Legal Advice

Quashing of charge sheet for the want of sanction for offence under Section 354B IPC

Question: I am working as an executive officer in the nagar palika. There was some dispute regarding the payment of wages among the sweepers. They were called band and doing dharna pradarshan in the premises of nagar palika. After intervention of the district magistrate they called of their pradarshan and resumed their job. The hartal was lasting for thirty four days. There was no order from the sashan for payment of wages during the hartal period. When those sweepers were demanding salary for the hartal period, I refused. Consequently, one lady sweeper went violent and threatened me in front of the office bearers. Later on she lodged an FIR against me under section 354B IPC. Now charge sheet has been filed against me. This is an another story not necessary to disclose here. When the prosecution requested for granting sanction for prosecution, the competent authority has refused. Despite the refusal charge sheet has admitted and process has been issued against me. I want to quach this proceeding, therefore, contacted some advocates and they suggest to contest the case. Whereas i want to quash this case on the ground of want of sanction. Please help.

Advise

Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure offers protection to government servants from malicious prosecution for acts committed in the discharge of official duties. In such cases, no court can take cognizance of the offence without the prior sanction of the Central Government or the State Government, as applicable.

In the case of State of Orissa vs. Ganesh Chandra Jew (2004) 8 SCC 40, the court clarified the rationale behind the protection provided under Section 197. It emphasised that

This safeguard aims to shield responsible public servants from potentially frivolous criminal proceedings arising from actions performed while fulfilling their official duties. The legislative intent is to provide adequate protection to public servants, ensuring they are not prosecuted without reasonable cause for acts carried out in their official capacity. Moreover, if sanction is granted, it empowers the Government to exercise complete control over the prosecution.

However, this protection has limitations and applies only when the alleged act is reasonably connected to the discharge of official duty and not merely a guise for objectionable conduct. The phrase “discharge of duty” encompasses any action directly related to the official duty of the government servant. To invoke Section 197, it must be demonstrated that the accused official was charged with an offence allegedly committed while acting or purportedly acting in the discharge of official duties.

The focus is on the act itself rather than the duty, as the same act can be performed both in the fulfilment and neglect of official duty. The act must fall within the scope and purview of the official duties of the public servant concerned. The protection under Section 197 is applicable if the act is within the ambit of the official duty.

Determining the reasonable connection between the act and official duty, a reliable criterion is to ascertain whether the public servant’s failure to perform the act in question could render them liable for dereliction of duty. If the answer is yes, it suggests that the act was committed while discharging official duty. Therefore, establishing a clear connection between the act and the public servant’s official duties.

Under Section 197 CrPC, a sanction for prosecution is not required when a government servant is accused of an offense alleged under Section 354B IPC. Disrobing a woman in a public place is not considered an official duty of a government servant. Therefore, sanction for prosecution is unnecessary in such cases.

While Section 197 CrPC explicitly prohibits the requirement of sanction for prosecution in certain instances, the high court cannot simply quash the charge sheet solely because the accused is a public servant. In this scenario, there was no need to obtain sanction for prosecution from the competent authority. The refusal of sanction in your case is beyond the authority granted by law, therefore, quashing is not feasible under Section 482 crpc.

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow