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Receiving the certificate from the technical member of the committee would not disqualify the accused, who were not subject-matter experts, from the protection provided by Section 197(1), which was otherwise available to them: Kerala High Court

Receiving the certificate from the technical member of the committee would not disqualify the accused, who were not subject-matter experts, from the protection provided by Section 197(1), which was otherwise available to them is upheld by the Kerala High Court in the case of CBI v. Syed Shaikoya (Crl. Rev.Pet No. 509 of 2012) through Justice Narayana Pisharadi.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The current revision petition was submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in an effort to challenge the Lakshadweep Special Judge for CBI Cases’ decision to grant the applications for discharge made by Aaccused under Section 239 of the CrPC. The accused were charged of breaking the law under Sections 468, 471, 420, and 120B of the Penal Code as well as Sections 7, 12, and 13(1)(d) read with 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The prosecution’s evidence was that for the academic year 2005–2006, the Union Territory of Lakshadweep’s Directorate of Education had instructed to provide schoolchildren with free ready-made uniforms. In this regard, a committee called the Uniform Tender Evaluation, Sample Selection and Procurement Committee was created. In accordance with a plot concocted by the committee members and one Nagendran, the approver, inferior uniforms were bought by breaking the terms of the tender and recording fabricated and misleading information.

As a result, a criminal complaint was filed against the accused who were members of the committee on the grounds that they had benefited from unlawful gain and caused the Lakshadweep Administration to suffer unlawful loss. However, the Special Court had ruled that because the accused were public employees, prior sanction under Section 197 of the CrPC was required to prosecute them. As a result, the prosecution of accused was deemed invalid for lack of sanction, and the accused were freed.

JUDGMENT

According to Section 197(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, no Court shall take cognizance of such offence except with the prior sanction of the Central Government or the State Government when any person who is or was a Judge or Magistrate or a public servant not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the Government is accused of any offence alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty.

Confirming the Special Court’s conclusion that neither of the accused had any knowledge of quality control or the standards of the clothing that were given, they could only be held accountable for their failure to insist on attending committee meetings. The Court stated that the essence of the allegation against accused was that they blindly accepted the certificate issued by accused without conducting inspection of the uniform materials as a result, sub-standard materials happened to be purchased. In all likelihood, they may have relied on the certificates issued by the technical member in the committee, so they could only be blamed for non-feasance, at the most.

Therefore, receiving the certificate from the technical member of the committee would not disqualify the accused, who were not subject-matter experts, from the protection provided by Section 197(1), which was otherwise available to them.

In light of the foregoing, the Court decided that it was improper in legal terms to take cognizance of the offences committed against them without obtaining approval under Section 197. The petition was consequently denied.

Accordingly, because the CBI failed to have the government’s prior approval before bringing charges against public employees, the Court dismissed the revision plea.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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