Trial of govt officers can’t be quashed for sanction error: SC

New Delhi: Any error or irregularity in granting sanction by the government to conduct trial against its officials in corruption cases cannot be a ground to quash the criminal proceedings, the Supreme Court has said.
Holding that requirement of sanction is designed just to check on frivolous and mischievous cases being filed against officials, a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said a government servant cannot allowed to take undue advantage of it.
“Any error, omission or irregularity in the sanction, which would also include the competence of the authority to grant sanction, does not vitiate the eventual conclusion in the trial including the conviction and sentence, unless of course a failure of justice has occurred.
“It is difficult to see how at the intermediary stage a criminal prosecution can be nullified or interdicted on account of any such error, omission or irregularity in the sanction order without arriving at the satisfaction that a failure of justice has also been occasioned,” Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who wrote the judgement, said.
The bench passed the order on two petitions filed by Bihar government challenging Patna High Court’s verdict quashing criminal proceedings against it officials on the ground that sanction against officers were granted by the Law Department of the state and not by their parent department.
“We, therefore, hold that the orders dated March 23, 2012 and March 3, 2011 passed by the High Court cannot be sustained in law. We, therefore, allow both the appeals, set aside the said orders and direct that criminal proceeding against each of the respondents in the appeals under consideration shall now commence and shall be concluded as expeditiously as possible,” it said.
“…Specific provisions have been incorporated in Section 19(3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act as well as in Section 465 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which, inter alia, make it clear that any error, omission or irregularity in the grant of sanction will not affect any finding, sentence or order passed by a competent court unless in the opinion of the court a failure of justice has been occasioned. This is how the balance is sought to be struck,” it said.