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E.S. Sanjeeva Rao Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation)(C.B.i.), Mumbai and Others - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO. 2637 OF 2010
Judge
AppellantE.S. Sanjeeva Rao
RespondentCentral Bureau of Investigation)(C.B.i.), Mumbai and Others
Excerpt:
constitution of india, article 226; criminal procedure code, section 482; employees' provident funds and miscellaneous provisions act, (epf and mp act) 1952 , section 7-a; indian penal code,(ipc) section120-b read with section 420, sections 77, 2 , 19, 193, 196, 228; prevention of corruption act, (pc act) 1988, section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) ; judges (protection) act (jp act) 1985, section 2, sections 3(1), 3(2)– criminal writ petition- quashing of fir against judicial officer- regional provident fund commissioner (petitioner) prosecuted by cbi for order passed under section 7a of the epf and mp act, 1952, for alleged undervaluation of dues payable by employer- petitioner vested with powers of civil court to decide dispute- within definition of “judge” as in.....oral judgment: (per v.m. kanade, j.) 1. by this petition filed under article 226 of the constitution of india, petitioner is seeking a writ, order or direction for quashing and setting aside fir no. 26(a)/2010 which is registered by the central bureau of investigation for the offences punishable under section 120b read with section 420 of the indian penal code and section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the prevention of corruption act, 1988 (for short "pc act") 2. brief facts are as under:- facts 3. petitioner was initially appointed as assistant provident fund commissioner in the year 1997 and was later on promoted to the post of regional provident fund commissioner on 03/02/2005 with effect from 23/10/2003. 4. sometime in 2008, one mr. vijay patil, president, maharashtra kamgar.....
Judgment:

ORAL JUDGMENT: (Per V.M. Kanade, J.)

1. By this Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, Petitioner is seeking a writ, order or direction for quashing and setting aside FIR no. 26(A)/2010 which is registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation for the offences punishable under section 120B read with section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (For short "PC Act")

2. Brief facts are as under:-

FACTS

3. Petitioner was initially appointed as Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner in the year 1997 and was later on promoted to the post of Regional Provident Fund Commissioner on 03/02/2005 with effect from 23/10/2003.

4. Sometime in 2008, one Mr. Vijay Patil, President, Maharashtra Kamgar Ekta Union made a complaint to the Petitioner regarding evasion of employees provident fund contribution of 2000 employees of M/s Pratibha Industries Limited. An inquiry was initiated by the Petitioner on the complaint under section 7A of the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (For Short "EPF and MP Act") against the establishment during the year 2008. Record was called from the Enforcement Officer, SRO, Vashi under the EPF and MP Act, 1952. Shri D.M. Ambokar, the Enforcement Officer, submitted inspection report on 03/03/2009 stating therein that the EPF dues of M/s Pratibha Industries Limited were to the tune of Rs 6,72,455/- for the period October, 2003 to January, 2009 and this was on account of non-payment of provident fund contribution in respect of 475 non-enrolled workers of the Company. Relying on this report, Petitioner passed the order under section 7A on 20/03/2009 for the aforesaid period.

5. According to the Petitioner, Respondent - CBI and its Officers - Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 scrutinized the assessment order passed by the Petitioner in the matter of M/s Pratibha Industries Limited and came to the conclusion that the order passed by the Petitioner was wrong and it must have been passed to favour M/s Pratibha Industries Limited. According to the Petitioner, Respondent No.3, who was the Deputy Director (Vigilance) raided the Sub- Regional Office at Vashi and seized 15 files relating to the construction industries from the Vashi Office without informing the Petitioner and the raid continued for about three days and 15 files were carried away on 13/09/2008 by the said three Assistant Directors (Vigilance) at around 8.00 P.M. Copies of seized files were not left in the Office. The seizure memo was made dated 13/09/2008.

