant before the  Designated
             Court proceeded without the sanction of the  Inspector  General
             of Police or the Commissioner of Police. In absence of previous
             sanction the Designated  Court  had  no  jurisdiction  to  take
             cognizance of the offence or to proceed with the trial  of  the
             appellant                     under                      TADA”.
             (Emphasis added)




    37.     In Rambhai Nathabhai Gadhvi & Ors. v.  State  of  Gujarat,  AIR
    1997 SC 3475, this Court while dealing  with  the  same  provisions  of
    TADA, held that:
                 “…Thus a valid sanction is sine qua non  for  enabling  the
             prosecuting agency to approach the Court in order to enable the
             Court to take cognizance of the offence under TADA as disclosed
             in the report. The corollary is that, if  there  was  no  valid
             sanction the Designated Court gets no  jurisdiction  to  try  a
             case against any person mentioned in the report as the Court is
             forbidden from taking cognizance of the  offence  without  such
             sanction. If the Designated Court has taken cognizance  of  the
             offence without  a  valid  sanction,  such  action  is  without
             jurisdiction and any proceedings adopted thereunder  will  also
             be without jurisdiction.”




    38      In State of H.P. v. M.P. Gupta, (2004) 2 SCC  349,  this  Court
    while dealing with the issue held as under:
             “Use of the words “no” and “shall” makes  it  abundantly  clear
             that the bar on the exercise of power  of  the  court  to  take
             cognizance of any offence is absolute and  complete.  The  very
             cognizance is barred. That is, the complaint  cannot  be  taken
             notice of.”        (Emphasis added)






    39.     In broad and literal sense `cognizance’ means taking notice  of
    an  offence  as  required  under  Section  190  Cr.P.C.    `Cognizance’
    indicates the point when the court first takes judicial  notice  of  an
    offence. The court not only applies its mind to  the  contents  of  the
    complaint/police report,  but also proceeds in the manner as  indicated
    in the subsequent provisions of  Chapter XIV   of  the  Cr.P.C.  (Vide:
    R.R. Chari v. The State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1951 SC 207; and State of
    W.B. & Anr. v. Mohd. Khalid & Ors., (1995) 1 SCC 684).




    40.        In Dr. Subramanian Swamy v. Dr. Manmohan Singh &  Anr.,  AIR
    2012 SC 1185, this Court dealt with the issue elaborately and explained
    the meaning of the word ‘cognizance’ as under:
           “In legal parlance cognizance is ‘taking judicial notice by  the
           court of law’, possessing jurisdiction, on  a  cause  or  matter
           presented before it so as to decide whether there is  any  basis
           for initiating proceedings and determination  of  the  cause  or
           matter judicially.”         (Emphasis added)


    (See also: Bhushan Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2012) 4 SCALE 191)




    41.     In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Paras Nath  Singh,  (2009)  6  SCC
    372, this Court explained the meaning of the term ‘the very  cognizance
    is barred’  as  that  the  complaint  cannot  be  taken  notice  of  or
    jurisdiction or exercise of jurisdiction or power to try and  determine
    causes.  In common parlance, it means taking notice  of.    The  court,
    therefore, is precluded from entertaining  a  complaint  or  exercising
    jurisdiction if it is in respect of a public servant who is accused  of
    an offence alleged to have  been  committed  during  discharge  of  his
    official duty.


    42.     The relevant provisions in the Cr.P.C. read as under:


        “45(1)-  Notwithstanding anything contained in Sections  41  to  44
        (both inclusive), no member of the Armed Forces of the Union  shall
        be arrested for anything done or purported to be done by him in the
        discharge of   his  official  duties  except  after  obtaining  the
        consent of the Central Government.


        197(2)-  No Court shall take cognizance of any offence  alleged  to
        have been committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the  Union
        while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his  official
        duty, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government.”




