Supreme Court Urges Expedited Resolution on Necessity of Sanction for Investigations Against Public Servants

The highest court in the land has signaled a pressing need for a swift resolution on whether prior sanction is a prerequisite for a Magistrate to initiate an inquiry into complaints against public servants under Section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This call stems from a referral made in 2018 during the case of Manju Surana v. Sunil Arora.

In the current proceedings, presided over by Justices CT Ravikumar and Rajesh Bindal, the court recognized the broad significance of the issue, noting its recurrent appearance in various cases. They emphasized the urgency for a definitive ruling, stating, “Given the frequent appearance of this issue in courtrooms, an expeditious decision is warranted.”

The bench further expressed a preliminary opinion that when a Magistrate forwards a complaint for police investigation under Section 156(3) of the CrPC, it does not constitute taking cognizance of the matter.

However, refraining from delving deeper into the matter due to its pending status before a larger bench, the court directed the case to be aligned with the ongoing Manju Surana proceedings.

In the prior case of Manju Surana, doubts arose regarding a previous judgment in Anil Kumar v. M K Aiyappa (2013), which asserted the necessity of government sanction for a Magistrate to authorize an investigation into complaints against public servants. The court in Anil Kumar maintained that such sanction was a prerequisite for exercising powers under Section 156(3) of the CrPC.

However, in the subsequent case, the question arose whether Section 19(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act alters the requirement for sanction under Section 156(3) of the CrPC in cases involving public servants.

Acknowledging the need for clarity on this matter, the court referred the issue to a larger bench, framing the question as follows: “Whether prior sanction for prosecution regarding corruption allegations against public servants is mandatory before initiating the investigative process under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.”

The case, Shamim Khan v. Debashish Chakraborty and others, underscores the critical legal inquiry into the procedural requirements for investigating complaints against public servants, reflecting the ongoing quest for judicial clarity and consistency.

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