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'Can't Order DVAC Inquiry In Absence Of FIR': Madras HC Disposes Plea For Investigation Into Alleged Stationery Supply Scam By Madurai Prison

Sebin James
9 March 2022 5:14 AM GMT
Cant Order DVAC Inquiry In Absence Of FIR: Madras HC Disposes Plea For Investigation Into Alleged Stationery Supply Scam By Madurai Prison
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In a plea seeking direction upon the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption to investigate the alleged scam in the supply of stationery articles by the officials of Madurai Central Prison, the Madras High Court has asked the petitioner to seek registration of FIR or to file a private complaint invoking Section 190 of the Criminal Procedure Code.The first bench of Chief Justice...

In a plea seeking direction upon the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption to investigate the alleged scam in the supply of stationery articles by the officials of Madurai Central Prison, the Madras High Court has asked the petitioner to seek registration of FIR or to file a private complaint invoking Section 190 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The first bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy observed,

"The prayer has been made to direct the fourth respondent to cause investigation pursuant to the complaint made by the petitioner without realizing that the investigation into the matter can be conducted by the Police or Anti Corruption Department only after registration of the First Information Report."

The Court was hearing a petition filed by the Director of Prisoners Rights Forum, P. Pugalenthi.

The petitioner had alleged that there were wide discrepancies in the supply of stationery articles by the Central Prison, Madurai to various Government Departments, including the Judicial Department, during 2016-2021. The petitioner obtained the relevant information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. Therefore, the petitioner sought the court's interference for ensuring action on his representation to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC).

The petitioner submitted that he has collected extensive details about the scam. However, his representations to the DVAC and District and Sessions Courts, Madurai and Ramanathapuram did not yield any results. As a result, the current writ petition was filed in the public interest before the High Court seeking a writ of mandamus.

The court observed that an FIR was not registered based on the petitioner's complaint. This is also not a case where a private complaint under Section 190 of Cr. P.C was filed by the petitioner. Citing the same, the court answered in the negative as to whether it can possibly give a direction to DVAC for initiating an investigation in the absence of registration of an FIR.

For causing investigation in the said complaint, it must be according to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, the first bench asserted.

The court was making a reference to the petitioner's submission that when a complaint is given alleging corruption or exposing the officers with regard to a scam, the respondents are under an obligation to cause investigation into the matter under Article 14 of the Constitution. The petitioner had relied on Vineet Narain v. Union of India [1998 (1) SCC 226] to assert that the holders of public offices hold them in trust for the people and any deviation amounting to a breach of such trust should be promptly investigated.

He had also submitted that it is the duty of the Judiciary to issue a direction to the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Department to cause an investigation.

The court noted that it doesn't flow from Article 14 to cause an investigation as and when a complaint is given by an individual.

"...It is more so when the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 have been amended and Section 17A [provides that there cannot be any inquiry, inquiry, investigation without prior approval of the appropriate authority]  has been inserted in the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Act, 2018 for the approval of the competent officer", the court noted.

Therefore, while disposing of the petition, the court granted the petitioner liberty to seek registration of FIR or make a private complaint regarding the scam in stationery supply.

"However, the aforesaid direction will not preclude the respondents, if a case is made out, to register a first information report pursuant to the complaint made by the petitioner and proceed further as per the provisions of law", the court further clarified.

Case Title: P. Pugalenthi, Director, Prisoners Rights Forum v. The State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.

Case No: W.P.No.5093 of 2022

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 91

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