             Section  7  of  the  Act  1990,  puts  an   embargo   on   the
    complainant/investigating  agency/person  aggrieved  to  file  a  suit,
    prosecution etc. in respect of anything done or purported to be done by
    a Army personnel, in   good faith, in exercise of  power  conferred  by
    the Act, except with the previous sanction of the  Central  Government.




    43.     Three expressions i.e. ‘except’, ‘good faith’  and  ‘purported’
    contained in the aforesaid provision require clarification/elaboration.


                 (i) Except :
           To leave or take out: exclude; omit; save


           Not including; unless. The word has also been construed to  mean
           until.


           Exception  –  Act  of  excepting  or  excluding  from  a  number
           designated or from a description;  that  which  is  excepted  or
           separated from others  in  a  general  rule  of  description;  a
           person, thing, or case specified as distinct or not included; an
           act of excepting,  omitting  from  mention  or  leaving  out  of
           consideration.


           (ii)  Purport :


           Purport  means  to   present,   especially   deliberately,   the
           appearance of being; profess or claim, often falsely.  It  means
           to convey, imply, signify or profess outwardly,  often  falsely.
           In other words it means to claim (to be a certain  thing,  etc.)
           by manner or appearance; intent to show; to mean; to intend.


           Purport also means ‘alleged’.
           ‘Purporting’ – When power is given to do something  ‘purporting’
           to have a certain effect, it will  seem  to  prevent  objections
           being  urged  against  the  validity  of  the  act  which  might
           otherwise be raised. Thus when validity  is  given  to  anything
           ‘purporting’ to be done in pursuance of a power,  a  thing  done
           under it may have validity though done at a time when the  power
           would not be really exercisable. (Dicker v. Angerstein, 3  Ch  D
           600)


           ‘Purporting to be done’ – There must be something in the  nature
           of the act that attaches it to his official character.  Even  if
           the act is not justified or authorised by law, he will still  be
           purporting to act in the execution of his duty if he acts  on  a
           mistaken view of it.”


           So it means that something is deficient or amiss: everything  is
      not as it is intended to be.


           In  Azimunnissa  and  Ors.  v.  The  Deputy  Custodian,  Evacuee
      Properties, District Deoria and Ors. AIR  1961  SC  365,  Constitution
      Bench of this court held:
           “The word  ‘purport’  has  many  shades  of  meaning.  It  means
           fictitious, what appears on the  face  of  the  instrument;  the
           apparent and not the legal import and therefore  any  act  which
           purports to be done in exercise of a power is to be deemed to be
           done within that power notwithstanding that  the  power  is  not
           exercisable…..Purporting is therefore indicative of what appears
           on the face of it or is apparent even though in law it  may  not
           be so.”       (Emphasis added)


    (See also: Haji Siddik Haji Umar & Ors. v. Union of India, AIR 1983  SC
    259).


    (iii)   GOOD FAITH:


    44.    A public servant is  under  a  moral  and  legal  obligation  to
    perform his duty with truth, honesty, honour, loyality and  faith  etc.
    He is to perform his duty according to the expectation  of  the  office
    and the nature of the post  for  the  reason  that  he  is  to  have  a
    respectful obedience to the law and authority in  order  to  accomplish
    the duty assigned to him.  Good faith has been defined in Section 3(22)
    of the General Clauses Act, 1897, to mean a thing which  is,  in  fact,
    done honestly, whether it is done negligently  or  not.  Anything  done
    with due care and attention, which is not malafide, is presumed to have
    been done in good faith.  There should  not  be  personal  ill-will  or
    malice, no intention to malign and scandalize.  Good faith  and  public
    good are though the question of fact,  it  required  to  be  proved  by
    adducing evidence.   (Vide:  Madhavrao  Narayanrao  Patwardhan  v.  Ram
    Krishna Govind Bhanu & Ors.,  AIR  1958  SC  767;  Madhav  Rao  Scindia
    Bahadur Etc. v. Union of India  &  Anr.,  AIR  1971  SC  530;  Sewakram
    Sobhani v. R.K. Karanjiya, Chief Editor, Weekly Blitz & Ors.,  AIR 1981
    SC 1514;  Vijay Kumar Rampal & Ors. v. Diwan Devi & Ors.,  AIR 1985  SC
    1669; Deena (Dead) through Lrs. v. Bharat Singh (Dead) through  LRs.  &
    Ors., (2002) 6 SCC 336; and Goondla Venkateshwarlu v. State  of  Andhra
    Pradesh & Anr., (2008) 9 SCC 613).


