The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has observed that there is no need to obtain the previous sanction to prosecute bank officials in connection with offences under IPC/RPC.
The Bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar also observed that the appointing and removing the authority of the officials of the petitioner Bank is not the Government but it is the competent authority of the State Bank of India that is empowered to do so and therefore, Section 197 of the CrPC [Prosecution of Judges and public servants] are not attracted to the case of bank officials.
The case in brief
Essentially, a complaint was filed by the respondent-complainant before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Anantnag, seeking a direction for conducting enquiry/registration of FIR against the officials of the State Bank of India, Branch office Anantnag.
It was alleged that the officials/unknown persons operated the complainant's bank account illegally, thereby inflating the bank account without the knowledge of the complainant, and fictitious entries/transactions were made in the account head of the complainant.
The Magistrate, after coming to the conclusion that the matter was required to be inquired into, forwarded the complainant of the respondent/complainant to the police for conducting preliminary verification.
Challenging the order and the complaint, the officials of the petitioner Bank argued that being public servants, cognizance of offences against them cannot be taken by the Court without previous sanction and that this aspect of the matter had been ignored by the Magistrate.
At the outset, the Court opined that the instant plea was premature as at the instant moment, not even process has been issued against the officials of the petitioner Bank, which meant that the Chief Judicial Magistrate had yet to make up his mind whether any offence is made out on the basis of the material before him.
Further, regarding the contention of the absence of the previous sanction, the Court opined that the officials of the petitioner Bank come within the definition of the public servant as contained in Section 21 of IPC, but, the Court added, the officials of the bank are not the public servants who cannot be removed from their office save by or with the sanction of the Government.
"...an official of the bank may qualify to be a public servant and for prosecuting such an official in connection with offences under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, a previous sanction has to be obtained but so far as prosecution of officials of the bank in connection with offences under I.P.C/RPC are concerned, no previous sanction is required," the court stressed before dismissing the plea.
Case title - STATE BANK OF INDIA ANANTNAG v. G. M. JAMSHEED DAR