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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sanction to prosecution is a conditional precedent = whether the Special Judge/Magistrate is justified in referring a private complaint made under Section 200 Cr.P.C. for investigation by the Deputy Superintendent of Police – Karnataka Lokayukta, in exercise of powers conferred under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. without the production of a valid sanction order under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.= The High Court, after hearing the parties, took the view that the Special Judge could not have taken notice of the private complaint unless the same was accompanied by a sanction order, irrespective of whether the Court was acting at a pre-cognizance stage or the post- cognizance stage, if the complaint pertains to a public servant who is alleged to have committed offences in discharge of his official duties. The High Court, therefore, quashed the order passed by the Special Judge, as well as the complaint filed against the appellant. ;Taking cognizance of an offence= “It is necessary to mention here that taking cognizance of an offence is not the same thing as issuance of process. Cognizance is taken at the initial stage when the Magistrate applies his judicial mind to the facts mentioned in a complaint or to a police report or upon information received from any other person that an offence has been committed. The issuance of process is at a subsequent stage when after considering the material placed before it the court decides to proceed against the offenders against whom a prima facie case is made out.”; whether, in the above mentioned legal situation, the requirement of sanction is a pre-condition for ordering investigation under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C., even at a pre-cognizance stage. Section 2(c) of the PC Act deals with the definition of the expression “public servant” and provides under Clauses (viii) and (xii) as under: “(viii) any person who holds an office by virtue of which he is authorised or required to perform any public duty. (xii) any person who is an office-bearer or an employee of an educational, scientific, social, cultural or other institution, in whatever manner established, receiving or having received any financial assistance from the Central Government or any State Government, or local or other public authority.”= When a Special Judge refers a complaint for investigation under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C., obviously, he has not taken cognizance of the offence and, therefore, it is a pre-cognizance stage and cannot be equated with post-cognizance stage. = “19. Previous sanction necessary for prosecution.—(1) No court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 alleged to have been committed by a public servant, except with the previous sanction— a) in the case of a person who is employed in connection with the affairs of the Union and is not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the Central Government, of that Government; b) in the case of a person who is employed in connection with the affairs of a State and is not removeable from his office save by or with the sanction of the State Government, of that Government; c) in the case of any other person, of the authority competent to remove him from his office.”- “Section 19(3) – Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974)- a) no finding, sentence or order passed by a special judge shall be reversed or altered by a court in appeal, confirmation or revision on the ground of absence of, or any error, omission or irregularity in the sanction required under sub-section (1), unless in the opinion of that Court, a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned thereby; b) xxx xxx xxx c) xxx xxx xxx”= Once it is noticed that there was no previous sanction, as already indicated in various judgments referred to hereinabove, the Magistrate cannot order investigation against a public servant while invoking powers under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. - “Thus, in view of the above, the law on the issue of sanction can be summarized 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….. 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.”= We are of the view that the principles laid down by this Court in the above referred judgments squarely apply to the facts of the present case. We, therefore, find no error in the order passed by the High Court. The appeals lack merit and are accordingly dismissed.

          published in   http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40843
                                                      REPORTABLE






                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                   CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.  1590-1591 OF 2013
         (@ Special Leave Petition (Criminal) Nos.6652-6653 of 2013)


      Anil Kumar & Ors.                            ….. Appellants


                                   Versus


      M.K. Aiyappa & Anr.                           ….. Respondents




                               J U D G M E N T






      K.S. RADHAKRISHNAN, J.




      1.    Leave granted.


      2.    We are in this case concerned  with  the  question
whether  the
      Special Judge/Magistrate is justified in referring a private complaint
      made under  Section  200  Cr.P.C.  for  investigation  by  the  Deputy
      Superintendent of Police – Karnataka Lokayukta, in exercise of  powers
      conferred under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. without  the  production  of  a
      valid sanction order under Section 19 of the Prevention of  Corruption
      Act, 1988.


      3.    The Appellants herein filed a private  complaint  under  Section
      200 of Cr.P.C. before the Additional City Civil and Special Judge  for
      Prevention  of  Corruption  on  9.10.2012.   The  complaint   of   the
      Appellants was that the first  respondent  with  mala  fide  intention
      passed an order dated 30.6.2012 in connivance with other officers  and
      restored valuable land in favour of a private person.  On a  complaint
      being raised, the first respondent vide order dated 6.10.2012 recalled
      the earlier order.  Alleging that the offence which led to issuance of
      the order dated  30.6.2012  constituted  ingredients  contained  under
      Section 406, 409, 420, 426, 463, 465, 468, 471, 474 read with  Section
      120-B IPC and Section 149  IPC  and  Section  8,  13(1)(c),  13(1)(d),
      13(1)(e), 13(2) read with Section 12 of the Prevention  of  Corruption
      Act, a private complaint was preferred under Section 200  Cr.P.C.   On
      receipt of the  complaint,  the  Special  Judge  passed  an  order  on
      20.10.2012 which reads as follows :-
                 “On going through the complaint, documents and hearing  the
           complainant, I am of the sincere view that the  matter  requires
           to be referred for investigation by the Deputy Superintendent of
           Police, Karnataka  Lokayukta,  Bangalore  Urban,  under  Section
           156(3) of Cr.P.C.  Accordingly,  I  answer  point  No.1  in  the
           affirmative.