          In Brijendra Singh v. State of U.P. & Ors., AIR 1981 SC 636,  this
    Court while dealing with the issue held:
           “…..The expression  has  several  shades  of  meanings.  In  the
           popular  sense,  the  phrase  'in  good  faith'   simply   means
           "honestly,  without  fraud,  collusion,   or   deceit;   really,
           actually, without pretence and without intent to assist  or  act
           in furtherance of a fraudulent or  otherwise  unlawful  scheme".
           (See Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition, Vol. 18A,  page  91).
           Although the meaning of "good faith" may vary in the context  of
           different statutes, subjects and situations, honest intent  free
           from taint of fraud or fraudulent design, is a constant  element
           of its connotation. Even so, the quality  and  quantity  of  the
           honesty requisite for constituting 'good faith'  is  conditioned
           by the context and object of the statute in which this  term  is
           employed. It  is  a  cardinal  canon  of  construction  that  an
           expression which has no uniform, precisely fixed meaning,  takes
           its colour, light and content from the context.”




    45.     For the aforesaid qualities attached to a duty one can  attempt
    to decipher it from a private act which can be secret or mysterious. An
    authorised act or duty is official and is in connection with authority.
    Thus, it cannot afford to be something hidden or non-transparent unless
    such a duty is protected under some law like the Official Secrets  Act.




    46.     Performance of  duty  acting  in  good  faith  either  done  or
    purported to be done in the exercise of the powers conferred under  the
    relevant provisions can be protected under the immunity clause or  not,
    is the issue raised. The first point that has to be  kept  in  mind  is
    that such a issue raised would be dependent on the facts of  each  case
    and cannot be a subject matter of any  hypothesis,  the  reason  being,
    such cases relate to  initiation  of  criminal  prosecution  against  a
    public official who has done  or  has  purported  to  do  something  in
    exercise of the powers conferred under a statutory provision. The facts
    of each case are, therefore, necessary to constitute the ingredients of
    an official act. The act has to be official and not private as  it  has
    to be distinguished from the manner in which it has  been  administered
    or performed.


    47.      Then comes the issue of such a duty being  performed  in  good
    faith.  ‘Good faith’ means that which is founded on genuine belief  and
    commands a loyal  performance.  The  act  which  proceeds  on  reliable
    authority and accepted as truthful is said to be in good faith.  It  is
    the opposite of the intention to deceive.  A  duty  performed  in  good
    faith is to fulfil a trust reposed in an official and  which  bears  an
    allegiance to the superior authority. Such a duty should be  honest  in
    intention, and sincere in professional execution. It is on the basis of
    such an assessment that an act can be presumed to be in good faith  for
    which while judging a case the entire material  on  record  has  to  be
    assessed.


    48.      The allegations which are generally made are, that the act was
    not traceable to any lawful discharge of duty. That by itself would not
    be sufficient to conclude that the duty was performed in bad faith.  It
    is for this reason that the immunity clause is contained  in  statutory
    provisions conferring powers on law enforcing authorities. This  is  to
    protect them on the presumption that acts performed in good  faith  are
    free from malice  or  illwill.  ?The  immunity  is  a  kind  of  freedom
    conferred on the authority in the form of an exemption while performing
    or discharging official duties and responsibilities.  The  act  or  the
    duty so performed are such for which  an  official  stands  excused  by
    reason of his office or post.