6. Thereafter, on 08/04/2009, Respondent No.3 sent one Rayappa, Assistant Director (Vigilance) to the Petitioner's Vashi Office calling for the file related to M/s Pratibha Industries Ltd. The Petitioner wrote a letter dated 20/04/2009 to the Central Provident Fund Commissioner informing him about the unwarranted action by Respondent No.3. There was correspondence thereafter between the Petitioner and the Central Provident Fund Commissioner. He also met him personally and made a grievance about the functioning of the Vigilance Wing of EPFO. Thereafter, Respondent No.3 came in the Office of the Petitioner at Vashi in May, 2009 and informed that there was complaint of non-enrollment of workers which was filed with Respondent No.1. A copy of the complaint was not given to the Petitioner. A fictitious complaint was filed against the Petitioner by one Suren Nayak. A Committee was constituted to inquire into the said complaint which came to the conclusion that the said Suren Nayak was a fictitious person. Even, thereafter, according to the Petitioner, harassment by Respondent No.3 continued. He, therefore, filed a complaint with the Central Provident Fund Commissioner dated 17/07/2009. Petitioner was then transferred to the Regional Office, Thane. Petitioner wrote a letter dated 05/10/2009 to Respondent No.3 to submit the material available with Respondent No.3 with regard to the alleged left over employees of the Establishment. However, the details were not given. The raids were also conducted on 15/07/2010 by Respondent Nos. 1 and 2 on the Petitioner's residence at Nerul and at his native place Khammam, AP, Sub-Regional Office at Vashi and his present Office at Thane and, thereafter, the Petitioner was informed that an FIR was registered against him on 14/07/2010. The Bank Account of the Petitioner including his Salary Account was seized under section 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

7. It is an admitted position that no appeal was filed against the order passed by the Petitioner under section 7-A to the Appellate Tribunal nor any application for review was filed against the said order till today. Petitioner, therefore, approached this Court by filing this Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Division Bench of this court by order dated 03/12/2010 was pleased to grant rule and interim relief was granted in terms of prayer clause (c) and thus the investigation was stayed. However, Division Bench observed that the pendency of this Petition will not come in the way of initiating departmental action against the Petitioner in view of the allegation that substantial loss of revenue had occurred on account of the act of commission and omission of the Petitioner. CBI filed an SLP in the Apex Court and the Apex Court passed the following order:-

"O R D E R

Heard Mr. H.P. Rawal, learned Additional Solicitor General.

Delay condoned.

We are not inclined to interfere in the matter mainly because the special leave petition is filed against an interim order passed by the Bombay High Court.

The special leave petition is dismissed.

However, having regard to the nature of the controversy, we deem it fit to request the High Court to hear and dispose of the matter finally at any early date and preferably before the end of this year."

In view of the directions given by the Apex Court, the matter was taken up for final hearing.

REASONS:

8. We have given our anxious consideration to the submissions made by the learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner and the learned Additional Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the Respondents - CBI.

9. Petitioner, who was the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner passed an order under section 7-A of the EPF and MP Act. CBI came to the conclusion that the Petitioner did not calculate EPF dues as per the procedure laid down under EPF and MP Act and had wrongly held that the dues were Rs 6,72,455/- instead of Rs 43,52,67,618/- after taking into consideration the salaries and wages paid to the employees for the year 2004 to 2009 and lodged an FIR on 14/7/2010 for the offences punishable under sections 120-B read with section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and under section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (For short "PC Act"). Petitioner has filed this Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code for quashing the FIR.

10. This Court, by order dated 3/12/2010, granted stay to the further investigation which order was challenged by the CBI in the Apex Court. However, Special Leave Petition was dismissed and direction was given to this Court to dispose of the Criminal Writ Petition.

11. Before taking into consideration rival submissions made by both the parties, it would be necessary to briefly consider the scope of power which can be exercised by this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code for quashing the FIR.

12. The Apex Court in R.P. Kapur vs State of Punjab (AIR 1960 SC 866) has very succinctly summarized the said power and observed that the said power can be exercised in three categories of cases viz -

(i) Where it is manifestly appears that there is a legal bar against the institution or continuance of the criminal proceeding in respect of the offence alleged. Absence of the requisite sanction may, for instance, furnish cases under this category.

