Prior permission from competent authority is necessary to prosecute a government employee: Supreme Court

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New DelhiThe Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the Rajasthan High Court granting protection to a government clerk in a land-related matter. The apex court on Friday said that prior permission of the competent authority is necessary to prosecute a government servant for an alleged criminal act. A bench of Justices SK Kaul and Hemant Gupta observed that Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) seeks to protect an officer from unnecessary harassment who is accused of an offense in the performance of his official duties. The top court said that Section 197 of the CrPC prohibits the court from taking cognizance of such offence, except in cases involving prior permission of the competent authority. The bench observed that prior permission of the Competent Authority under section 197 is necessary for prosecution for an alleged criminal act committed in the discharge of an official obligation and “no court shall take cognizance of such offence, except in a case with prior leave”. The court said that the government servants have been kept in a special category to protect them from prosecution for malicious or harassment. It also said that but this system cannot save corrupt officials. The Bench said that the alleged involvement of the officers in fraud, tampering of records or embezzlement cannot be termed as an ‘offence committed in the discharge of official obligation’. The top court said that prima facie the norms have to be followed to see whether the ‘offence committed’ has any proper relation to the ‘offence committed while performing the obligation’. It said that therefore the real question is whether the offense concerned has any direct relation with official liability. Referring to the case, the court said that in the land related case, the senior officers associated with the file got protection, but the clerk did not get protection from the lower court, which is the respondent-2, who did the paperwork. The top court was hearing an appeal by Rajasthan resident Indra Devi who alleged that the accused persons had committed the crime of forgery by making a Scheduled Caste woman, her husband suffering from cancer and other family members homeless.

[Attribution to NBT]

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