SC: Govt officers don't enjoy immunity in corruption cases
The Supreme Court has said that a public servant slapped with charges of corruption, cheating and other criminal cases for illegal acts committed during the discharge of his or her duties does not enjoy any legal immunity.delhi Updated: Mar 18, 2012 23:30 IST
The Supreme Court has said that a public servant slapped with charges of corruption, cheating and other criminal cases for illegal acts committed during the discharge of his or her duties does not enjoy any legal immunity.
This is because no prior sanction is required for prosecuting such officials, the court ruled.
A bench of justices RM Lodha and HL Gokhale gave the ruling while setting aside orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and a sessions court which had quashed the prosecution and summons issued to a Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Gurgaon.
The commissioner was accused by a transporter, Omkar Dhankar, of collecting R2 lakh from him after impounding three of his vehicles and refusing to issue any receipt.
Based on Dhankar's complaint, Gurgaon's judicial magistrate had on June 2, 2001 issued him summons to face trial under Sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 161 (illegal gratification by a public servant) of the IPC. On a criminal revision appeal filed by the official, the additional sessions judge quashed the summons and a single judge of the high court upheld the order while dismissing Dhankar's appeal.
Dhankar then moved the Supreme Court. Allowing the appeal, the apex court — citing its earlier ruling — held that in such criminal cases, the official status “only provides an opportunity for commission of the offence”. The apex court also said section 197 of the CrPC, which provides certain immunity to public servants, cannot be invoked under all circumstances as it is subject to certain conditions.
"In view of the above legal position, the additional sessions judge and the high court were not right in holding that for prosecuting respondent No.2 (official) for the offences for which the summoning order has been issued, the sanction of the competent authority under Section 197 CrPC is required," the court said.
"The view of the additional sessions judge and the high court is bad in law being contrary to the law laid down by this court in Prakash Singh Badal case (supra)," the apex court added.
Citing the apex court ruling in the 2007 Prakash Singh Badal case, the bench said, "The offence of cheating under Section 420 or for that matter offences relateable to Sections 467, 468, 471 and 120-B can by no stretch of imagination by their very nature be regarded as having been committed by any public servant while acting or purporting to act in discharge of official duty."
While Section 420 relates to cheating, sections 467, 468, 471 pertain to forgery and 120-B applies in cases of criminal conspiracy.