(ii) Where the allegations in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not constitute the offence alleged; in such cases no question of appreciating evidence arises; it is a matter merely of looking at the complaint or the First Information Report to decide whether the offence alleged is disclosed or not.

(iii) Where the allegations made against the accused person do constitute an offence alleged but there is either no legal evidence adduced in support of the case or the evidence adduced clearly or manifestly fails to prove the charge. In dealing with this class of cases it is important to bear in mind the distinction between a case where there is no legal evidence or where there is evidence which is manifestly and clearly inconsistent with the accusation made and cases where there is legal evidence which on its appreciation may or may not support the accusation in question. In exercising its jurisdiction under S. 561-A the High Court would not embark upon an eqnuiry as to whether the evidence in question is reliable or not. That is the function of the trial magistrate, and ordinarily it would not be open to any party to invoke the High Court's inherent jurisdiction and contend that on a reasonable appreciation of the evidence the accusation made against the accused would not be sustained."

The Apex Court, thereafter, in State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal (AIR 1992 SC 604) has expanded the said power and has summarized it in para 108 which reads as under:-

"108. In the backdrop of the interpretation of the various relevant provisions of the Code under Chapter XIV and of the principles of law enunciated by this Court in a series of decisions relating to the exercise of the extra- ordinary power under Article 226 or the inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code which we have extracted and reproduced above, we give the following categories of cases by way of illustration wherein such power could be exercised either to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice, though it may not be possible to lay down any precise, clearly defined and sufficiently channelised and inflexible guidelines or rigid formulae and to give an exhaustive list of myriad kinds of cases wherein such power should be exercised.

1. Where the allegations made in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.

2. Where the allegations in the First Information Report and other materials, if any, accompanying the F.I.R. do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.

3. Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.

4. Where, the allegations in the F.I.R. do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under section 155(2) of the Code.

5. Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.

6. Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.

7. Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge."

13. Keeping in view the observations made by the Apex Court in the aforesaid two judgments, the averments made in the FIR will have to be taken into consideration.

14. The learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner has urged that since the FIR has been filed on the basis of judicial order passed by the Petitioner while exercising his power as Regional Provident Fund Commissioner under section 7-A, the case of the Petitioner would fall under the first and second category laid down in R.P. Kapur1 (supra) viz.

"(i) Where it is manifestly appears that there is a legal bar against the institution or continuance of the criminal proceeding in respect of the offence alleged. Absence of the requisite sanction may, for instance, furnish cases under this category."

"(ii) Where the allegations in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not constitute the offence alleged; in such cases no question of appreciating evidence arises; it is a matter merely of looking at the complaint or the First Information Report to decide whether the 1 AIR 1960 SC 866 offence alleged is disclosed or not."

The learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that the FIR lodged by the CBI made the judicial order passed by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, the Petitioner herein, as fulcrum for the purpose of coming to the conclusion that dues of the employer were to the tune of Rs 43,52,67,618/- and, therefore, it was alleged that the Petitioner had committed an offence punishable under section 120-B read with section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act. It was urged by the learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner that the Petitioner was protected from any prosecution on the said ground in view of Section 77 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act 1985. It was, therefore, urged that the Petitioner was a "judge" within the meaning of section 2 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985

15. On the other hand, the learned Additional Solicitor General Shri Khambata has urged that apart from what was mentioned in the FIR, there was other material which was available with the CBI on the basis of which it could be said that the said order was not passed bonafide and, therefore, protection under section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 was not available to the Petitioner and his case, therefore, would fall under section 3(2). Secondly, it was urged that the contention of the Petitioner, at the highest, could be treated as defence in the trial and, on that basis, the FIR could not be quashed. Thirdly, it was contended that in view of section 19 of the Indian Penal Code, proceedings under the PC Act could not be stayed and fourthly it was contended that the order passed by the Petitioner was not a judicial order and, therefore, protection under section 77 of the Indian Penal Code and under section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 was not available.

16. This being the crux of the rival contentions, three questions which fall for consideration before this Court are :-

(i) Whether the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner while passing an order under section 7A is a Judge within the definition under section 19 of the IPC and section 2 of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985?