    49.        It is for this reason that the assessment of a complaint  or
    the facts necessary to grant sanction against immunity that  the  chain
    of events has to be looked into to find out as to whether  the  act  is
    dutiful and in good faith and not  maliciously  motivated.  It  is  the
    intention to act which is important.


    50.      A sudden decision to  do  something  under  authority  or  the
    purported  exercise  of  such  authority   may   not   necessarily   be
    predetermined except for the purpose for which the official proceeds to
    accomplish. For example, while conducting a raid an  official  may  not
    have the apprehension  of  being  attacked  but  while  performing  his
    official duty he has to face such a situation at the hands of criminals
    and unscrupulous persons. The official may in  his  defence  perform  a
    duty  which  can  be  on  account  of  some  miscalculation  or   wrong
    information but such a duty cannot be labelled as an act in  bad  faith
    unless it is demonstrated by positive material in particular  that  the
    act was tainted by personal motives and  was  not  connected  with  the
    discharge of any official duty. Thus, an act which  may  appear  to  be
    wrong or a decision which may appear to be incorrect is not necessarily
    a malicious act or decision. The presumption of  good  faith  therefore
    can be dislodged only by cogent and clinching material and so  long  as
    such a conclusion is not drawn, a duty in good faith should be presumed
    to have been done or purported to have been done  in  exercise  of  the
    powers conferred under the statute.


    ?51.       There  has  to  be  material  to  attribute  or   impute   an
    unreasonable motive behind an act to take away the immunity clause.  It
    is for this reason that when the authority empowered to grant  sanction
    is proceeding to exercise its discretion, it has to take  into  account
    the material facts of the incident  complained  of  before  passing  an
    order of granting sanction or else official duty  would  always  be  in
    peril even if performed bonafidely and genuinely.


    52.      It is in the aforesaid background that we wish to record  that
    the protection and immunity granted  to  an  official  particularly  in
    provisions of the Act 1990 or like Acts has to be widely  construed  in
    order to assess the act complained of.  This  would  also  include  the
    assessment of cases like mistaken identities or an act performed on the
    basis of a genuine suspicion. We are therefore of the  view  that  such
    immunity clauses have to be interpreted with wide discretionary  powers
    to the sanctioning authority in order to uphold the official  discharge
    of duties in good faith and a sanction therefore has to be issued  only
    on the basis of a sound objective assessment and not otherwise.


    53.     Use of words like ‘No’ and  ‘shall’ in Section  7  of  the  Act
    1990 denotes the mandatory requirement of obtaining prior  sanction  of
    the Central Government before institution of the prosecution,  suit  or
    legal proceedings. From the conjoint reading of Section 197(2)  Cr.P.C.
    and Section 7 of  the Act 1990, it is clear that prior  sanction  is  a
    condition precedent before institution of any of  the  aforesaid  legal
    proceedings.


    54.     To understand the complicacy of the issue involved  herein,  it
    will be useful to compare the relevant provisions of different statutes
    requiring previous sanction.
|CRIMINAL PROCEDURE  |PREVENTION OF       |ARMED FORCES       |
|CODE, 1973          |CORRUPTION ACT, 1988|(SPECIAL POWERS)   |
|                    |                    |ACT, 1990          |
|197. Prosecution of |19. Previous        |7. Protection to   |
|Judges and Public   |sanction necessary  |persons acting     |
|servants.- (1)  When|for prosecution.-   |under Act.— No     |
|any person who is or|(1) No court shall  |prosecution, suit  |
|was a Judge or      |take cognizance of  |or other legal     |
|Magistrate or a     |an offence          |proceeding shall be|
|public servant not  |punishable under    |instituted, except |
|removable  from his |Sections 7,10,11,13 |with the previous  |
|office save by or   |and 15 alleged to   |sanction of the    |
|with the sanction of|have been committed |Central Government,|
|the Government is   |by a public servant,|against any person |
|accused of any      |except with the     |in respect of      |
|offence alleged to  |previous sanction.  |anything done or   |
|have been committed |(a) in the case of a|purported to be    |
|by him while acting |person who is       |done in exercise of|
|or purporting to act|employed in         |the powers         |
|in the discharge of |connection with the |conferred by this  |
|his official duty,  |affairs of the Union|Act.               |
|no Court shall take |and is not removable|…………………            |
|cognizance of such  |from his office save|…………………            |
|offence except with |by or with the      |                   |
|the previous        |sanction of the     |                   |
|sanction.           |Central Government, |                   |
|…………………             |of that Government. |                   |
|…………………             |                    |                   |
|                    |…………………….           |                   |
|                    |…………………….           |                   |




