In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court in Devinder Singh & Ors vs. State of Punjab through CBI, has summarized the principles governing requirement of sanction to prosecute Government servants and held that the offence committed by the Government servants must be directly and reasonably connected with official duty to require sanction. The Court also observed that Protection of sanction, which is an assurance to an honest and sincere officer to perform his duty honestly and to the best of his ability to further public duty, cannot be camouflaged by them to commit crime.
Justices V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Misra made the following observations in an appeal by some police officers accused of fake encounter in Punjab. The question before the Apex Court was whether in view of the provisions contained in section 6 of Punjab Disturbed Areas Act, 1983 the prosecution or other legal proceedings relating to Police officers can be instituted without prior sanction of the Central Government?
Referring to various decisions cited by the counsels on either side, the Court summarised the principles governing requirement of sanction to prosecute Government servant.
Disposing of the appeals filed by police officers, the Court observed that version of the prosecution is found to be correct there is no requirement of any sanction, but it would be open to the accused persons to adduce the evidence in defence and to submit such other materials on record indicating that the incident has taken place in discharge of their official duties and the orders passed earlier would not come in the way of the trial court to decide the question afresh in the light of the aforesaid principles from stage to stage or even at the time of conclusion of the trial at the time of judgment. The bench added “As at this stage it cannot be said which version is correct. The trial court has prima facie to proceed on the basis of prosecution version and can re-decide the question afresh in case from the evidence adduced by the prosecution or by the accused or in any other manner it comes to the notice of the court that there was a reasonable nexus of the incident with discharge of official duty, the court shall re-examine the question of sanction and take decision in accordance with law. The trial to proceed on the aforesaid basis.”
Read the Judgment here.