Home » News » Supreme Court Ruling on Section 197 of CrPC: A Closer Look

In a recent development, the Supreme Court has made a significant ruling in the case of Shadakshari v. State of Karnataka & Anr. The court has clarified that Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) applies solely to actions or omissions committed by public servants while performing their official duties.

Background: Shadakshari v. State of Karnataka & Anr.

The case originated from a complaint lodged by the appellant. The appellant, accused the respondent, a Village Accountant in Kirigdalu Circle, Hassan district, Karnataka State, and another individual of fraudulently creating property documents in the name of a deceased person. The respondent was aware that these documents, including a death certificate and a family tree of the original land successor, were counterfeit, yet they were used for illicit profit.
Following this, the respondent sought to quash the proceedings by filing a petition under Section 482 of CrPC in the High Court of Karnataka. The High Court granted the quashing, leading the appellant to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s decision and allowed the appeal.

Court’s Observations

The bench, comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, noted that Section 197 of CrPC does not provide blanket protection to all actions or omissions of a public servant during their service. Instead, it is limited to those actions or omissions that public servants commit while carrying out their official duties.

The court further ruled that the creation of fake documents does not fall within the scope of a public servant’s official duty. Therefore, no prior sanction for prosecution under Section 197 of CrPC is needed to prosecute a public servant for such an act.
Understanding Section 197 of CrPC

Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, provides certain protections to public servants. It requires the government’s prior sanction to prosecute public servants for any act done or purported to be done by them while discharging their official duties. This provision aims to protect responsible public servants against frivolous or vexatious prosecution and ensure the smooth functioning of public services.
However, this recent Supreme Court ruling has clarified that this protection is not absolute. It does not extend to acts committed by public servants that fall outside the scope of their official duties. This interpretation ensures that public servants cannot misuse their positions for illegal activities without facing legal consequences.

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