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Allahabad HC says govt servants action in line of duty can’t be charged as a crime

The application under Section 482 CrPC has been filed to quash the summoning order dated March 14, 2007 for demarcation passed by Judicial Magistrate IIIrd, Farrukhabad.

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The Allahabad High Court has said in one of its decisions that the action taken by a government servant in the line of duty cannot be indicted.

A single-judge bench of Justice Chandra Kumar Rai passed this order while hearing an application under Section 482 CrPC filed by Mahendra Pal Singh Lekhpal And Another.

The application under Section 482 CrPC has been filed to quash the summons dated March 14, 2007 for demarcation passed by Judicial Magistrate IIIrd, Farrukhabad.

The facts of the case are that applicant No 1 is a Lekhpal in the Consolidation department and applicant No 2 is a Kanoongo in the Consolidation department and both are public servants. During consolidation proceedings, a joint plot was allotted to the private respondent.

The private respondent filed an application on August 28, 2006 before the Settlement Officer of Consolidation for making measurement of plot. The Settlement of Consolidation Officers by order dated August 29, 2006 directed the Consolidation Officer to make measurements in accordance with law.

In pursuance of the order of Settlement Officer of Consolidation dated August 29, 2006, necessary reports were submitted by Consolidation authorities and applicants on November 15, 2006 conducted measurement of disputed plots with the help of local police and submitted their report before the Assistant Consolidation Officer.

The report dated November 15, 2006 has been annexed to the affidavit accompanying the application, in which it is mentioned that measurement has been taken taking due care of the crop standing in the disputed plot.

The private respondent filed a complaint on November 27, 2006 before the Judicial Magistrate, Farrukhabad with the allegation that applicants have illegally made measurements of the plot, in which crops were standing and there was an order dated November 15, 2006.

The Judicial Magistrate IIIrd, Farrukhabad by order dated March 14, 2007 summoned the applicant under Section 427 IPC, without considering the facts that applicants are public servants and they were discharging their official duties.

The counsel for the applicants argued that applicants are public servants and they were discharging their duties to measure the plots, as such the private complaint against the applicants are not maintainable unless necessary sanction as provided under Section 197 of Code of Criminal Procedure is obtained.

It is further argued that applicants were not aware about the further order passed by the Settlement Officer Consolidation to stop the measurement.

It is also argued that applicants have retired during pendency of the case before this Court, so their case may be considered sympathetically.

On the other hand, AGA has submitted that the applicants should appear before the Magistrate in pursuance of summoning order dated March 14, 2007 and take whatever defence they want, therefore, no interference is required and application is liable to be dismissed.

The counsel for the private respondent although was not present, but the judge perused the counter affidavit filed by him, in which it has been stated that no ground for interference under Section 482 CrPC is made out against the summoning order dated March 14, 2007 and the application under Section 482 CrPC is liable to be dismissed, the court observed.

The Court said, “There is no dispute about the fact that applicants are public servants and further they were discharging their official duties, as such the arguments advanced by the counsel for the applicants that a private complaint against the public servant for want of sanction would vitiate criminal proceedings has got substance.

“Every offence committed by a different officer does not attract Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The protection given under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code has its limitation. The protection is available only when the alleged act done by the public servant is reasonably connected with the discharge of his official duty, an offense committed outside the scope of the duty of the public servant would certainly not require sanction. If in doing official duty a public officer commits any mistake or has been summoned in excess of duty even then the sanction of the Government as provided under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code is mandatory.

On the question of the stage at which trial court has to examine whether sanction has been obtained and if not whether the criminal proceedings should be nipped in the bud.

The Court held that an application under Section 482 CrPC is maintainable to quash the proceedings, which are ex facie bad for want of sanction. If, on the face of complaint, the act alleged appears to have a reasonable relationship with official duty power under Section 482 CrPC would have to be exercised to quash the proceedings to prevent abuse of process of Court.

“In view of the facts and circumstances stated above, I am of the view that Magistrate has illegally taken cognizance of the  offense  summoning the applicants under section 427 IPC, which is ex facie bad for want of sanction,” the court observed while allowing the application under Section 482 CrPC.

“The summoning order dated March 14, 2007 passed by the Judicial Magistrate IIIrd Farrukhabad in complaint case is set aside and complaint is also quashed for want of sanction in exercise of power under Section 482 CrPC No order as to costs,” the court ordered.

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