             Thus, it is evident from the aforesaid comparative chart  that
    under the provisions of Cr.P.C. and Prevention of Corruption Act, it is
    the court which is  restrained  to  take  cognizance  without  previous
    sanction  of  the  competent  authority.  Under  the  Act   1990,   the
    investigating  agency/complainant/person  aggrieved  is  restrained  to
    institute the criminal proceedings; suit or  other  legal  proceedings.
    Thus, there is a marked distinction in the statutory  provisions  under
    the Act 1990, which are of much wider magnitude and are required to  be
    enforced strictly.


    55.     Thus, in view of the above, the law on the  issue  of  sanction
    can be summarised to the effect that the question  of  sanction  is  of
    paramount importance for protecting a public servant who has  acted  in
    good faith while performing his duty. In order that the public  servant
    may not be unnecessarily harassed on a  complaint  of  an  unscrupulous
    person, it is obligatory on the part  of  the  executive  authority  to
    protect him. However, there must be a  discernible  connection  between
    the act complained of and the powers and duties of the public  servant.
    The act complained of may fall within the  description  of  the  action
    purported  to  have  been  done  in  performing  the   official   duty.
    Therefore, if the alleged act or omission of the public servant can  be
    shown to have reasonable connection inter-relationship  or  inseparably
    connected  with  discharge  of  his  duty,  he  becomes  entitled   for
    protection of sanction.  If the law requires sanction,  and  the  court
    proceeds against a public servant without sanction, the public  servant
    has a right to raise the issue of jurisdiction as the entire action may
    be rendered void ab-initio for  want  of  sanction.   Sanction  can  be
    obtained even during the course of trial depending upon the facts of an
    individual  case  and  particularly  at  what  stage  of   proceedings,
    requirement of sanction has surfaced.  The question as to  whether  the
    act complained of, is done in  performance  of  duty  or  in  purported
    performance of duty, is to be determined by the competent authority and
    not by the court. The Legislature has conferred “absolute power” on the
    statutory authority to accord sanction or withhold  the  same  and  the
    court has no role in this subject. In such a situation the court  would
    not proceed without sanction of the competent statutory authority.


    56.     The present case stands squarely covered by the  ratio  of  the
    judgments of this Court in Matajog Dobey (Supra)  and  Sankaran  Moitra
    (Supra). Thus, we have no hesitation  to  hold  that  sanction  of  the
    Central Government is required in the facts and  circumstances  of  the
    case and the court concerned  lacks  jurisdiction  to  take  cognizance
    unless sanction is granted by the Central Government.


    57.     The CJM Court gave option to the higher authorities of the Army
    to choose whether the trial be held by  the  court-martial  or  by  the
    criminal court as required under Section 125 of  the  Army  Act.    Mr.
    P.P.  Malhotra,  learned ASG, has submitted the original  file  of  the
    Army Authorities before the court, File notings reveal  their  decision
    that in case it is decided by this Court that sanction is required  and
    the Central Government accords sanction, option  would  be  availed  at
    that stage.