(ii) Whether the averments made in the FIR even if they are taken at its face value, constitute an offence?

(iii) Whether the prosecution of the Petitioner only on the basis of the order passed under Section 7A is barred in view of section 77 of the Indian Penal Code or section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 ?

17. In order to consider the said three questions, it will be necessary firstly to take into consideration definition of the word "Judge" under section 19 of the Indian Penal Code and meaning of the word "judicial order" under section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 and under section 77 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 19 of the Indian Penal Code reads as under:-

"19. "Judge" .- The word "Judge" denotes not only every person who is officially designated as a Judge, but also every person,- who is empowered by law to give, in any legal proceeding, civil or criminal, a definitive judgment, or a judgment which, if not appealed against, would be definitive, or a judgment which, if confirmed by some other authority, would be definitive, or who is one of a body persons, which body of persons is empowered by law to give such a judgment.

Illustrations

(a) A Collector exercising jurisdiction in a suit under Act 10 of 1859, is a Judge.

(b) A Magistrate exercising jurisdiction in respect of a charge on which he has power to sentence to fine or imprisonment, with or without appeal, is a Judge.

(c) A member of a panchayat which has power, under Regulation VII, 1816, of the Madras Code, to try and determine suits, is a Judge.

(d) A Magistrate exercising jurisdiction in respect of a charge on which he has power only to commit for trial to another Court, is not a Judge.

The aforesaid definition clearly shows that in order to fall under the category of a "Judge", even every person though not officially designated but who is empowered by law to give in any legal proceeding a definitive judgment would still be a judge. The definition, therefore, if analyzed, clearly envisages that, in any legal proceeding, a person who is empowered to give a definitive judgment which is final or becomes final, if confirmed by the appellate authority, would fall under this category. Such a person who gives such a judgment in any legal proceedings would be denoted as a Judge. The word "Judge" is also defined under section 2 of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985. Section 2 reads as under:-

"2. In this Act, "Judge" means not only every person who is officially designated as a Judge, but also every person -

(a) who is empowered by law to give in any legal proceeding a definitive judgment, or a judgment which, if not appealed against, would be definitive, or a judgment which, if confirmed by some other authority, would be definitive; or

(b) who is one of a body of persons which body of persons is empowered by law to give such a judgment as is referred in Cl. (a)."

Under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985, "Judge" means not only every person who is officially designated as a Judge but also every person (a) who is empowered by law to give in any legal proceeding a definitive judgment, or a judgment which, if not appealed against, would be definitive, or a judgment which, if confirmed by some other authority, would be definitive ; or (b) who is one of a body of persons which body of persons is empowered by law to give such a judgment as is referred to in Cl.(a). From the perusal of the said definition under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985, it is abundantly clear that the said definition is identical to the definition which is given in section 19 of the Indian Penal Code.

18. So far as Indian Penal Code is concerned, section 6 of the Indian Penal Code lays down that the definitions in the Code are to be understood, subject to exceptions. Section 6 of the Code reads as under:-

"6. Definitions in the Code to be understood subject to exceptions.- Throughout this Code every definition of an offence, every penal provision, and every illustration of every such definition or penal provision, shall be understood subject to the exceptions contained in the Chapter entitled "General Exceptions", though those exceptions are not repeated in such definition, penal provision, or illustration.

Illustrations

(a) The sections, in this Code, which contain definitions of offences, do not express that a child under seven years of age cannot commit such offences, but the definitions are to be understood subject to the general exception which provides that nothing shall be an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age.

(b) A, a police-officer, without warrant, apprehends Z, who has committed murder. Here A is not guilty of the offence of wrongful confinement; for he was bound by law to apprehend Z, and therefore the case falls within the general exception which provides that "nothing is an offence which is done by a person who is bound by law to do it".

A Judge is given protection under section 77 of the Indian Penal Code which reads as under:-

"77. Act of Judge when acting judicially- Nothing is an offence which is done by a Judge when acting judicially in the exercise of any power which is, or which in good faith he believes to be, given to him by law."

