1. This is a revision presented by the Chief Executive Officer, Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Hyderabad against his conviction for an offence under Section 123(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act (Act IV of 1939) for causing or allowing Bus No. APZ 917 belonging to the Corporation to run without a road permit from Hyderabad to Adilabad, and sentence of Rs. 100/- fine, or in default, to undergo simple imprisonment for two weeks.
2. The facts are not in controversy. On 30-6-1961 the Delux Bus APZ 917 was found running from Hyderabad to Adilabad without a road permit. The Bus driver and the Chief Executive Officer were prosecuted before the Munsif Magistrate of Boath for an offence under Section 123(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act. The Bus driver, who was accused No. 1 in the case pleaded guilty. He was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 20/-. The Chief Executive Officer, accused No. 2 in the case, was also convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 100/-, or in default to undergo simple imprisonment for two weeks. A plea was taken on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer that he was a public servant and that the sanction of the State Government was necessary under Section 197(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code. But, that plea did not find favour with the courts below. He has, therefore, presented this revision. This revision came upbefore our learned brother Mirza, J. He felt that the Plea taken raised an important question as to whether the Chief Executive Officer of the Andhra Pradesh State transport Corporation is a public servant and, if so, whether he could be proceeded against without the sanction of the State Government, and considered that a decision of the Bench would be more appropriate. The matter is, therefore, before us.
3. There can be no doubt that the Chief Executive Officer is a public servant, as it is expressly provided under Section 43 of the Road Transport Corporations Act, 1950 that
'all members of a Corporation, and all officers and servants of a Corporation, whether appointed by the State Government or the Corporation, shall be deemed, when acting or purporting to act in pursuance of any of the provisions of the Act or of any other law, to be public servants within the meaning of Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code.'
Under Section 4(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code
'all words and expressions used therein and defined in the Indian Penal Code, and not hereinbefore defined, shall be deemed to have the meanings respectively attributed to them by that Codes'.
Both the Courts below have also found that he was a public servant,
4. The question which is posed for our consideration, now is, whether sanction under Section 197 would be necessary for launching a prosecution against him. That necessarily depends on the question whether the act complained of, which is an offence, was done while he was acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty, within in meaning of Section 197(1) Cr. P. C. The act complained of in the present case is that as Chief Executive Officer, he had caused or allowed the said bus belonging to the Corporation to run without a road permit. We do not feel that any doubt can be entertained that the obtaining of a permit by the Chief Executive Officer is an official act, and we are told that permits are issued in his name under the Motor Vehicles Act. In the instant case, it is said that he has issued a permit for running the Bus from Hyderabad to Eluru. The question, therefore, arises in this form whether the omission to obtain a valid permit falls within the purview of the said clause in Section 197(1). In this context, it is equally clear that Section 4(2) Cr. P.C. explicitly says that words which refer to acts done, extend also to illegal omissions. If so, prima facie, it would appear that this question presents no difficulty. If the Chief Executive Officer had omitted to, obtain a permit for running the Bus from Hyderabad to Adilabad that would constitute an omission on his part to the discharge of his duty viz., to obtain a permit for running the Bus. The omission constitutes an offence unquestionably and Section 197(1) Cr. P. C. is attracted.
