SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRIAL COURT ORDER OF FRAMING CHARGES AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS ALLEGEDLY COMMITTING OFFENCES WITHOUT AUTHORITY
A Two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal passed a Judgment dated 12.04.2023 in a recent case of Dr. S.M. Mansoori (D) THR. L.R. vs Surekha Parmar & Ors Criminal Appeal No. 1088 of 2023 arising out of S.L.P. (CRL) No.4517 of 2019 and observed that if public servants commit any offence, without authority, there would not be any immunity under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC) (Prosecution of judges and public servants) and thereby, upheld the Ld. Trial Court Order that framed charges against the Respondent-Police for allegedly committing offences under the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) without any authority against the Appellant.
1) In the present case, one, Dr. Mushtaq Mansoor was married to one, Mehjabi Anjum on 26.02.1997, but owing to certain differences between the couple, Mehjabi Anjum filed a Complaint dated 18.01.2000 at the Mahila Police Station, Jabalpur against her husband, Dr. Mushtaq Mansoor and his relatives for causing cruelty, harassment and demand of additional dowry.
2) An F.I.R in Crime No.04/2000 was registered under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 506 IPC (Punishment for criminal intimidation) read with Section 34 IPC (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 (Act) (Penalty for giving or taking dowry) and Section 4 of the Act (Penalty for demanding dowry).
3) Thereafter on 06.07.2000, the Mahila Police Station of Jabalpur proceeded to Annupur to arrest Dr. Mushtaq Mansoor and his relatives.
4) Aggrieved, Dr. S.M. Mansoori, (Appellant), father of Dr. Mushtaq Mansoor filed a Complaint against Smt. Surekha Parmar, the then Asst. Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) of the Mahila Police station, Jabalpur (Respondent) along with other police personnel of the Mahila Police Station, Jabalpur on 26.07.2000, before the Ld. Judicial Magistrate First Class at Annupur (Trial Court) under Section 200 CrPC (Examination of Complaint) by stating that on 06.07.2000 at about 5:30 am, the Respondent along with other Police Personnel entered into the Appellant’s house at Annupur without any authority and assaulted and abused him and further, dragged him out of his room by holding his hair and took out cash amount of Rs.15000/- with 4 other gold ornaments for committing offences under Sections 294 IPC (Obscene acts and songs), 323 IPC (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 342 IPC (Punishment for wrongful confinement), 382 IPC (Theft after preparation made for causing death, hurt or restraint in order to the committing of the theft), 395 IPC (Punishment for dacoity), 451 IPC (House-Trespass to commit offence punishable with imprisonment), 504 IPC (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 IPC (Punishment for criminal intimidation).
5) The Trial Court took cognizance of the offence and directed Annupur Police Station for conducting investigation and framed the charges under Sections 147 IPC (Punishment for rioting), 323 IPC, 504 IPC and 506 IPC read with Section 34 IPC.
6) Aggrieved, the Respondent filed a Petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. (Saving of inherent power of High Court) before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, seeking quashing of the Complaint filed by the Appellant against the Respondent-Police. The Respondent raised the issue of sanction under Section 197 CrPC and claimed that, a Court cannot take cognizance of an offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant while discharging his duties, without the sanction of Government. However, High Court vide Order dated 17.05.2010, dismissed Respondent’s Petition.
7) Meanwhile, the Ld. Trial Court passed an Order dated 24.09.2016 in Complaint Case No.75 of 2005 and directed for framing the charges against the Respondent.
8) Aggrieved by the Trial Court Order dated 24.09.2016, the Respondent filed a Criminal Revision no.67 of 2017 before the Ld. Court of First Additional Sessions Judge, Annupur (Revisional Court) and sought for setting aside the charges leveled against the Respondent.
9) The Ld. Revisional Court dismissed the said Revision Case vide Order dated 11.12.2017 and on the ground that the charges against the Respondent were properly framed by the Trial Court on the basis of prima facie material available on record.
10) Aggrieved by the Revisional Court Order dated 11.12.2017, the Respondent filed a Miscellaneous Criminal Case bearing Cr.C. No. 3884/2018 before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh under Section 482 CrPC and raised a plea of defense under Section 197 CrPC.
11) The High Court passed an Order dated 15.11.2018 and held that owing to lack of Government sanction under Section 197 of Cr.P.C., the Court cannot take cognizance of offences alleged to have been committed by the Respondent. Hence, the prosecution of the Respondent was liable to be quashed. The Respondent herein was, thus, discharged from the charges framed by the Ld. Trial Court.
Supreme Court Observations
Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 15.11.2018, the Appellant filed Criminal Appeal No. 1088 of 2023 arising out of S.L.P. (CRL)No. 4517 of 2019 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Apex Court passed a Judgment dated 12.04.2023 and made the following observations:
(i) That as per Section 197 CrPC, a Court cannot take cognizance, without the sanction of the Government, in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant while discharging his duties.
(ii) However, in the present case, prima facie it seemed that the Respondent along with other Police Personnel, without any authority, entered the Appellant’s house and physically abused / assaulted him and thereby, committed various offences under IPC.
(iii) Further, looking into the nature of allegations leveled by the Appellant against the Respondent in his Complaint, the Bench held that it was not possible to conclude that the offences allegedly committed by the Respondent were done while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of her official duty. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that a sanction under Section 197 of Cr.P.C. was required in the present case for the Ld. Trial Court to take cognizance of the offences alleged to have been committed by the Respondent.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court held that a sanction under Section 197 Cr.P.C. was not mandatory in the present case and thus, upheld and restored the Trial Court Order dated 24.09.2016 of framing charges against the Respondent. As a result, the Appeal was allowed and the High Court Order dated 15.11.2018 was set aside.
The Indian Lawyer