Under section 77, therefore, if a judge exercising his power given to him by law does any act as a judge, such as delivering a judgment when acting judicially, will not be treated as an offence. Here, the word "good faith" is in respect of exercise of any power which he believes to be given to him by law.

Similar protection is given to a Judge under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985. Initially, the Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1850 gave protection to judges while they were discharging duties as Judicial Officers in deciding civil suits. However, the Act was repealed and under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 the Judge is also granted protection from being prosecuted in a criminal case as per the provisions of section 3(1). It would be relevant, therefore, to take into consideration the said additional protection which had been given by the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985. Section 3(1) and (2) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 read as under:-

"3(1) Not withstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force and subject to the

provisions of sub-sec. (2), no Court shall entertain or continue any civil or

criminal proceeding against any person who is or was a Judge for any act, thing or word committed, done or spoken by him when, or in the course of, acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official or judicial duty or function.

(2) Nothing in sub-sec.(1) shall debar or affect in any manner the power of the Central Government or the State Government or the Supreme Court of India or any High Court or any other authority under any law for the time being in force to take such action (whether by way of civil, criminal, or departmental proceedings or otherwise) against any person who is or was a Judge."

Section 4 makes it clear that the provisions of this Act would be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law, meaning thereby that the said protection is given in addition to protection given under section 77 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 4 of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 reads as under:-

"4. The Provision of this Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law for the time being in force providing for protection of Judges."

19. Taking into consideration the definition of the word "judge" as defined under the Indian Penal Code and under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 and the extent of protection which is given under section 77 and and under section 3(1), it would have to be seen whether this protection is available to the Petitioner while he was acting as a Regional Provident Fund Commissioner exercising power under section 7A and, therefore, the relevant provisions of EPF and MP Act will have to be taken into consideration. The preamble of EPF and MP Act reads as under:-

"An Act to provide for the Institution of Provident Funds, Pension Funds, and Deposit- Linked Insurance Fund for Employees in Factories and other Establishments."

The preamble of the Act clearly envisages that it is a social welfare legislation and the purpose of the Act is to create an institution of provident fund and pension fund etc. for the employees in factories. For that purpose, section 5 envisages framing of a provident fund scheme by the Central Government for employees or any class of employees to whom the said scheme would apply and the said fund is to vest and administered by the Central Government and the Executive Committee is also appointed for the purpose of assisting the Central Board. The State Board is also to be constituted under section 5B and under the said section the Board of Trustees shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal and shall by the said name sue and be sued. Section 5D pertains to appointment of Officers which are to be made by the Central Government and the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner is an Officer who is appointed by the Central Board. Section 6A deals with employees pension scheme. Section 6C deals with employees' deposit linked insurance scheme with which we are not concerned. The said scheme has to be placed before the Parliament under section 6D and the scheme will come into effect only after it is approved by both the houses.

Section 7A, which is the most relevant provision in this case, speaks about determination of moneys due from employers. Section 7A reads as under:-

7A. Determination of moneys due from employers. - (1)The Central Provident Fund Commissioner, any Additional Central Provident Fund Commissioner, any Deputy Provident Fund Commissioner, any Regional Provident Fund Commissioner or any Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner may by order,-

(a) in a case where a dispute arises regarding the applicability of this Act to an establishment, decide such dispute; and

(b) determine the amount due from any employer under any provision of this Act, the Scheme or the Pension Scheme or the Insurance Scheme, as the case may be, and for any of the aforesaid purposes may conduct such inquiry as he may deem necessary.

(2) The Officer conducting the inquiry under sub-section (1) shall for the purposes of such inquiry, have the same powers as are vested in a Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), for trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely-

(a) enforcing the attendance of any person or examining him on oath;

(b) requiring the discovery and production of documents;

(c ) receiving evidence on affidavit; (d) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses;

and any such inquiry shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228, and for the purpose of Section 196, of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)

(3) No order shall be made under sub- section (1), unless the employer concerned is given a reasonable opportunity of representing his case.

