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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sanction to prosecution - sec.19 of PC Act and sec. 465 of Cr.P.C. -High court can not interfere the on errors or defects of sanction at preliminary stage - Sanction not from parent department - Sanction is a defective one - High court can not question the same on the grounds of errors and mistakes - Trial court alone decide the same after trial - Apex court held that we do not think that the High Court was justified in coming to the said findings at the stage when the same were recorded. A more appropriate stage for reaching the said conclusion would have been only after evidence in the cases had been led on the issue in question.=STATE OF BIHAR & ORS. ... APPELLANT (S) VERSUS RAJMANGAL RAM ... RESPONDENT (S)= 2014 (March. Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41364

 Sanction to prosecution - sec.19 of PC Act and sec. 465 of Cr.P.C. -High court can not interfere the on errors or defects of sanction at preliminary stage - Sanction not from parent department - Sanction is a defective one - High court can not question the same on the grounds of errors and mistakes - Trial court alone decide the same after trial - Apex court held that we do not think that the High Court was justified in  coming to the said findings at the stage when  the  same  were  recorded.   A  more appropriate stage for reaching the said  conclusion  would  have  been  only after evidence in the cases had been led on the issue in question.=

the  criminal  proceedings  instituted  against  the
respondents under different provisions of the Indian Penal Code as  well  as
the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 have been interdicted on  the  ground
that sanction for prosecution of the respondents in both the cases has  been
granted by the Law Department of the State and not by the parent  department
to which the respondents belong.=
“Whether a criminal prosecution ought to be  interfered  with  by  the
      High Courts at the instance of an accused who seeks mid-course  relief
      from  the  criminal  charges  levelled  against  him  on  grounds   of
      defects/omissions  or  errors  in  the  order  granting  sanction   to
      prosecute including errors of jurisdiction to grant such sanction?”

Section 19 of the PC Act

      “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 removable 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.


        2) Where for any reason whatsoever any doubt arises as  to  whether
           the previous sanction as required under sub-section  (1)  should
           be given by the Central Government or the  State  Government  or
           any other authority,  such  sanction  shall  be  given  by  that
           Government or authority  which  would  have  been  competent  to
           remove the public servant from his office at the time  when  the
           offence was alleged to have been committed.


        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 the 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) no court shall stay the proceedings under this Act on the ground
           of any error, omission or irregularity in the  sanction  granted
           by the authority,  unless  it  is  satisfied  that  such  error,
           omission or irregularity has resulted in a failure of justice;

        c) no court shall stay the proceedings under this Act on any  other
           ground and no court shall exercise the  powers  of  revision  in
           relation to any  interlocutory  order  passed  in  any  inquiry,
           trial, appeal or other proceedings.

        4) In determining under sub-section (3) whether the absence of,  or
           any error,  omission  or  irregularity  in,  such  sanction  has
           occasioned or resulted in a failure of justice the  court  shall
           have regard to the fact whether the objection could  and  should
           have been raised at any earlier stage in the proceedings.


      Explanation.—For the purposes of this section,—

       a) error includes competency of the authority to grant sanction;

       b) a sanction required for  prosecution  includes  reference  to  any
          requirement that the prosecution shall be at  the  instance  of  a
          specified authority or with the sanction of a specified person  or
          any requirement of a similar nature.”

Section 465 of Cr.P.C.
      “465.  Finding  or  sentence  when  reversible  by  reason  of  error,
      omission or irregularity.—(1) Subject to the  provisions  hereinbefore
      contained, no  finding,  sentence  or  order  passed  by  a  Court  of
      competent jurisdiction shall be reversed or  altered  by  a  Court  of
      appeal, confirmation or revision on account of any error, omission  or
      irregularity in the complaint, summons, warrant, proclamation,  order,
      judgment or other proceedings before or during trial or in any inquiry
      or other proceedings under this Code, or any error, or irregularity in
      any sanction for the prosecution, unless in the opinion of that Court,
      a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned thereby.

      (2)   In determining whether any error, omission  or  irregularity  in
      any proceeding under this Code, or any error, or irregularity  in  any
      sanction for the prosecution has occasioned a failure of justice,  the
      Court shall have regard to the fact whether the  objection  could  and
      should have been raised at an earlier stage in the proceedings.”
 in  State  by
Police Inspector vs. T. Venkatesh Murthy[1] wherein it has been  inter  alia
observed that,
           “14.   ……Merely  because  there  is  any  omission,   error   or
           irregularity in the matter of according sanction, that does  not
           affect the validity of the proceeding unless the  court  records
           the satisfaction that such error, omission or  irregularity  has
           resulted in failure of justice.”=
In the instant cases the  High  Court  had  interdicted  the  criminal
proceedings on the ground that the Law  Department  was  not  the  competent
authority to accord sanction for the prosecution of the  respondents.   Even
assuming that the Law Department was not competent, it was  still  necessary
for the High Court to reach the conclusion that a  failure  of  justice  has
been occasioned.  Such  a  finding  is  conspicuously  absent  rendering  it
difficult to sustain the impugned orders of the High Court.