                 Point No.2 : In view of my finding on point No.1  and  for
           the foregoing reasons, I proceed to pass the following :


                                    ORDER


                 The complaint is  referred  to  Deputy  Superintendent  of
           Police – 3 Karnataka Lokayukta, Bangalore  Urban  under  Section
           156(3) of Cr.PC for investigation and to report.”


      4.    Aggrieved  by  the  said  order,  the  first  respondent  herein
      approached the  High  Court  of  Karnataka  by  filing  Writ  Petition
      Nos.13779-13780 of 2013.
It was contended before the High Court  that
      since the appellant is a pubic servant, a  complaint  brought  against
      him without being accompanied by a valid sanction order could not have
      been entertained by the Special Court on the allegations  of  offences
      punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act.  It  was  submitted
      that even though the power to order investigation under Section 156(3)
      can be exercised  by  a  Magistrate  or  the  Special  Judge  at  pre-
      cognizance stage, yet, the governmental sanction cannot  be  dispensed
      with.  It was also contended that the requirement of a sanction is the
      pre-requisite even to present a private  complaint  in  respect  of  a
      public servant concerning  the  alleged  offence  said  to  have  been
      committed in discharge of his public duty.


      5.    The High Court, after hearing the parties, took  the  view  that
      the Special Judge could not have taken notice of the private complaint
      unless the same was accompanied by a sanction order,  irrespective  of
      whether the Court was acting at a pre-cognizance stage  or  the  post-
      cognizance stage, if the complaint pertains to a public servant who is
      alleged to have  committed  offences  in  discharge  of  his  official
      duties.   The High Court, therefore, quashed the order passed  by  the
      Special Judge, as well as the complaint filed against  the  appellant.
      Aggrieved by the same, as already stated, the complainants  have  come
      up with these appeals.


      6.    We have heard the senior counsel on either side.   Shri  Kailash
      Vasdev, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants, submitted
      that if the interpretation of the High Court  is  accepted,  then  the
      provisions of Section 19(3) of the PC Act would  be  rendered  otiose.
      Learned senior counsel also submitted that, going  through  the  above
      mentioned provision, the requirement of sanction under  Section  19(1)
      is only procedural in nature and the same can be cured at a subsequent
      stage of the proceedings even after filing  of  the  charge-sheet  and
      hence the requirement of “previous sanction” is merely  directory  and
      not mandatory.   Reliance was placed on the judgments of this Court in
      R. S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay (1984) 2 SCR 495 and P. V.  Narasimha  Rao
      v. State (CBI/SPE) (1998) 4 SCC 626.  Learned senior  counsel  further
      submitted that the High Court also committed an error in holding  that
      the sanction was necessary even while the  Court  was  exercising  its
      jurisdiction under Section  156(3)  Cr.P.C.   Learned  senior  counsel
      submitted that the order directing investigation under Section  156(3)
      Cr.P.C.  would  not  amount  to  taking  cognizance  of  the  offence.
      Reference was made to the judgments of this  Court  in  Tula  Ram  and
      Others v. Kishore Singh (1977) 4 SCC 459  and  Srinivas  Gundluri  and
      Others v. SEPCO Electric Power  Construction  Corporation  and  Others
      (2010) 8 SCC 206.


      7.    Shri Uday U. Lalit, learned senior  counsel  appearing  for  the
      respondents, on the other hand, submitted that the question raised  in
      this case is no  more  res  integra.     Reference  was  made  to  the
      judgment of this Court in Subramanium  Swamy  v.  Manmohan  Singh  and
      another (2012) 3 SCC 64.  Learned senior counsel  submitted  that  the
      question of sanction is  of  paramount  importance  for  protecting  a
      public servant who has  acted  in  good  faith  while  performing  his
      duties.  The purpose of obtaining sanction is to see that  the  public
      servant be not unnecessarily harassed on a complaint, failing which it
      would not be possible for a public servant  to  discharge  his  duties
      without fear and favour.   Learned senior counsel also placed reliance
      on the judgment of this Court in Maksud Saiyed v. State of Gujarat and
      Others (2008)  5  SCC  668  and  submitted  that  the  requirement  of
      application of mind by the Magistrate before  exercising  jurisdiction
      under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C.  is  of  paramount  importance.   Learned
      senior counsel  submitted  that  the  requirement  of  sanction  is  a
      prerequisite even for presenting a private complaint under Section 200
      Cr.P.C. and the High Court has rightly quashed the proceedings and the
      complaint made against the respondents.


