Prosecution of Public Officials Under Section 197 Crpc Can Be Done Without Government’s Sanction: Supreme Court

Case title: Shadakshari Vs. State of Karnataka & Anr.

Case no.: Criminal Appeal No. 256 of 2024

Decided on: 17.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Abhay S. Oka, Hon’ble Justice Ujjal Bhuyan.


This appeal is based on the order of the High Court of Karnataka, dated 19.12.2016, which dismissed the appellant’s complaint; the chargesheet in C.C. No.116 of 2018, and the order issued by the learned Judicial Magistrate First Class, Belur, dated 28.03.2018.

As the complainant, the appellant filed a first information report on December 19, 2016, alleging that respondent No. 2 and another were forging property documents, such as a death certificate, a family tree of the appellant’s original successor to land, and so forth, irregularly and illegally in the name of a deceased person, knowing full well that they were fake documents.

Respondent No. 2 is an accountant for the village. In order to have the FIR quashed, he filed a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure with the High Court.

According to the High Court’s order, it was premature to intervene in a FIR of this nature because a reading of the FIR established a case for investigation. The High Court did not step in, but it did permit respondent No. 2 to file a lawsuit in the event that an adverse report had been issued.

Filing a final report under Section 173 of the Cr.PC, the investigating officer registered chargesheet No.12/2018 with the Court of the Additional Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate First Class. Three people are named accused on the charge sheet.

They were charged under the IPC’s Sections 471, 468, 467, 465, 420, 409, 466, and 423, as well as Section 34. The chargesheet also includes the names of thirty-one witnesses.

Respondent No.2 petitioned in the High Court again under Section 482 Cr.PC to have the complaint and charge sheet quashed.

Respondent No. 2 was a public servant, the High Court observed. The prosecution claims that he committed the crime against him while carrying out his official responsibilities. After requesting sanction, the investigating officer was unable to proceed with respondent No. 2’s prosecution. The High Court determined that in these situations, the prosecution of a criminal offence against a public servant could not proceed due to the denial of sanction. It was the High Court that dismissed the charge sheet and complaint.


Whether sanction is required to prosecute a public servant who faces accusation of creating fake documents by misusing his official position as a Village Accountant?


Judges and public officials are subject to prosecution under Section 197 Cr.PC. Subsection (1) of Section 197 states that no court shall take cognizance of an offence unless the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, has previously sanctioned it. This applies to anyone who is or was a judge, magistrate, or public servant and who is not removable from office without the approval of the government.


The appellant contends that the High Court erred in quashing the complaint, chargesheet, and cognizance order. He contends that no sanction to prosecute respondent No. 2 was required because the creation of a false document cannot be considered part of respondent No. 2’s official duties. In support of his contention, he has relied on this Court’s decision in Shambhoo Nath Misra Vs State of Uttar Pradesh, (1997), which held that it is not the official duty to fabricate records or misappropriate public funds.


The respondent contended that the High Court’s order was correct in quashing the complaint and chargesheet. Without the authority to prosecute a public servant, the latter cannot be prosecuted. This is a well-established proposition, and it has relied on a decision of this Court in D. Devaraja vs. Obais Sanders Hussain.


The court stated in the D. Devaraja case, on which the respondent relied, that this court has consistently held that Section 197 Cr.PC does not extend its protective cover to every act or omission of a public servant while in service. It only applies to acts or omissions committed by public servants in the course of their official duties.

The court held that producing such documents or fabricating records cannot be considered part of a public servant’s official duties. If that is the case, the High Court was not justified in dismissing the complaint and chargesheet in their entirety, especially since there are two other accused persons besides respondent No. 2. As a result, the court overturned the high court’s order quashing the complaint and charge sheet.


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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

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