Eight senior officers of Mumbai Police and Maharashtra Government, accused of organised crime by an Assistant Police Inspector, are now off the hook, thanks to a Supreme Court verdict.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Special Courts set up under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) cannot take cognizance of any organized crime without sanction from a police officer in the rank of Additional Director General of Police (ADGP).
The ruling came on the Maharashtra government’s appeal against the December 22, 2005, verdict of a full bench of the Bombay High Court, which held that prior sanction from the ADGP was not a pre-condition for taking cognisance of any offence under MCOCA.
The HC had directed the Special MCOCA Judge to consider the private complaint made by Mumbai Assistant Police Inspector Nitindra Singh on August 19, 2004 against 14 persons, including eight senior police and government officials and members of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Some of the accused named by Singh were members of a raiding party that allegedly caught one Himmat Nanda accepting a bribe of Rs 3 lakh on behalf of Singh. To probe Singh’s allegations, the Special Judge had set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under JCP (Crime) Meera Borvankar.
After the SC verdict, no action can be taken under MCOCA against the persons named by Singh. Further, it would be impossible to prosecute a police officer under MCOCA without sanction from ADGP, irrespective of his involvement in an organized crime.
Earlier, two division benches of the Bombay HC had taken contrary views on the issue of sanction as required under Section 23(2) of MCOCA (see box).
Allowing the Maharashtra Government’s appeal, an SC bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir ruled that both in case of a private complaint and a police report sanction from ADGP was a must.
The state government had argued that by putting in place the requirement of prior sanction by a senior police officer, the Legislature intended to check filing of mala fide private complaints misusing the provisions of MCOCA.
The SC said the provisions of MCOCA would have an overriding effect over the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and a Special Judge cannot invoke the Code for ordering an inquiry on a private complaint without taking sanction from ADGP.