    58.     Military Authority may ask the criminal court dealing with  the
    case that the accused would be tried by the court-martial  in  view  of
    the provisions of Section 125 of the Army  Act.   However,  the  option
    given by the Authority is not  final  in  view  of  the  provisions  of
    Section 126 of the Army Act. Criminal court having jurisdiction to  try
    the offender may require the competent military officer to deliver  the
    offender to the Magistrate concerned to be proceeded according  to  law
    or to  postpone  the  proceedings  pending  reference  to  the  Central
    Government, if that criminal court is of the opinion  that  proceedings
    be instituted before itself in respect of that offence.  Thus, in  case
    the criminal court makes such a request, the  Military  Officer  either
    has to comply with it or to make a reference to the Central Govt. whose
    orders would  be  final  with  respect  to  the  venue  of  the  trial.
    Therefore, the discretion exercised by the Military Officer is  subject
    to the control of the Central Govt.  Such matter is being  governed  by
    the provisions of Section 475 Cr.P.C. read with the provisions of the J
    & K Criminal Courts  and  court-martial  (Adjustment  of  Jurisdiction)
    Rules, 1983.


            Rule 6 of the said Rules,  1983,  provides  that  in  case  the
    accused has been handed over to the Army authorities to be tried  by  a
    court-martial, the proceedings  of  the  criminal  court  shall  remain
    stayed.  Rule 7 thereof, further provides that when an accused has been
    delivered by the criminal court to the Army authorities, the  authority
    concerned shall inform the criminal court whether the accused has  been
    tried by a court-martial or other effectual proceedings have been taken
    or ordered to be taken against him. If  the Magistrate is informed that
    the accused has not been tried or other effectual proceedings have  not
    been taken, the Magistrate shall report the circumstances to the  State
    Government which may, in consultation with the Central Government, take
    appropriate steps to ensure that the accused person is  dealt  with  in
    accordance with law.


    59.     Constitution Bench of this Court in Som Datt Datta v. Union  of
    India & Ors., AIR 1969 SC 414, held  that  option  as  to  whether  the
    accused be  tried  by  a  criminal  court  or  court-martial  could  be
    exercised  after  the  police  has  completed  the  investigation   and
    submitted the chargesheet.  Therefore, for making such an  option,  the
    Army Authorities do not have to wait  till  the  criminal  court  takes
    cognizance of the offence or frames the charges,  which  commences  the
    trial.


    60.     In Delhi Special Police Establishment, New Delhi  v.  Lt.  Col.
    S.K. Loraiya, AIR 1972 SC 2548, a similar view has been  reiterated  by
    this Court observing that relevant Rules  require  that  an  option  be
    given as to whether the accused be  tried  by  a  court-martial  or  by
    ordinary criminal court. The Magistrate  has  to  give  notice  to  the
    Commanding Officer  and is not to  make  any  order  of  conviction  or
    acquittal or frame charges or commit the accused until the expiry of  7
    days from the service of notice.


    61.     In Balbir Singh & Anr. v. State of Punjab,  (1995)  1  SCC  90,
    this Court dealt with the  provisions  of  the  Air  Force  Act,  1950;
    provisions of Cr.P.C. and criminal court and court-martial  (Adjustment
    of Jurisdiction) Rules, 1952 and reiterated the same view relying  upon
    its earlier judgment in Ram Sarup v. Union of India & Anr., AIR 1965 SC
    247,  wherein  it  has  been  held  that  there  could  be  variety  of
    circumstances which may influence the justification as to  whether  the
    offender be  tried  by  a  court-martial  or  by  criminal  court,  and
    therefore, it becomes inevitable that the discretion  to  make  such  a
    choice be left to the Military Officers.  Military  Officer  is  to  be
    guided by considerations of the exigencies of the service,  maintenance
    of discipline in the Army, speedier trial, the nature  of  the  offence
    and the persons against whom the offence is committed.


