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Sanction mandatory to investigate public servants,says SC

It maintained that once it was noticed that there was no previous sanction,a magistrate cannot order investigation against a public servant.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
October 2, 2013 12:17:40 am

Approving an additional layer of protection for government officials,the Supreme Court Tuesday held they cannot be investigated under corruption charges without a prior sanction from the executive authority even on orders passed by a magistrate.

A Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and A K Sikri said a court cannot proceed against a public servant without a sanction in cases where charges pertain to the Prevention of Corruption Act.

“If the law requires sanction and the court proceeds against a public servant without sanction,the public servant has a right to raise the issue of jurisdiction as the entire action may be rendered void ab initio,” the court noted,referring to a previous verdict.

It maintained that once it was noticed that there was no previous sanction,a magistrate cannot order investigation against a public servant while invoking powers under Section 156(3) CrPC. Section 156 (3) empowers a magistrate to order registration of an FIR,on a complaint by a person.

The court rejected an argument that the requirement of sanction under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act was only procedural in nature and not mandatory.

“We find it difficult to accept that contention. Sub-section (3) of Section 19 has an object to achieve,which applies in circumstances where a special judge has already rendered a finding,sentence or order. In such an event,it shall not be reversed or altered by a court in appeal,confirmation or revision on the ground of absence of sanction. That does not mean that the requirement to obtain sanction is not a mandatory requirement,” said the Bench .

The court held that the requirement of sanction was a pre-condition for ordering investigation even at a pre-cognizance stage when the magistrate had not taken cognizance of the alleged offences against a public servant but had only ordered for a probe.

The Bench held it while dismissing an appeal,which asserted that the requirement of sanction was only procedural in nature and that it could be obtained even at a subsequent stage of the proceedings. The appellant had filed a complaint in a trial court in Karnataka,seeking a probe into the alleged illegalities committed by public servants in restoring a piece of valuable land in favour of a private person.

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