A survey of the precedents makes it absolutely clear that there has to be reasonable connection between the omission or commission and the discharge of official duty or the act committed was under the colour of the office held by the official, the Bench observed.
No official can put forth a claim that breach of trust is connected with his official duty,the Apex court bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh has observed in Punjab State Warehousing Corp. vs. Bhushan Chander while allowing an appeal by setting aside a judgment by the High Court wherein it had held that when other offences are interlinked with an offence under Section 409 IPC sanction under Section 197 IPC for launching the prosecution for the offence under Section 409 IPC is a condition precedent. The Apex Court said that such an approach is absolutely fallacious.
The Court also referred to Apex Court decision in Md. Hadi Raja vs. State of Bihar wherein it was held that protection by way of sanction under Section 197 CrPC is not applicable to the officers of Government Companies or the public undertakings even when such public undertakings are ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution on account of deep and pervasive control of the government.
Setting aside the judgment of the High Court acquitting the accused, the Apex court has remitted the matter to the High Court to decide the revision petition in accordance with law.
The Magistrate had convicted the accused (now respondent before the Apex Court), under Sections 409/467/468 and 471 of IPC which was confirmed by the Sessions court. The High Court of Punjab and Haryana allowing the revision filed by the accused and held that sanction was a pre requisite in this case and acquitted the accused. The corporation appealed before Apex Court.
NO OFFICIAL CAN PUT FORTH A CLAIM THAT BREACH OF TRUST IS CONNECTED WITH HIS OFFICIAL DUTY
Referring to numerous case laws, the bench observed:“A survey of the precedents makes it absolutely clear that there has to be reasonable connection between the omission or commission and the discharge of official duty or the act committed was under the colour of the office held by the official. If the acts omission or commission is totally alien to the discharge of the official duty, question of invoking Section 197 CrPC does not arise. We have already reproduced few passages from the impugned order from which it is discernible that to arrive at the said conclusion the learned Single Judge has placed reliance on the authority in B. Saha’s (supra). The conclusion is based on the assumption that the allegation is that while being a public servant, the alleged criminal breach of trust was committed while he was in public service. Perhaps the learned Judge has kept in his mind some kind of concept relating to dereliction of duty. The issue was basically entrustment and missing of the entrusted items. There is no dispute that the prosecution had to prove the case. But the public servant cannot put forth a plea that he was doing the whole act as a public servant. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to appreciate the reasoning of the High Court. As is noticeable he has observed that under normal circumstances the offences under Sections 467, 468 and 471 IPC may be of such nature that obtaining of sanction under Section 197 CrPC is not necessary but when the said offences are interlinked with an offence under Section 409 IPC sanction under Section 197 for launching the prosecution for the offence under Section 409 is a condition precedent. The approach and the analysis are absolutely fallacious. We are afraid, though the High Court has referred to all the relevant decisions in the field, yet, it has erroneously applied the principle in an absolute fallacious manner. No official can put forth a claim that breach of trust is connected with his official duty.”
COUNSELS FOR CORPORATION NOT CITING RELEVANT CASE LAWS
Referring to Md. Hadi Raja case the court said “We are constrained to note that the decision in Md. Hadi Raja (supra) has been referred to in the grounds in this appeal. There is nothing on record to suggest that the said decision was cited before the High Court. It has come to our notice on many an occasion that the relevant precedents are not cited by the Corporations and the government undertakings before the High Court. We should, as advised at present, only say that a concerted effort should be made in that regard so that a stitch in time can save nine.”
Read the Judgment here.