11.   The High Court in both the cases had also come to the conclusion  that
the sanction  orders  in  question  were  passed  mechanically  and  without
consideration of the relevant facts and records.  This  was  treated  as  an
additional ground for interference with the criminal proceedings  registered
against the respondents.  Having perused the relevant  part  of  the  orders
under challenge we do not think that the High Court was justified in  coming
to the said findings at the stage when  the  same  were  recorded.   A  more
appropriate stage for reaching the said  conclusion  would  have  been  only
after evidence in the cases had been led on the issue in question.

12.   We, therefore, hold that the orders dated  23.03.2012  and  03.03.2011
passed by the High Court cannot be sustained in law.  We,  therefore,  allow
both the appeals; set aside the said orders and  direct  that  the  criminal
proceeding  against  each  of  the  respondents   in   the   appeals   under
consideration shall now commence and shall be concluded as expeditiously  as
possible.

   2014 (March. Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41364
P SATHASIVAM, RANJAN GOGOI
                             REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                       CRIMINAL APPEAL  NO.708 OF 2014
       (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 8013 OF 2012)

STATE OF BIHAR & ORS.                    ...    APPELLANT (S)

                                   VERSUS

RAJMANGAL RAM                            ...  RESPONDENT (S)

                                    WITH

                    CRIMINAL APPEAL  NOS.709-710 OF 2014
     (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) Nos.159-160 OF 2013)


                               J U D G M E N T

RANJAN GOGOI, J.

1.    Leave, as prayed for, is granted in both the matters.

2.    The two appeals are by the State  of  Bihar  against  separate  orders
(dated 23.03.2012 and 03.03.2011) passed by the High  Court  of  Patna,  the
effect of which is that the  criminal  proceedings  instituted  against  the
respondents under different provisions of the Indian Penal Code as  well  as
the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 have been interdicted on  the  ground
that sanction for prosecution of the respondents in both the cases has  been
granted by the Law Department of the State and not by the parent  department
to which the respondents belong.

3.    A short and  interesting  question,  which  is  also  of  considerable
public importance, has arisen in the appeals  under  consideration.   Before
proceeding further it will be necessary to take note of  the  fact  that  in
the appeal arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 8013 of 2012 the challenge  of  the
respondent- writ petitioner before the High Court to the maintainability  of
the criminal proceeding registered  against  him  is  subtly  crafted.   The
criminal proceeding, as such, was not challenged in the  writ  petition  and
it is only the order granting sanction to prosecute that had  been  impugned
and interfered with by the High Court.  The resultant effect, of course,  is
that the criminal proceeding stood interdicted.  In  the  second  case  (SLP
(Crl.) Nos.159-160/2013)  the  maintainability  of  the  criminal  case  was
specifically under challenge before the High Court on the  ground  that  the
order granting sanction  is  invalid  in  law.   Notwithstanding  the  above
differences in approach discernible in  the  proceedings  instituted  before
the High Court, the scrutiny in the present appeals will  have  to  be  from
the same standpoint, namely, the  circumference  of  the  court’s  power  to
interdict a criminal proceeding midcourse on the basis of the legitimacy  or
otherwise of the order of sanction to prosecute.

4.    Though learned counsels for  both  sides  have  elaborately  taken  us
through the materials on record including  the  criminal  complaints  lodged
against the respondents; the pleadings made  in  support  of  the  challenge
before the High Court,  the  respective  sanction  orders  as  well  as  the
relevant provisions of the Rules of Executive Business, we do  not  consider
it necessary to traverse the said facts in view of  the  short  question  of
law arising which may be summed up as follows:-

      “Whether a criminal prosecution ought to be  interfered  with  by  the
      High Courts at the instance of an accused who seeks mid-course  relief
      from  the  criminal  charges  levelled  against  him  on  grounds   of
      defects/omissions  or  errors  in  the  order  granting  sanction   to
      prosecute including errors of jurisdiction to grant such sanction?”

