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INDRA DEVI v. STATE OF RAJASTHAN

Updated: Jul 30, 2021










FACTS OF THE CASE:

  • Complainant and her husband had sold their two plots to 2 different people, Chetan Choudhary and Megharam.

  • It was alleged that Megharam colluded with one executive officer of the municipality and ‘tampered and fabricated the agreement with the intention to defraud’.

  • He intended to grab the land and house of complainant and therefore changed the Khasra number.

  • FIR was registered against the accused under Section 420, 467, 471, 120B of the IPC and Section 3(1)(4), 3(15), 3(5) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

APPLICATION MOVED BY RESPONDENT NO.2 (CONCERNED CLERK)

He moved an application before the trial court under Section 197 of the CrPC stating, that he is ‘public servant’ and his act of allotment of lease was done during the course of his official duty. Thus, he is entitled for protection under Section 197 of CrPC and said even the chargesheet was filed against him without prior sanction of the competent authority.


WHAT THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 197 CRPC SAY ?

Section 197(1)(a)and(b) read together imply - When any public servant is accused of any offence which is alleged to have been committed by him during the discharge of his official duties, then court can take cognizance of such offence only with the previous sanction of competent authority.


TRIAL COURT’S OPINION– It dismissed the application as Respondent No. 2 was not mentioned in the FIR. The court said that he should have brought the discrepancies into the knowledge of the competent officers then lease could have been avoided.

Trial court is of the opinion that he must be prosecuted for procuring a forged lease and as his act does not amount to be an act of public servant done during the discharge of his official duty, thus no protection under Section 197 CrPC be availed.


Criminal Misc. Petition before HC:

Respondent No. 2 then filed a Criminal Misc. petition under Section 482 of CrPC before the Jodhpur High Court. High Court said that previous sanction was necessary to make him liable for this offence.


SLP by complainant before SC:

Not satisfied with High Court’s decision, petition was filed before SC by complainant and the apex court dismissed the appeal and held:

  • Section 197 of the CrPC seeks to protect an officer from unnecessary harassment, who is accused of an offence committed while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duties.

  • This provision restricts the court from taking cognizance of such offence except with the previous sanction of the competent authority.

  • Public servants have been treated as a special category in order to protect them from malicious or vexatious prosecution.

  • But the shield cannot protect corrupt officers and the provisions must be construed in such a manner as to advance the cause of honesty, justice and good governance.

  • The alleged involvement of the officers in cheating, fabrication of records or misappropriation cannot be considered as discharge of their official duty.

  • Such sanction is necessary if the offence alleged against the public servant is committed by him “while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty” and in order to find out whether the alleged offence is committed “while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty”.

  • The yardstick to be followed is to form a prima facie view whether the act of omission for which the accused was charged had a reasonable connection with the discharge of his duties.

  • The real question, therefore, is whether the act committed is directly concerned with the official duty.

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