But, the learned Sessions Judge took the view that the act of not obtaining permit is not so integrally connected with the duties of the accused. In other words, he would present a view that if he obtained a permit, he would have been discharging an official duty, but if he had not obtained a permit he would not have been discharging an official duty. This, to our mind, is putting a needlessly narrow construction on the scope and ambit of the provision. The object of Section 197(1) Cr. P. C. is to afford certain protection to the public servants in the discharge of their official duties. It cannot be pretended by any stretch of reasoning that failure to perform a duty would be part of an official duty But, that, however, is not an interrelation which can be reasonably put as obviously it would render the provision otiose and ineffective, we may in this context peruse a decision rendered by the Madras High Court By Waller andAnantakrishna Ayyar, JJ., in Gangaraju v. Venki, ILR 52 Mad 602 at pp. 603 and 604: (AIR 1929 Mad 659 at p. 660). This is what the learned Judges have stated in construing the clause in question, at p. 603 : (of ILR Mad) : (at p. 660 of AIR Mad):
'The policy of the Legislature is, we conceive, to afford adequate protection to public servants, to ensure that they are not prosecuted for anything done by them in the discharge of their official duties without reasonable cause and, if sanction is granted, to confer on the Local Government, if they choose to exercise it, complete control of the prosecution. We can see nothing in these precautions to which the public at large can legitimately take exception, and consider that the sub-section should be construed as widely as it has been framed. If the policy of the Legislature has been to afford a reasonable protection to public servants against vexatious charges arising out of the performance by them or their official functions, it has not been conspicuously successful. By a series of judicial decisions that protection has been refined down to the vanishing point. A learned Judge of this Court, Seshagiri Ayyar, J. remarked in Sankaralinga Tevan v. Avudai Animal, 35 Ind Cas 826: (AIR 1917 Mad 657):
'If this argument is pushed to its logical conclusion, no public servant or Judge can have the safeguard of a sanction, as it is not within the powers of such an officer to commit an offence. Any offence committed by such a person must prima facie be beyond his official rights and duties. I do not think that such a result is the necessary consequence of the language employed by the Legislature'. Very much the same rationale underlies the ruling of the Supreme Court in Srikanthiah v. The State of Bombay, : 1955CriLJ857 and 293. This is what the learned Judges have observed:
'Now it is obvious that if Section 197(1) Cr. P.C. is construed too narrowly it can never be applied, for of course it is no part of an official's duty to commit an offence and never can be. But it is not the duty we have to examine so much as the act, because an Official act can be performed in the discharge of official duty as well as in dereliction of it.'
5. The said enunciation of the principle underlying the interpretation of the clause applies on all fours to the facts of this case. It is no doubt an offence that a BUS has been allowed to run without a permit, If he had a permit, obviously, there was no offence. It is because he had not obtained a permit, that a prosecution has been launched against him. The obtaining of a permit is undoubtedly an official act; the omission to obtain is a dereliction of the duty, if it can be so said. If so, those observations cover the instant case. The ratio of the said decision has been affirmed in subsequent eases as well. We may notice Amrik Singh v. The State of Pepsu, (S) : 1955CriLJ865 . Summing up the authorities on the point, the learned Judges have stated thus:--
'It is not every offence committed by a public servant that requires sanction for prosecution under Section 197(1) Cr. P. C., nor even every act done by him while he is actually engaged in the performance of his official duties; but if the act complained of is directly concerned with his official duties so that, if questioned, it could be claimed to have been done by virtue of the office, then sanction would be necessary; and that would be so, irrespective of whether it was, in fact, a proper discharge of his duties, because that would really be a matter of defence on the merits, which would have to be investigated at the trial and could not arise at the stage of the grant of sanction, which must precede the institution of the prosecution,'
Borrowing the language of the learned Judges, we may pause here to notice that the obtaining of a permit is directly concerned with the official duties. The omission thereof, would, in our view, also attract the protective clause of the section,
6. In Matajog Dobey v. H.C. Bhari, (S) AIR 1955 SC 44 the Supreme Court has further clarified the position saying that the only point to determine is whether the act was committed in the discharge of an official duty and that there must be a reasonable connection between the act and the discharge of official duty. A recent decision rendered in Satwant Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 19SO SC 266, puts the question at issue beyond doubt. It was ruled that the act must bear such relation to the duty that the public servant could lay a reasonable but not a pretended or fanciful claim, that he did it in the course of the performance of his duty. As the decisions have adumbrated a constant view that the protective clause has to bear a liberal interpretation, and that what essentially matters is whether the act is connected with a public servant's official duty, we do not see that further disquisition of the matter is necessary.
7. We have, therefore, no hesitation in finding that the petitioner could invoke the protective clause of prior sanction of the State Government and, inasmuch as such sanction has not been obtained for launching the prosecution against him, the proceedings against him are vitiated by want of jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offence.
8. His conviction and sentence are, therefore, set aside and the revision is allowed. The fine if paid, will be refunded.