The Supreme Court has held that a district collector is not a judge and as such cannot seek immunity from prosecution in criminal cases.
A bench of Justices R V Raveendran and J M Panchal ruled that the immunity granted to judges under Section 77 IPC would not be available to district collectors or the land acquisition officers who acquire private lands and award compensation.
“The Collector is neither a Judge as defined under Section 19 nor does he act judicially,when discharging any of the functions under the (Land Acquisition) Act. Therefore he is not entitled to protection under Section 77 IPC,” the apex court observed.
The apex court passed the ruling while setting aside a Rajasthan High Court order wherein the latter had quashed the FIR registered against the Jaipur district collector in a land acquisition case.
The FIR alleges that the Collector while acquiring certain private lands had grabbed lands belonging to the Rajasthan Housing Board in collusion with some having vested interest.
The local police had registered a case of cheating and fraud against the district collector but the High Court quashed the FIR on the ground that the official had acted in his official capacity as a “judge” and as such was entitled to the immunity granted under Section 77 IPC.