1. The two petitioners have been prosecuted under Section 161 and Sections 161/109, I.P.C., that is to say, for receiving or agreeing to receive bribes or illegal gratifications as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act or for showing or forbearing to show, in the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavour to any person, or for rendering or attempting to render any service or disservice to any person. The petitioners have obtained a rule nisi to have these proceedings quashed on the ground that the previous sanction of the Local Government alleged to be necessary under Section 197, Criminal P.C., had not been obtained. The applicants are members of a Debt Settlement Board under the Bengal Agricultural Debtors Act, and as such, it is their duty to adjust or assist in adjusting the debts between agricultural debtors and their creditors as to the amount to be paid. It is alleged that they have received bribes in order that they might show improper favour towards a party appearing before the Board. Under Section 49, Bengal Agricultural Debtors Act, the Chairman and the other members of the Debt Settlement Board are deemed to be public servants within the meaning of the Penal Code. By Section 4 the Local Government may, at any time, for reason to be recorded in writing, cancel the appointment of the Chairman or any other member of the Board.
2. Section 197(1), Criminal P.C., provides that when any public servant who is not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the Local Government or some higher authority is accused of any offence alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duties, no Court shall take cognizance of such offence except with the previous sanction of the Local Government. It is contended that sanction was necessary here. Assuming that bribes have been paid or agreed to be paid for the purpose of showing favour to a party before the debt settlement tribunal, can it be said that the applicants are accused of an offence alleged to have been committed by them while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of their official duties? The charge is taking illegal gratification for the purpose of doing something other than their duty or, in other words, the allegation is that they have turned their backs on their duty and agreed to keep their backs turned on their duty in return for an illegal gratification. I fail to see how a member of a Debt Settlement Board who so turns his back on his duty can be said to be acting or purporting to act in the discharge of the duties of a member of the Board of Debt Settlement. In my opinion sanction under Section 197(1), Criminal P.C., was not necessary before this prosecution was begun. The applicants complain of another matter, namely that one of them is charged with having received or agreed to receive a bribe of Rs. 15 on one date and the other a bribe of Rs. 5 on another date. We think these allegations should be tried separately and should form the subject of separate charges and so order. With that modification the rule is discharged.
3. I agree.