5.    The object behind the requirement of grant of sanction to prosecute  a
public servant need not detain the court save and except to  reiterate  that
the provisions in this regard either under the Code  of  Criminal  Procedure
or the Prevention of Corruption  Act,  1988  are  designed  as  a  check  on
frivolous, mischievous and  unscrupulous  attempts  to  prosecute  a  honest
public servant for acts arising out of due discharge of  duty  and  also  to
enable him to efficiently perform the wide range of duties cast  on  him  by
virtue of his office.   The  test,  therefore,  always  is—whether  the  act
complained of has a reasonable connection with  the  discharge  of  official
duties by the government or the public servant.  If such  connection  exists
and the discharge or exercise of the governmental function is, prima  facie,
founded on the bonafide judgment of the public servant, the  requirement  of
sanction will be insisted upon so as to act as a filter to keep at  bay  any
motivated,  ill-founded  and  frivolous  prosecution  against   the   public
servant.  However, realising that the dividing line between an  act  in  the
discharge of official duty and an act  that  is  not,  may,  at  times,  get
blurred thereby enabling certain unjustified claims to  be  raised  also  on
behalf of the public  servant  so  as  to  derive  undue  advantage  of  the
requirement of sanction,  specific  provisions  have  been  incorporated  in
Section 19(3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act as well as in Section  465
of the Code of Criminal Procedure which, inter alia,   make  it  clear  that
any error, omission or irregularity  in  the  grant  of  sanction  will  not
affect any finding, sentence or order passed by a competent court unless  in
the opinion of the court a failure of justice has been occasioned.  This  is
how the balance is sought to be struck.

6.    For clarity it is considered necessary that the provisions of  Section
19 of the P.C. Act and Section 465 of the Cr.P.C. should be embodied in  the
present order:-

Section 19 of the PC Act

      “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 removable 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.


        2) Where for any reason whatsoever any doubt arises as  to  whether
           the previous sanction as required under sub-section  (1)  should
           be given by the Central Government or the  State  Government  or
           any other authority,  such  sanction  shall  be  given  by  that
           Government or authority  which  would  have  been  competent  to
           remove the public servant from his office at the time  when  the
           offence was alleged to have been committed.


        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 the 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) no court shall stay the proceedings under this Act on the ground
           of any error, omission or irregularity in the  sanction  granted
           by the authority,  unless  it  is  satisfied  that  such  error,
           omission or irregularity has resulted in a failure of justice;

        c) no court shall stay the proceedings under this Act on any  other
           ground and no court shall exercise the  powers  of  revision  in
           relation to any  interlocutory  order  passed  in  any  inquiry,
           trial, appeal or other proceedings.

        4) In determining under sub-section (3) whether the absence of,  or
           any error,  omission  or  irregularity  in,  such  sanction  has
           occasioned or resulted in a failure of justice the  court  shall
           have regard to the fact whether the objection could  and  should
           have been raised at any earlier stage in the proceedings.


      Explanation.—For the purposes of this section,—

       a) error includes competency of the authority to grant sanction;

       b) a sanction required for  prosecution  includes  reference  to  any
          requirement that the prosecution shall be at  the  instance  of  a
          specified authority or with the sanction of a specified person  or
          any requirement of a similar nature.”

Section 465 of Cr.P.C.
      “465.  Finding  or  sentence  when  reversible  by  reason  of  error,
      omission or irregularity.—(1) Subject to the  provisions  hereinbefore
      contained, no  finding,  sentence  or  order  passed  by  a  Court  of
      competent jurisdiction shall be reversed or  altered  by  a  Court  of
      appeal, confirmation or revision on account of any error, omission  or
      irregularity in the complaint, summons, warrant, proclamation,  order,
      judgment or other proceedings before or during trial or in any inquiry
      or other proceedings under this Code, or any error, or irregularity in
      any sanction for the prosecution, unless in the opinion of that Court,
      a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned thereby.

      (2)   In determining whether any error, omission  or  irregularity  in
      any proceeding under this Code, or any error, or irregularity  in  any
      sanction for the prosecution has occasioned a failure of justice,  the
      Court shall have regard to the fact whether the  objection  could  and
      should have been raised at an earlier stage in the proceedings.”

