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Vigilance Officers Are To Be Treated As Police Officers, They Can Register And Investigate Cases Under PC Act:Kerala HC [Read Judgment]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
12 Feb 2020 12:05 PM GMT
Vigilance Officers Are To Be Treated As Police Officers, They Can Register And Investigate Cases Under PC Act:Kerala HC [Read Judgment]
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The Kerala High Court has held that the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) is a specialized police force constituted in the exercise of the State Government's legislative power and the officers who worked in the erstwhile Vigilance Department derived power and authority from the Kerala Police Act, 1960.

The bench of Justice A. Hariprasad and Justice N. Anil Kumar also observed that officers of VACB are to be treated as police officers and are entitled to register cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, carry on investigation and file a final report, to prosecute the offenders.

The bench, however, observed that Rule 4 of the Vigilance Tribunal Rules does not empower the State Government to pick and choose arbitrarily some cases involving allegations of corruption to be enquired into by the Vigilance Tribunal constituted under the Vigilance Tribunal Rules and some other cases to be prosecuted before the Court of Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge functioning under the PC Act. The State Government, on finding objectively that there is no relevant material to prosecute a public servant under the PC Act, shall specifically observe in the order passed for referring a case to the Vigilance Tribunal the reasons for not taking recourse to a prosecution under the PC Act against him, it added.

The court was considering writ petitions filed by K.Karunanidhi and K.T.Mohanan, in which the following legal issues were raised:

  1. Whether the Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau (in short, "VACB") is a police force constituted under the State Government's legislative power conferred by List II of the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India and do they have any lawful authority to register first information reports (FIR), investigate crimes, submit charge sheets and prosecute the alleged offenders?
  2. Whether the executive functionaries of the State Government have power to create a Vigilance Department without any statutory support?
  3. Does the exercise of such powers infringe the fundamental rights of citizens, enshrined in Part III of the Constitution of India, especially the one under Article 21?
  4. Whether Rule 4 of the Kerala Civil Services (Vigilance Tribunal) Rules, 1960 is ultra vires of the Constitution?

Answering the first three issues together, the bench held thus:

"We hold that the Police Act, 1960, which itself was enacted in accordance with the authority under List II in the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India, confers power on the State Government to issue Ext.P4. Contentions raised by the petitioners, that the registration of crimes, conduct of investigations, arrest of accused persons, filing of final reports and prosecution of cases in accordance with Ext.P4 are illegal, cannot be sustained. Ext.P4 executive order was issued to form a specialized force within the Kerala Police force. The police officers who worked in the erstwhile Vigilance Department derived power and authority from the Police Act, 1960. Likewise, the same statute empower to investigate those who at present work in VACB."

Answering the fourth issue, the court read down the Rule and observed as follows:

"we read down Rule 4(1) of the Vigilance Tribunal Rules in the following manner: The expression "Government may refer to the Tribunal any case or class of cases which they consider should be dealt with by the Tribunal" occuring in Rule 4 shall only mean and always meant to be "any case or class of cases where no evidence could be collected for prosecuting a public servant on allegations of corruption despite a thorough investigation". The Rule does not empower the State Government to refer any case to the Vigilance Tribunal in violation of the statutory provisions in the PC Act. If the Government feel, despite the non-availability of any relevant material to prosecute a public servant, that there are serious misconducts on his part warranting a departmental action, the Government can refer such cases to the Vigilance Tribunal" 


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