Allahabad HC says action of government servants in the performance of their duties cannot be charged with crime

The Allahabad High Court said in one of its decisions that action taken by a public official in the performance of his duties cannot be charged.

A single-judge bench of Judge Chandra Kumar Rai adopted this order while hearing a 482 CrPC application filed by Mahendra Pal Singh Lekhpal and another.

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

The facts of the case are that Candidate No. 1 is a Lekhpal from the Consolidation Department and Candidate No. 2 is a Kanoongo from the Consolidation Department and both are civil servants. During the consolidation procedure, a common parcel was allocated to the private respondent.

The private respondent filed a motion on August 28, 2006 before the Settlement Officer of Consolidation to have the land measured. The Settlement of Consolidation Officers by decree dated August 29, 2006 ordered the Consolidation Officer to take measures in accordance with the law.

Pursuant to the order of the Settlement Officer of Consolidation dated August 29, 2006, the necessary reports were submitted by the consolidation authorities and the plaintiffs proceeded on November 15, 2006 to measure the plots in dispute with the help of the local police and submitted their report to the Assistant Consolidation Officer.

The minutes of 15 November 2006 were annexed to the affidavit accompanying the request, in which it is mentioned that the measurement was carried out with due consideration for the cultivation on the disputed plot.

The private defendant filed a complaint on November 27, 2006 before the Magistrate Court of Farrukhabad with the allegation that the plaintiffs unlawfully made measurements of the plot, in which there were crops and there was an order dated November 15, 2006 .

Magistrate IIIrd, Farrukhabad, by order dated 14th March 2007 summoned the petitioner under Section 427 ICC, disregarding the facts that the petitioners are civil servants and were performing their official duties.

Counsel for the petitioners argued that the petitioners are civil servants and they are carrying out their duties of measuring the plots, so the private complaint against the petitioners is not admissible unless the necessary sanction provided in article 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is obtained.

It is further argued that the plaintiffs were unaware of the new order issued by the Settlement Officer Consolidation to stop the measure.

It is also argued that the applicants have retired while the case is pending before the Court, so that their case can be viewed sympathetically.

On the other hand, AGA submitted that the petitioners should appear before the magistrate under the summons order dated March 14, 2007 and make the defense they want, therefore, no interference is required and the petition is likely to be rejected.

Counsel for the private respondent was not present, but the judge took cognizance of the counter affidavit filed by him, in which it was stated that no grounds for interference under section 482 CrPC n is established against the convening order dated March 14, 2007 and the request under article 482 CrPC is likely to be dismissed, observed the court.

The Court stated: “There is no doubt that the applicants are civil servants and furthermore they are carrying out their official duties, as such, the arguments put forward by counsel for the applicants according to which a private complaint against the civil servant for lack of sanction to vitiate criminal proceedings has substance.

“Any offense committed by a different agent does not attract Article 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The protection granted under Article 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has its limits. The protection is only available when the act allegedly committed by the official is reasonably connected with the performance of his official duties, an offense committed outside the scope of the official’s duty would certainly not require punishment. If, in the performance of his duties, a public officer makes a mistake or has been summoned beyond his duties, the government sanction provided for in article 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is mandatory.

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

The Court ruled that a request under Article 482 CrPC is admissible to annul the procedure, which is ex facie bad for lack of sanction. If, on reading the complaint, the alleged act appears to have a reasonable relationship to official duty, the power under Section 482 CrPC should be exercised to quash the proceedings in order to avoid any abuse of process by the Court.

“In view of the facts and circumstances set out above, I am of the opinion that the magistrate illegally became aware of the offense summoning the applicants under article 427 CPI, which is ex facie bad fault of sanction”, observed the court while authorizing the application under section 482 CrPC.

“The Summons Order dated March 14, 2007 passed by Magistrate IIIrd Farrukhabad in the Complaint Case is hereby set aside and the Complaint is also set aside for lack of sanction in the exercise of power under Section 482 CrPC No order as to costs,” the court ordered.

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