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Allahabad HC quashes order against Pratapgarh cops in case filed against them by advocates

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The Allahabad High Court has quashed the order passed by the Sessions Judge, Pratapgarh and observed that even if the police officials exceed, to some extent, their authority in the discharge of their official/public duty, then also sanction would be required under Section 197 CrPC for their prosecution.

A single-judge bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh passed this order while hearing an application under Section 482 CrPC filed by Ajeet Shukla and ors.

By way of the application under Section 482 CrPC, the applicants have prayed for quashing of the order dated 19.08.2017 passed by Sessions Judge, Pratapgarh.

By means of the order, the Sessions Judge has dismissed the revision filed by the applicants against the order dated 12.01.2015 passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pratapgarh in Case whereby the applicants were summoned to face trial under Sections 323, 325, 379, 427, 452 and 506 IPC.

Further prayer has been made for quashing of the entire proceedings of Case, pending in the Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pratapgarh.

On the date of incident i.e 21.05.2014 all the applicants were posted in the District Police Pratapgarh. The applicant, Ajeet Shukla, was posted as Sub-Inspector at Police Station Kotwali Nagar, District Pratapgarh, applicant no 2 was posted as Chowki In-charge at Police Station Kotwali City, applicant no 3 was posted as Additional Superintendent of Police, District Pratapgarh, while applicant no 4 was posted as Circle Officer, City, District Pratapgarh.

District Court, Pratapgarh comes within the jurisdiction of Police Station Kotwali Nagar, District Pratapgarh.

On 21.05.2014, the police received information through Dial100 of the Police Service that a conflict between advocates of the District Court, Pratapgarh and Pradeshik Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel, deployed in the premises of Civil Courts, Pratapgarh, was taking place. Information was also given that a PAC personnel had fired upon one lawyer, who had sustained firearm injuries.

The Court noted,

Soon after receiving the information, to maintain peace and to prevent any further untoward incident, the applicants and many other police personnel rushed towards the Civil Courts compound Pratapgarh to control the situation and maintain peace. The advocates, present in the Court compound, were highly agitated and, it appears that in the skirmishes, between the police personnel and the advocates, the applicants suffered injuries. The police also used mild force to control the situation and it took almost an entire day for the District Administration to control the situation and bring normalcy in the District Courts compound and city of Pratapgarh.

The respondents filed two complaints before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pratapgarh on 24.05.2014 against the applicants and 8-10 other police personnel, alleging therein that on 21.05.2014 the police personnel, named in the complaints, assaulted and abused the advocates. The advocates suffered injuries. The police personnel also damaged property of the advocates and snatched their mobile phones etc.

After recording statements of the complainants under Section 200 CrPC and witnesses under Section 202 CrPC, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pratapgarh order dated 15.07.2014 directed merging of both the complaints.

After merging of the two complaints, the statement of Ramchandra Yadav was recorded under Section 202 CrPC on 04.08.2015 and statement of Anil Yadav was recorded under Section 202 CrPC on 30.08.2014.

The Magistrate thereafter passed order, summoning the applicants vide order dated 12.01.2015 under Sections 323, 325, 379, 427, 452, 504 and 506 IPC.

The Court further noted,

On behalf of the applicants, it has been submitted that the applicants were discharging official/public duty when the alleged incident took place for which two complaints came to be filed and the applicants had been summoned as accused; mandatory provision of sanction by the competent authority under Section 197 Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 could not have been ignored by the Chief Judicial Magistrate before taking cognizance and summoning the applicants as accused; the information received on Dial-100 through Anvar Khan, Advocate was recorded in the G.D dated 21.05.2014. In the G.D dated 22.05.2014 the extract of the incident was also recorded. The police personnel, after receiving information, which got recorded in the G.D, reached the District Court to control the situation in discharge of their official/public duty.

On behalf of the applicants, it has also been submitted that if the police personnel, including the applicants, would not have reached at the Court’s compound to control the situation, there would have been much more damage to lives and properties, which might have included public property as well; the impugned proceedings, in absence of sanction by the competent authority for prosecution of the applicants, are non-est and, are liable to be quashed as the same are without jurisdiction.

On behalf of the applicants, it has also been submitted that the Magistrate has exceeded its jurisdiction to take cognizance and summon the applicants as there was no proper sanction by the competent authority.

On behalf of the respondents, it has been submitted that assaulting the lawyers, destroying their properties and taking away their cellphones etc cannot be said to be a part of the official duty of the applicants. The offence committed by the applicants cannot be said to be a part of the official duty and, therefore, no sanction was required for prosecuting them for the offences committed by them and the same did not come within the performance of the public/official duty; the police personnel, including the applicants, reached to the Court’s compound without prior permission from the District Judge and, therefore, their action was wholly illegal and not in performance of public/official duty. Their acts/crimes are not protected by the provision of Section 197 CrPC.

It has been further submitted that the application has no merit and is liable to be dismissed.

The Court observed,

The intention behind protection under Section 197 CrPC is to protect the public servant from being unnecessarily harassed by launching a criminal proceeding against him for an offence allegedly committed while performing official/public duty. If the offence is in respect of an act done or purported to be done in discharge of official/ public duty, the public servant has protection under Section 197 CrPC. This protection under Section 197 CrPC has a salutary object to prevent harassment of public servants and protect them for mala fide and motivated criminal prosecution. However, if the competent authority finds that the act of commission/omission done by a public servant was not in performance of his public duty, he would sanction prosecution of the public servant.

It is also well settled that an application under Section 482 CrPC is maintainable to quash the proceedings for want of sanction or if the same are frivolous or in abuse of process of the Court. If there is no reasonable relationship with the official/public duty the protection under Section 197 CrPC will not be available to such a public servant. However, for the alleged offence committed by the police personnel, which may be in excess of his official/public duty, without sanction the Court is barred to take cognizance of the offence.

The judgment reported in (1987) 4 SCC 663 (Bakhshish Singh Brar Vs Gurmej Kaur and another) relied on by Amrendra Nath Tripathi, counsel for the respondents is not applicable in the facts of the case inasmuch as in the said case the police officer was accused of causing grievous injuries and death in conducting raid and search and, therefore, the Court held that where the police officer, while acting in purported discharge of official duty exceeded limits (underline supplied) of his official capacity, would be a question which can be decided after taking cognizance of offence and, therefore, held that the trial need not be stayed for want of sanction in the said case.

The Court held that, in the case, it is not in dispute that there was unrest and the atmosphere was highly changed. The applicants, along with other police personnel, went to control the situation and maintain peace and order. The police officials also suffered injuries to control the situation. To control the situation, if they had used force, and as a result thereof, some lawyers had suffered injuries, it cannot be said that the police officers were not acting in discharge of their official duty. The question that the police personnel went there without permission of the District Court has no relevance inasmuch as the duty of the police is to maintain peace, law & order. It appears that there was an emergent situation to deal with by the police and they could not have waited for the order to be passed by the District Judge to enter the Court premises. On this ground that there was no order passed by the District Judge for the police to enter the Court compound, the action taken by the police officials cannot be said to be not one towards discharge of the official/public duty. Even if the police official had exceeded to some extent their authority in discharge of their official/public duty, then also sanction would be required for their prosecution. In absence of sanction, the criminal proceedings against the applicants would be non-est and void and the same are liable to be quashed.

In view thereof, the Court allowed the application and quashed the proceedings.

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