Prevention of Corruption; L. Narayana Swamy Vs. State of Karnataka [Supreme Court of India, 06-09-2016]

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 – Section 19 – Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 –  Section 156(3) – Whether an order directing further investigation under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. can be passed in relation to public servant in the absence of valid sanction – Held, An order directing further investigation cannot be passed in the absence of valid sanction.

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 – Section 19 – Whether the public servant not being in the same post, when the offence was allegedly committed, though continuing as a public servant, loses the protection? Held, Where the public servant had abused the office which he held in the check period but had ceased to hold “that office” or was holding a different office, then a sanction would not be necessary. Where the alleged misconduct is in some different capacity than the one which is held at the time of taking cognizance, there will be no necessity to take the sanction.


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(A.K. SIKRI) AND (N.V. RAMANA) JJ.

SEPTEMBER 06, 2016

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 721 OF 2016

L. NARAYANA SWAMY …..APPELLANT(S)

VERSUS

STATE OF KARNATAKA & ORS. …..RESPONDENT(S)

W I T H

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 722 OF 2016

J U D G M E N T

A.K. SIKRI, J.

Before adverting to the question of law that has been raised in these appeals (which is common to both the cases), we would like to traverse through the facts and the background which has led to the filing of the present appeals.

2. Respondent No.2 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘complainant’) filed a complaint on the basis of which a case has been registered against the appellants, who are accused Nos. 3 and 5, for the offences punishable under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 (for short, ‘P.C. Act’) and Sections 120(b), 427, 447 and 506 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The complaint of the complainant contained the following allegations: 3. One Smt. Amararnmal was the original owner of immovable property measuring 259.95 acres in Survey No. 597-B and an area measuring 57.30 acres in Survey No. 601-A of Bellari, having purchased the same from the Government of India under a registered sale deed dated January 19, 1940, registered in the office of the Sub-Registrar, Bellari. The complaint further states that one Smt. Akula Lakshmamma and her children had obtained money decree against one Pitarnbara Modaliyar and in the execution of the said decree the decree holder purchased the land measuring 27.25 acres through court and, thus, became owner of the said property which is situated at Survey No. 597-B. Out of this 27.25 acres of land, an area measuring 10 acres of land was later acquired by the Government for forming high level canal by Thungabhadra Project. However, the revenue authorities failed to demarcate the remaining extent of land measuring 17.25 acres which forced Smt. Akula Lakshmamma and her children to file a suit seeking mandatory injunction. In the meantime, they sold the said 17.25 acres of land to one Mr. Parameshwara Reddy, father-in-law of Mr. Gali Janardhana Reddy. On the same day, i.e. on October 24, 2002, Smt. Akula Lakshmamma and her family members also entered into an agreement for sale with accused No.6 (Mr. B. Sriramulu) for an area measuring 27.25 acres, which included 10 acres of land that had already been acquired by the Government. Thus, accused No.6 entered into agreement for sale even in respect of the acquired land. More over, accused No.6 and Mr. Gali Janardhana Reddy are close friends and, therefore, there was no reason to hold that accused No.6 was not aware of the transaction between Smt. Akula Lakshmamma and Mr. Parameshwara Reddy. Accused No.6 filed a suit for specific performance based on the said agreement to sell in which ex-parte decree dated April 08, 2003 came to be passed. On April 21, 2003, Mr. Parameshwara Reddy (with whom the first agreement to sell was entered into) sought for change of land use (though in respect of this very land accused No.6 had filed a suit for specific performance). The then Deputy Commissioner accorded his permission for change of land use vide order dated June 17, 2003. After this conversion order, Mr. Parameshwara Reddy gifted the entire land measuring 17.25 acres in faour of his daughter, Smt. Gali Laxmi Aruna, w/o. Mr. Gali Janardhana Reddy vide gift deed dated March 21, 2006. It is alleged that accused No.6 was fully aware of these facts. Notwithstanding the same, on the basis of the ex-parte decree of specific performance obtained by him, he filed execution petition and obtained the sale deed from the court in respect of the entire 27.25 acres of land. It was notwithstanding the fact that out of this 27.25 acres of land, in respect of which accused No.6 obtained the sale deed, 17.25 acres was claimed by Mr. Parameshwara Reddy as well and has been gifted to his daughter and the remaining 10 acres of land had been acquired by the Government. Not only this, accused No.6 also applied for conversion of use of this very land and the authorities passed the order of conversion in his favour as well. As on the date of the order of conversion, accused No.6 was holding the post of Cabinet Minister. It is alleged that because of this reason he could obtain the order of conversion by exerting influence on the revenue authorities. Accused Nos. 3 and 5 (appellants herein) are the Government officials working as Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Director of Land Records respectively. In respect of the Government officials, it is alleged that accused No.1, Revenue Inspector, had conducted spot inspection on January 17, 2011; accused No.3, who is the Tehsildar, had recommended case for conversion on the same day and accused No.5, who is the Assistant Commissioner, had given an endorsement to accused No.6 on the very next day to the effect that property in question is not the subject matter of acquisition. On this basis, it is alleged that all the officials aided accused No.6 by abusing their official position. We may state at this stage itself that the appellants cannot argue that there are no allegations against them in the complaint warranting taking cognizance qua them.

On the basis of the aforesaid allegations, prayer was made in the complaint to secure the presence of accused persons and the complaint be referred to the Karnataka Lokayukta Police for investigation under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, ‘Cr.P.C.’) since the case required investigatory powers to unearth several other documents relating to the case.

4. The District and Sessions Judge, Bellari passed order dated June 14, 2003 on the said complaint thereby referring the same to the Police Inspector, Karnataka Lokayukta Police, Bellary for further investigation under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. The jurisdictional police registered the aforesaid case as Crime No. 9/2013 under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the P.C. Act and Sections 120(b), 427, 447 and 506 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The appellants herein, along with four other persons, filed Criminal Petition No. 10864 of 2013 before the High Court of Karnataka seeking quashing of the said proceedings. In this petition, order dated July 08, 2013 was passed observing that during the pendency of the matter, since the Police had filed a final report, those petitioners were at liberty to challenge the final report before the trial court.

5. According to the appellants, this order was passed by the High Court on erroneous statement made by the counsel as neither the investigation was completed nor final report was filed in the court. Therefore, these appellants filed another Criminal Petition No. 101017 of 2014 seeking quashing of the entire proceedings. In the petition, the grounds taken by the appellants were that there was no allegation of any corrupt practice in the entire complaint insofar as they are concerned. It was further submitted that before directing further investigation under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. and taking cognizance of the complaint, the trial court should have satisfied itself that due sanction, as required under Section 19 of the P.C. Act read with Section 190 of the Cr.P.C., has been obtained and since no such sanction was obtained, such an order for further investigation could not have been passed by the trial court.

It may be mentioned that at the time of filing the complaint, the appellants had been transferred from the offices which they were holding by virtue of their promotion. However, they submitted that even on transfer they continued to hold the public office and, therefore, requirement of obtaining sanction was mandatory.

6. The High Court has, however, brushed aside the aforesaid contentions taken by the appellants and dismissed the petition filed by them. Though the petition before the High Court was filed jointly by the appellants, they had chosen to file separate appeals in this Court challenging the said judgment. That is how these two appears filed by them are aimed at same impugned judgment passed by the High Court.

7. With this factual background, we advert to the questions of law that arise for consideration:

(1) Whether an order directing further investigation under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. can be passed in relation to public servant in the absence of valid sanction and contrary to the judgments of this Court in