Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday held that where investigation based on a private complaint for corruption cannot be conducted against public servants for want of "sanction to prosecute" from the government, the complaint cannot stand against private individuals also.
"…Before initiating any inquiry against the public servants under the provisions of the P.C. Act, prior approval of the Government was a sine-qua-non and the FIR could not have been registered without such approval. As the public servants cannot be prosecuted in this mater, registration of the FIR by the Anti Corruption Bureau against the private individuals…is also totally illegal and amounts to a gross abuse of process of law," the bench of Justice Sandeep Mehta has held.
Pertinently, Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 stipulates that an inquiry or investigation cannot be undertaken by any police officer under the Act "without the prior permission of the competent Government" where the alleged offence is relatable to any recommendation made or decision taken by a public servant in discharge of official functions or duties.
In the case at hand, the Petitioners were land revenue officers, accused of facilitating a fraudulent sale to Kailash Chandra Agarwal and Nand Bihari. Accordingly, a FIR had been registered against the two private individuals also and they were being investigated alongside the public servants.
All the accused had thus filed a criminal miscellaneous petition, seeking that the FIR registered against them be quashed.
Their consul had argued that since the investigating officer is proceeding to investigate the matter against the public servants for the offences under the PC Act and the private individuals without the prior approval of the Government, the impugned FIR deserved to be quashed.
Concurring with the submission, the bench took note of the view taken by the Apex Court in Anil Kumar Singh & Ors. v. MK Aiyappa & Anr., AIR 2014, SC (Supp) 1801, whereby a division bench examined an identical controversy and laid down that no direction can be given by a Magistrate to the police under Section 156(3) CrPC to investigate the complaint of corruption against a public servant in absence of a sanction to prosecute.
In this backdrop the high court directed,
"…As the public servants cannot be prosecuted in this mater, registration of the FIR by the Anti Corruption Bureau against the private individuals i.e. the petitioners Kailash Chandra Agarwal and Nand Bihari is also totally illegal and amounts to a gross abuse of process of law.
…the misc. petitions deserve to be and are hereby allowed. All further proceedings sought to be taken in connection with the impugned FIR No. 1/2018 registered at the Police Station CPS ACB, Jaipur, Outpost Nagaur are hereby quashed."
Case Title: Chota Ram & Anr v. State
Case No.: Crl Misc (Pet.) No. 953/2018
Quorum: Justice Sandeep Mehta
Appearance: Senior Advocate GR Punia with Advocates Anil Kumar Singh and Rajendra Prasad (for Petitioner); PP Mahipal Bishnoi and Advocate Dhirendra Singh (for Respondent)
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