(3-A) Where the employer, employee or any other person required to attend the inquiry under sub-section (1) fails to attend such inquiry without assigning any valid reason or fails to produce any document or to file any report or return when called upon to do so, the officer conducting the inquiry may decide the applicability of the Act or determine the amount due from any employer, as the case may be, on the basis of the evidence adduced during such inquiry and other documents available on record.

(4) Where an order under Sub-section (1) is passed against an employer ex - parte, he may, within three months from the date of communication of such order, apply to the Officer for setting aside such order and if he satisfies the Officer that the show cause notice was not duly served or that he was prevented by any sufficient cause from appearing when the inquiry was held, the officer shall make an order setting aside his earlier order and shall appoint a date for proceeding with the inquiry:

Provided that no such order shall be set aside merely on the ground that there has been an irregularity in the service of the show cause notice if the officer is satisfied that the employer had notice of the date of hearing and had sufficient time to appear before the officer.

Explanation.- Where an appeal has been preferred under this Act against an order passed ex-parte and such appeal has been disposed of otherwise than on the ground that the appellant has withdrawn the appeal, no application shall lie under this sub-section for setting aside the ex-parte order.

(5) No order passed under this Section shall be set aside on any application under sub-section (4) unless notice thereof has been served on the opposite party."

The order which is passed by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner or any other Officer empowered under section 7A can be reviewed by the same authority under section 7B, if no appeal is preferred against the said order and under section 7C the said order can be redetermined within a period of 5 years by reopening the case and passing appropriate orders redetermining the amount. The order passed under sections 7A, 7B and 7C can be challenged in appeal before the Tribunal under section 7I which reads as under:-

7I. Appeals to Tribunal.- (1) Any person aggrieved by a notification issued by the Central government, or an order passed by the Central Government or any authority, under the proviso to Sub-section (3), or sub- section (4), of section 1, or section 3, or sub- section (1) of section 7-A, or section 7-B except an order rejecting an application for review referred to in sub-section (5) thereof, or section 7-C, or section 14-B, may prefer an appeal to a Tribunal against such notification or order.

(2) Every appeal under sub-section (1) shall be filed in such form and manner, within such time and be accompanied by such fees, as may be prescribed."

Section 7N lays down that the orders passed by the Tribunal shall be final. Section 8 of the EPF and MP Act lays down the mode of recovery of moneys due from employers. Section 14 prescribes penalties for non- payment of contribution as fixed by the provident fund scheme or determined under section 7A.

20. Perusal of the relevant provisions, therefore, in our view clearly reveal that the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner is empowered by law under section 7-A in a case where a dispute arises regarding the applicability of the Act to establishment, decide such dispute and determine the amount due from the employer under the scheme and for the purpose of conducting inquiry he has been vested with same powers as are vested in the Court for trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the said inquiry is also deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 and for the purpose of Section 196 of the Indian Penal Code. The said order which is passed is appealable and an appeal can be preferred before the Tribunal and the order passed by the Tribunal attains finality under section 7N. The said order passed under Section 7A can also be reviewed under Section 7B or redetermined under Section 7C and, lastly, for non-payment of the said amount, the employer can be prosecuted and penalty can be imposed under section 14 and recovery also can be made under the procedure laid down under Section 8. In our view, therefore, though the Officer who passes an order under section 7A is not termed as a "Judge", he falls within the definition of section 19 of the Indian Penal Code as well as section 2 of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 since he is empowered by law to determine the amount and decide the dispute and the proceeding is legal proceeding in view of section 7A(2) which in terms lays down that the said inquiry shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding and the Officer shall have all the powers which are vested in Court under the Code of Civil Procedure for trying the suit and also that the said inquiry is deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 for the purpose of Section 196 of the Indian Penal Code. The proceeding, therefore, is a legal proceeding and the order which is passed is a definitive order and if the order is confirmed in appeal, it attains finality and on the basis of the said order recovery can be made and the mode of recovery is similar to the execution of decree as laid down under section 51 of the Code of Civil Procedure which is evident from the provisions of section 8A and 8B.

21. This being the position, the Officer who passes an order under Section 7A is entitled to get the protection as envisaged under section 77 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985.

