19 June 2020

Sanction u/s.197 of CrPC, to prosecute a police officer, for act related to the discharge of official duty, is imperative

Law relating to saction for prosecuting police officers and its limitations


Held:
Sanction u/s.197 of CrPC, to prosecute a police officer, for act related to the discharge of official duty, is imperative;
But an offence committed entirely outside the scope of the duty of the police officer, would certainly not require sanction u/s.197 of CrPC.

68. Sanction of the Government, to prosecute a police officer, for any act related to the discharge of an official duty, is imperative to protect the police officer from facing harassive, retaliatory, revengeful and frivolous proceedings. The requirement of sanction from the government, to prosecute would give an upright police officer the confidence to discharge his official duties efficiently, without fear of vindictive retaliation by initiation of criminal action, from which he would be protected under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, read with Section 170 of the Karnataka Police Act. At the same time, if the policeman has committed a wrong, which constitutes a criminal offence and renders him liable for prosecution, he can be prosecuted with sanction from the appropriate government.

Sanction u/s.197 of CrPC, to prosecute a police officer, for act related to the discharge of official duty, is imperative
69. Every offence committed by a police officer does not attract Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure read with Section 170 of the Karnataka Police Act. The protection given under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code read with Section 170 of the Karnataka Police Act has its limitations. The protection is available only when the alleged act done by the public servant is reasonably connected with the discharge of his official duty and official duty is not merely a cloak for the objectionable act.

70. An offence committed entirely outside the scope of the duty of the police officer, would certainly not require sanction. To cite an example, a police man assaulting a domestic help or indulging in domestic violence would certainly not be entitled to protection. However if an act is connected to the discharge of official duty of investigation of a recorded criminal case, the act is certainly under colour of duty, no matter how illegal the act may be.

71. If in doing an official duty a policeman has acted in excess of duty, but there is a reasonable connection between the act and the performance of the official duty, the fact that the act alleged is in excess of duty will not be ground enough to deprive the policeman of the protection of government sanction for initiation of criminal action against him.

72. The language and tenor of Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 170 of the Karnataka Police Act makes it absolutely clear that sanction is required not only for acts done in discharge of official duty, it is also required for an act purported to be done in discharge of official duty and/or act done under colour of or in excess of such duty or authority.

73. To decide whether sanction is necessary, the test is whether the act is totally unconnected with official duty or whether there is a reasonable connection with the official duty. In the case of an act of a policeman or any other public servant unconnected with the official duty there can be no question of sanction. However, if the act alleged against a policeman is reasonably connected with discharge of his official duty, it does not matter if the policeman has exceeded the scope of his powers and/or acted beyond the four corners of law.

74. If the act alleged in a complaint purported to be filed against the policeman is reasonably connected to discharge of some official duty, cognizance thereof cannot be taken unless requisite sanction of the appropriate government is obtained under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and/or Section 170 of the Karnataka Police Act.[Para No.67 to 74]


Supreme Court of India

D. Devaraja 
Vs.
Owais Sabeer Hussain

Decided on 18/06/2020




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