      8.    We may first examine
 whether the  Magistrate,  while  exercising
      his powers under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C., could act in a mechanical  or
      casual manner and go on with the complaint after getting  the  report.
      The scope of the above mentioned provision came up  for  consideration
      before this Court in several cases.
This Court in Maksud Saiyed  case
      (supra) examined the requirement of the application  of  mind  by  the
      Magistrate before exercising jurisdiction  under  Section  156(3)  and
      held that where a jurisdiction is exercised on a  complaint  filed  in
      terms of Section 156(3) or Section  200  Cr.P.C.,  the  Magistrate  is
      required  to  apply  his  mind,  in   such   a   case,   the   Special
      Judge/Magistrate cannot refer the matter under Section 156(3)  against
      a public servant without a valid sanction order.   
The application  of
      mind by the Magistrate should be reflected in the  order.    The  mere
      statement that he has gone through the complaint, documents and  heard
      the complainant, as such, as reflected  in  the  order,  will  not  be
      sufficient.  After going through the complaint, documents and  hearing
      the  complainant,  what  weighed  with   the   Magistrate   to   order
      investigation under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C., should be reflected in the
      order, though a detailed expression of his views is  neither  required
      nor warranted.  We have already extracted  the  order  passed  by  the
      learned Special Judge which, in our view, has stated  no  reasons  for
      ordering investigation.


      9.    We will now examine
whether the  order  directing  investigation
      under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. would amount to taking cognizance of  the
      offence,  since  a  contention  was   raised   that   the   expression
      “cognizance” appearing in Section 19(1) of the PC Act will have to  be
      construed as post-cognizance  stage,  not  pre-cognizance  stage  and,
      therefore, the requirement of sanction does not arise prior to  taking
      cognizance of the offences punishable under the provisions of  the  PC
      Act.  The expression “cognizance” which appears in Section 197 Cr.P.C.
      came up for consideration before a three-Judge Bench of this Court  in
      State of Uttar Pradesh v. Paras Nath Singh (2009) 6 SCC 372, and  this
      Court expressed the following view:
           “6.   .............And the jurisdiction of a Magistrate to  take
           cognizance of any offence is provided  by  Section  190  of  the
           Code, either on receipt of a complaint, or upon a police  report
           or upon information received from any person other than a police
           officer, or upon  his  knowledge  that  such  offence  has  been
           committed.  So  far  as  public  servants  are  concerned,   the
           cognizance of any offence, by any court, is  barred  by  Section
           197 of the Code unless sanction is obtained from the appropriate
           authority, if the offence, alleged to have been  committed,  was
           in  discharge  of  the  official  duty.  The  section  not  only
           specifies the persons to whom the protection is afforded but  it
           also specifies the conditions  and  circumstances  in  which  it
           shall be available and the effect in law if the  conditions  are
           satisfied. The mandatory character of the protection afforded to
           a public servant is brought out by  the  expression,  ‘no  court
           shall take cognizance of such offence except with  the  previous
           sanction’. 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.  According  to  Black’s  Law  Dictionary  the   word
           ‘cognizance’  means   ‘jurisdiction’   or   ‘the   exercise   of
           jurisdiction’ or ‘power to try and determine causes’. In  common
           parlance, it means taking notice  of.  A  court,  therefore,  is
           precluded from entertaining a complaint or taking notice  of  it
           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.


           xxx         xxx        xxx
           xxx         xxx        xxx”




      In State of West Bengal and Another v. Mohd. Khalid and Others  (1995)
      1 SCC 684, this Court has observed as follows:


           “It is necessary to mention here that taking  cognizance  of  an
           offence is not the same thing as issuance of process. Cognizance
           is taken at the initial stage when the  Magistrate  applies  his
           judicial mind to the facts mentioned in  a  complaint  or  to  a
           police report or upon information received from any other person
           that an offence has been committed. The issuance of  process  is
           at a subsequent stage when after considering the material placed
           before it the court decides to  proceed  against  the  offenders
           against whom a prima facie case is made out.”


      10.   The meaning of the said expression was also considered  by  this
      Court in Subramanium Swamy case (supra).  The  judgments  referred  to
      herein above clearly indicate that the word “cognizance” has  a  wider
      connotation and not merely confined to the stage of taking  cognizance
      of the  offence.    When  a  Special  Judge  refers  a  complaint  for
      investigation under Section 156(3)  Cr.P.C.,  obviously,  he  has  not
      taken cognizance of the offence and, therefore, it is a pre-cognizance
      stage and cannot  be  equated  with  post-cognizance  stage.   When  a
      Special Judge takes cognizance of the offence on a complaint presented
      under Section 200 Cr.P.C. and the next step to be taken is  to  follow
      up under Section 202 Cr.P.C.
Consequently, a Special Judge  referring
      the case for investigation under Section 156(3) is  at  pre-cognizance
      stage.