                                                          (emphasis is ours)

7.    In a situation where under both the enactments any error, omission  or
irregularity in the sanction, which would also  include  the  competence  of
the authority to grant sanction, does not vitiate  the  eventual  conclusion
in the trial including the conviction  and  sentence,  unless  of  course  a
failure of justice  has  occurred,  it  is  difficult  to  see  how  at  the
intermediary stage a criminal prosecution can be  nullified  or  interdicted
on account of any such error,  omission  or  irregularity  in  the  sanction
order without arriving at the satisfaction that a  failure  of  justice  has
also been occasioned.  This is what was decided by this Court  in  State  by
Police Inspector vs. T. Venkatesh Murthy[1] wherein it has been  inter  alia
observed that,
           “14.   ……Merely  because  there  is  any  omission,   error   or
           irregularity in the matter of according sanction, that does  not
           affect the validity of the proceeding unless the  court  records
           the satisfaction that such error, omission or  irregularity  has
           resulted in failure of justice.”

8.    The above view also found  reiteration  in  Prakash  Singh  Badal  and
Another vs. State of Punjab and Others[2]  wherein it was, inter alia,  held
that mere  omission,  error  or  irregularity  in  sanction  is  not  to  be
considered fatal unless it has resulted in failure of justice.   In  Prakash
Singh Badal (supra) it was further held that Section 19(1) of the PC Act  is
a matter of procedure and does not go to the root of jurisdiction.   On  the
same line is the decision of this Court in  R.  Venkatkrishnan  vs.  Central
Bureau of Investigation[3].  In fact,  a  three  Judge  Bench  in  State  of
Madhya  Pradesh  vs.  Virender  Kumar  Tripathi[4]  while   considering   an
identical issue, namely, the validity  of  the  grant  of  sanction  by  the
Additional Secretary of the Department of Law  and  Legislative  Affairs  of
the Government of Madhya Pradesh instead of  the  authority  in  the  parent
department, this Court held that in view of Section 19 (3) of  the  PC  Act,
interdicting a criminal proceeding mid-course on  ground  of  invalidity  of
the sanction order will not be appropriate unless the court can  also  reach
the conclusion that failure of justice  had  been  occasioned  by  any  such
error, omission or irregularity in the sanction.  It was further  held  that
failure of justice can be established not at the stage of framing of  charge
but only after the trial has commenced and evidence is led (Para 10  of  the
Report).

9.    There is a contrary view of this  Court  in  State  of  Goa  vs.  Babu
Thomas[5] holding that an error in grant of sanction goes  to  the  root  of
the prosecution.  But  the  decision  in  Babu  Thomas  (supra)  has  to  be
necessarily understood in the facts  thereof,  namely,  that  the  authority
itself had admitted the invalidity of the  initial  sanction  by  issuing  a
second  sanction  with  retrospective  effect  to  validate  the  cognizance
already taken on the basis of the initial sanction order.   Even  otherwise,
the position has been clarified by the  larger  Bench  in  State  of  Madhya
Pradesh vs. Virender Kumar Tripathi (supra).
10.   In the instant cases the  High  Court  had  interdicted  the  criminal
proceedings on the ground that the Law  Department  was  not  the  competent
authority to accord sanction for the prosecution of the  respondents.   Even
assuming that the Law Department was not competent, it was  still  necessary
for the High Court to reach the conclusion that a  failure  of  justice  has
been occasioned.  Such  a  finding  is  conspicuously  absent  rendering  it
difficult to sustain the impugned orders of the High Court.

11.   The High Court in both the cases had also come to the conclusion  that
the sanction  orders  in  question  were  passed  mechanically  and  without
consideration of the relevant facts and records.  This  was  treated  as  an
additional ground for interference with the criminal proceedings  registered
against the respondents.  Having perused the relevant  part  of  the  orders
under challenge we do not think that the High Court was justified in  coming
to the said findings at the stage when  the  same  were  recorded.   A  more
appropriate stage for reaching the said  conclusion  would  have  been  only
after evidence in the cases had been led on the issue in question.

12.   We, therefore, hold that the orders dated  23.03.2012  and  03.03.2011
passed by the High Court cannot be sustained in law.  We,  therefore,  allow
both the appeals; set aside the said orders and  direct  that  the  criminal
proceeding  against  each  of  the  respondents   in   the   appeals   under
consideration shall now commence and shall be concluded as expeditiously  as
possible.

                                       ...…………………………CJI.
                                        [P. SATHASIVAM]



                                        .........………………………J.
                                        [RANJAN GOGOI]

NEW DELHI,
MARCH 31, 2014.

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[1]    (2004) 7 SCC 763 (paras 10 and 11)
[2]    (2007) 1 SCC 1 (para 29)
[3]    (2009) 11 SCC 737
[4]    (2009) 15 SCC 533
[5]    (2005) 8 SCC 130

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12


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