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Lack of sanction was not to be a ground for quashing of the proceedings: SC

The State of Telangana v Sri Managipet @ Mangipet Sarveshwar Reddy Criminal Appeal No. 1663 Of 2019 (Arising Out Of Slp (Criminal) No. 4074 Of 2019)

The bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta collectively allowed the appeal against the officer accused of possession of assets disproportionate to the known sources of income.

The High Court in a petition for quashing of the charge sheet held that there was no authorization to register the crime and that the informant cannot be the investigating officer and, thus, quashed the same. The State is aggrieved against the said two findings whereas, the Accused Officer has challenged the findings of the High Court not accepting the grounds pressed by him in seeking the quashing of the charge sheet – that there is no preliminary inquiry before the registration of the crime; that there is no sanction and that there is a delay in the completion of the investigation which has prejudiced the rights of the Accused Officer. The learned counsel for the state Section 17 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 pertains to an investigation into cases under the Act. A Police officer not below the rank of Inspector, authorized by the State Government by general or special order, may also investigate any such offense. An offense under clause (e) of subsection (1) of Section 13 of the Act cannot be investigated without an order of the Police Officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police.

The High Court relied upon the judgment reported as Union Public Service Commissioner v. Girish Jayanti Lal Vaghela & Ors. To hold that the statutory rules do not permit to extend the age of superannuation without compliance of Article 16 of the Constitution of India. A person who was appointed for a short period of six months or till the availability of a regular selectee, whichever is earlier is practically appointed on a contract basis and could not be called a government servant.

The High Court had observed:

“It is neither pleaded nor is there any material to show that the appointment of Respondent 1 had been made after issuing public advertisement or the body authorized under the relevant rules governing the conditions of service of Drugs Inspectors in the Union Territory of Daman and Diu had selected him. His contractual appointment for six months was dehors the rules. The appointment was not made in a manner that could even remotely be said to be compliant with Article 16 of the Constitution.

The appointment is purely contractual, the stage of acquiring the status of a government servant had not arrived. While working as a contractual employee respondent 1 was not governed by the relevant service rules applicable to Drugs Inspector. He did not enjoy the privilege of availing casual or earned leave. He was not entitled to avail the benefit of general provident fund nor was he entitled to any pension which are normal incidents of a government service. Similarly, he could neither be placed under suspension entitling him to a suspension allowance nor could he be transferred. Some of the minor penalties which can be inflicted on a government servant while he continues to be in government service could not be imposed upon him nor was he entitled to any protection under Article 311 of the Constitution. In view of these features it is not possible to hold that Respondent 1 was a government servant.”

In Bishambhar Dayal Chandra Mohan & Ors. v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., it was held that the executive power of the State Government cannot be circumscribed if it does not go against the provisions of the Constitution or any law. The court also held that discharging the

duties of the Joint Director in Anti-Corruption Bureau under the authority conferred by the State. The authorization was issued when he was performing his duties in public interest and not for his own benefit. Therefore, such authorization is valid and binding as if it was an act of an officer de jure and also found that the High Court while deciding a petition for quashing of proceedings under Section 482 of the Code, could not have commented upon the nature of employment. The held that the person investigating was an authorized Officer, competent to investigate and file a report for the offenses under the Act including of an offense under Section 13(1)(e) of the Act also finding that the orders of the High Court to quash the proceedings against the Accused Officer are not sustainable and are consequently, set aside. Accordingly, the appeal filed by the State is allowed and the matter is remitted back to the learned trial court for further proceedings in accordance with the law. The Court concluded that the registration of an FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code if the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.

Investigation was not conducted by a police officer of the requisite rank and status required under Section 17 of the Act, such lapse would be an irregularity, however unless such irregularity results in causing prejudice, conviction will not be vitiated or be bad in law.  Therefore, the lack of sanction was rightly found not to be a ground for quashing of the proceedings.

The supreme observed that the present case, the FIR itself shows that the information collected is in respect of disproportionate assets of the Accused Officer. The purpose of a preliminary inquiry is to screen wholly frivolous and motivated complaints, in furtherance of acting fairly and objectively. Herein, relevant information was available with the informant in respect of prima facie allegations disclosing a cognizable offense and hold that the preliminary inquiry warranted is not required to be mandatorily conducted in all corruption cases.

This Court also held that if an investigation was not conducted by a police officer of the requisite rank and status required under Section 17 of the Act, such lapse would be an irregularity, however, unless such irregularity results in causing prejudice, a conviction will not be vitiated or be bad in law. Therefore, the lack of sanction was rightly found not to be a ground for quashing of the proceedings.

Pranav M Varma

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