      11.   A Special Judge is deemed to be a Magistrate under Section  5(4)
      of the PC Act and, therefore, clothed with all the magisterial  powers
      provided under the Code  of  Criminal  Procedure.    
When  a  private
      complaint is filed before the Magistrate, he has two options.  He  may
      take cognizance of the offence under Section 190  Cr.P.C.  or  proceed
      further in enquiry or trial.  A Magistrate, who is otherwise competent
      to take cognizance, without taking cognizance under Section  190,  may
      direct an investigation under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C.  
The Magistrate,
      who is empowered under Section 190 to take cognizance, alone  has  the
      power to refer a private  complaint  for  police  investigation  under
      Section 156(3) Cr.P.C.


      12.   We may  now  examine
whether,  in  the  above  mentioned  legal
      situation, the requirement of sanction is a pre-condition for ordering
      investigation under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C., even at  a  pre-cognizance
      stage.
Section 2(c) of the PC Act deals with the  definition  of  the
      expression “public servant” and  provides  under  Clauses  (viii)  and
      (xii) as under:
           “(viii)     any person who holds an office by virtue of which he
           is authorised or required to perform any public duty.


           (xii) any person who is an office-bearer or an  employee  of  an
           educational, scientific, social, cultural or other  institution,
           in whatever manner established, receiving or having received any
           financial assistance from the Central Government  or  any  State
           Government, or local or other public authority.”




      The relevant provision for sanction is given in Section 19(1)  of  the
      PC Act, which reads as under:


                “19. Previous sanction  necessary  for  prosecution.—(1)  No
           court shall take  cognizance  of  an  offence  punishable  under
           Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 alleged to have been committed  by
           a public servant, except with the previous sanction—


                 a) in the case of a person who is  employed  in  connection
                    with the affairs of the Union and is not removable  from
                    his office save by or with the sanction of  the  Central
                    Government, of that Government;
                 b) in the case of a person who is  employed  in  connection
                    with the affairs of a State and is not  removeable  from
                    his office save by or with the  sanction  of  the  State
                    Government, of that Government;
                 c) in the case  of  any  other  person,  of  the  authority
                    competent to remove him from his office.”


      Section 19(3) of the PC Act also has  some  relevance;  the  operative
      portion of the same is extracted hereunder:
           “Section 19(3) – Notwithstanding anything contained in the  Code
           of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974)-


                 a) no finding, sentence or order passed by a special  judge
                    shall be reversed or  altered  by  a  court  in  appeal,
                    confirmation or revision on the ground of absence of, or
                    any error, omission  or  irregularity  in  the  sanction
                    required under sub-section (1), unless in the opinion of
                    that Court, a  failure  of  justice  has  in  fact  been
                    occasioned thereby;


                 b) xxx            xxx        xxx



                 c) xxx            xxx        xxx”


      13.   Learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants  raised  the
      contention that the requirement of  sanction  is  only  procedural  in
      nature and hence, directory or else Section 19(3)  would  be  rendered
      otiose.   We find it difficult to accept that contention.  Sub-section
      (3) of  Section  19  has  an  object  to  achieve,  which  applies  in
      circumstances where a Special Judge has already  rendered  a  finding,
      sentence or order.   In such an event, it shall  not  be  reversed  or
      altered by a court in appeal, confirmation or revision on  the  ground
      of absence of sanction.  That does not mean that  the  requirement  to
      obtain sanction is not a mandatory requirement.  Once  it  is  noticed
      that there was no previous sanction, as already indicated  in  various
      judgments  referred  to  hereinabove,  the  Magistrate  cannot   order
      investigation against a public servant  while  invoking  powers  under
      Section  156(3)  Cr.P.C.    The  above  legal  position,  as   already
      indicated, has  been  clearly  spelt  out  in  Paras  Nath  Singh  and
      Subramanium Swamy cases (supra).


      14.   Further, this Court in Criminal Appeal No. 257 of  2011  in  the
      case of General Officer, Commanding v. CBI and opined as follows:
            “Thus, in view of the above, the law on the issue  of  sanction
           can be summarized 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…..  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.”



      15.   We are of the view that the principles laid down by  this  Court
      in the above referred judgments squarely apply to  the  facts  of  the
      present case.  We, therefore, find no error in the order passed by the
      High Court.  The appeals lack merit and are accordingly dismissed.




                                              …….……………………….J.
                                              (K.S. Radhakrishnan)






                                              ……………………………J.
                                              (A.K. Sikri)
      New Delhi,
      October 01, 2013


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