22. Once it is held that the Petitioner falls under the category of a "Judge", the provisions of section 77 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 are attracted. The only question which, therefore, remains to be seen is : whether the averments in the FIR are such that the legal bar under the aforesaid provisions is attracted as envisaged under category (i) in R.P. Kapur's case (AIR 1960 SC 866) (supra) and other subsequent judgments. In this context, therefore, it will be relevant to see the averments which are made in the FIR.

23. The FIR was registered on 14/07/2010 and the gist of the FIR is that the Petitioner alongwith some unknown officials of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation and CIDCO and some unknown officials of EPFO entered into conspiracy with M/s Pratibha Industries Ltd to cheat EPFO by passing a favourable order and abused their official positions and caused wrongful gain to M/s Pratibha Industries Ltd and corresponding loss to the EPFO to the tune of Rs 24.91 crores. In the FIR, it is alleged that one Vijay Patil, President of Maharashtra Kamkar Akta Union made a complaint regarding evasion of EPF contribution of 2000 employees by M/s Pratibha Industries and, accordingly, the inquiry was initiated by the Petitioner and a report was called for from Shri D.M. Ambokar, the Enforcement Officer. He submitted the report stating therein that dues has been to the tune of Rs 6,72,455/- on account of non-payment of PF contribution in respect of 175 non-enrolled workers of the company. In the complaint, it is stated that the Petitioner knowingly did not calculate the EPF dues which alongwith the damages @ 100% should have come to approximately Rs 43,52,67,618/- for the period of 2004 to 2005 and 2008 to 2009. This amount has been calculated on the basis of details of the balance-sheet from 2004 to 2009. The Chart reads as under:-

 YearDetails as per Balance sheetDirect Expenses Salaries WagesSalaries on which PF is paid(as per Form SA)No. of sub- ScribersDifference (Col.2 - Col-3)
 123433
2004-05Rs.7,43,77,932/-Rs 95,34,875/-Rs 30,24,128/-53Rs 65,60,247/-
2005-06Rs 12,36,28,675/-Rs1,47,68,203/-Rs 46,39,477/-169Rs 101,28,726/-
2006-07Rs 102,41,31,434/Rs 5,99,85,551/Rs 1,05,23,654/-632Rs 4,94,61,397/-
2007-08Rs 173,53,62,926Rs 14,19,02,429/-Rs 1,85,92,687/-916Rs 12,33,09,742
2008-092008-09 Rs 347,20,05,613/-Rs 28,05,69,987/-Rs 3,37,62,981/-1859Rs 24,68,07,006/-
TotalRs 543,35,05,681/-Rs 505,811,045/-Rs 70,542,927/--Rs 43,52,67,618/-
It is further alleged that summons had been issued to Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) for providing the project details of M/s Pratibha Industries Ltd. and the representatives of M/s Pratibha Industries Ltd. had attended the inquiry. Petitioner and others knowingly did not calculate the payment of PF contribution for employee of M/s Pratibha Industries Ltd. working in different projects of NMMC and CIDCO. Then, it is averred that from the balance-sheet for the period between 2004- 05 to 2008-09, it is revealed that the company did not pay PF dues on huge wage salary of Rs 43,52,67,618/- and the loss was calculated in the following manner as stated in para 11 of the complaint-

"11 ............... The details of the salaries and the damages are as under:-

1. Salary/Wage on which PF

not paid : Rs 43,52,67,618/-

2. PF @ 25.6% : Rs 11,14,28,518/-

3. Damages @ 100% : Rs 11,14,28,518/-

4. Interest u/s.7Q @ 12% p.a. : Rs 278,57,127/-

5. Total (2+3+4) : Rs 25,07,14,147/-

It is further clarified that the amount which was assessed by the accused officer was Rs 6,72,445/- (Rupees Six Lacs Seventy Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty Five Only)

6. Amount assessed : Rs 6,72,445/-

7. Damage liable @ 100% : Rs 6,72,445/-

8. Interest u/s 7Q liable @ 12% p.a. : Rs 2,42,080/-

9. Total receivable

amount (5+6+7) : