No legal immunity for govt servant in criminal cases: SC

NEW DELHI, Mar 6: A public servant facing charges of corruption, cheating and other criminal cases in the discharge of his or her duties does not enjoy any legal immunity as no prior sanction is required for prosecuting such officials, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale set aside the concurrent findings of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and a sessions court which had quashed the prosecution and summons issued to a Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Gurgaon.
Citing the apex court ruling in the Prakash Singh Badal (2007) case, the bench said, “The offence of cheating under Section 420 or for that matter offences relateable to Sections 467, 468, 471 and 120-B can by no stretch of imagination by their very nature be regarded as having been committed by any public servant while acting or purporting to act in discharge of official duty.”
While Section 420 relates to cheating, sections 467, 468, 471 pertains to forgery and 120-B applies in cases of criminal conspiracy.
In the present case the official was accused by Omkar, a transporter, of collecting Rs two lakh money from him after impounding his three vehicles and refusing to issue any receipt.
Based on Dhankar’s complaint, judicial magistrate, Gurgaon, on June 2, 2001 issued him summons to face trial under Sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 161 (illegal gratification by a public servant) IPC.
On a criminal revision appeal filed by the official, the additional sessions judge quashed the summons and a single judge of the high court affirmed the order while dismissing Dhankar’s appeal.
Aggrieved, he filed the special leave petition in the apex court.
Allowing the appeal the bench citing its earlier ruling said in such criminal cases the official status “only provides an opportunity for commission of the offence”.
The apex court said section 197 CrPC which provides certain immunity for public servants cannot be invoked under all circumstances as it is subject to certain conditions.
“In view of the above legal position, the additional sessions judge and the high court were not right in holding that for prosecuting the respondent No 2 (official) for the offences for which the summoning order has been issued, the sanction of the competent authority under Section 197 CrPC is required.
“The view of the additional sessions judge and the high court is bad in law being contrary to the law laid down by this court in Prakash Singh Badal case (supra),” the apex court said. (PTI)


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