    62.     Thus, the law on the issue is clear that under Section  125  of
    the Army Act, the stage of making option to try an accused by a  court-
    martial  and  not  by  the  criminal  court  is  after  filing  of  the
    chargesheet and  before taking cognizance or framing of the charges.


    63.     A question has further been raised by learned counsel  for  the
    appellant that the Act 1990 is a special Act  and  Section  7  thereof,
    provides full protection to the persons who are subject to the Army Act
    from any kind of suit, prosecution and  legal  proceedings  unless  the
    sanction of the Central Government is obtained . Thus, in such a  fact-
    situation, even if the Commanding Officer exercises his discretion  and
    opts that  the  accused  would  be  tried  by  the  court-martial,  the
    proceedings  of  court-martial  cannot  be  taken  unless  the  Central
    Government accords sanction.


    64.     Learned counsel for the CBI and interveners  have  opposed  the
    submission contending that in case the accused are tried in the  court-
    martial, sanction is not required at all.   The provisions of  the  Act
    1990 would apply in consonance with the provisions  of  the  Army  Act.
    Section 7 of  the  Act  1990  does  not  contain  non-obstante  clause.
    Therefore, once the option is made that accused is to  be  tried  by  a
    court-martial, further proceedings would  be  in  accordance  with  the
    provisions of Section 70 of the Army Act and for that purpose, sanction
    of the Central Government is not required.  The court-martial has  been
    defined under Section 3(VII)  of  the  Army  Act  which  is  definitely
    different from the suit and prosecution as explained  hereinabove,  and
    has not been referred to in the Act 1990.


    65.     Undoubtedly, the court-martial proceedings are akin to criminal
    prosecution and this fact has been dealt with elaborately by this Court
    in Union of India &  Ors.  v.  Major  A.  Hussain,  AIR  1998  SC  577.
    However, once the matter stands transferred to the Army for  conducting
    a court-martial, the court-martial has to be as per the  provisions  of
    the Army Act. The Army Act does not provide for sanction of the Central
    Government.   Thus, we do not find any force in the  contention  raised
    by the appellant and the same is rejected.


    66.     Sum up:


          i) The conjoint reading of the relevant statutory  provisions  and
             rules make it clear that the term  “institution”  contained  in
             Section 7 of the  Act  1990  means  taking  cognizance  of  the
             offence and not mere presentation of  the  chargesheet  by  the
             investigating agency.
         ii) The competent Army Authority has to exercise his discretion  to
             opt as to whether the trial would  be  by  a  court-martial  or
             criminal court after filing of the chargesheet  and  not  after
             the cognizance of the offence is taken by the court.
        iii) Facts of this case require sanction of the  Central  Government
             to proceed with the criminal prosecution/trial.
         iv) In case option is made to try the accused by  a  court-martial,
             sanction of the Central Government is not required.


    67.     In view of the above, the appeals stand disposed  of  with  the
    following directions:
        I. The competent authority in the Army shall take a decision within
           a period of eight weeks from today as to whether the trial would
           be by the criminal court or by a court-martial  and  communicate
           the same to the Chief Judicial Magistrate  concerned immediately
           thereafter.
       II. In case the option is made to try the case by  a  court-martial,
           the said proceedings would commence  immediately  and  would  be
           concluded strictly in accordance with law expeditiously.
      III. In case the option is made that the accused would  be  tried  by
           the criminal court, the CBI shall make  an  application  to  the
           Central Government for grant of sanction within four weeks  from
           the receipt of such option and in case such  an  application  is
           filed, the Central Government shall take a final decision on the
           said application within a period of three months from  the  date
           of receipt of such an application.
       IV. In case sanction is  granted  by  the  Central  Government,  the
           criminal court shall proceed with the  trial  and  conclude  the
           same                                              expeditiously.


                                        ………..…………..……..J.
                                        (Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)




                                        …….…………………..…J.
                                        (SWATANTER KUMAR)
    New Delhi,
    May 1, 2012
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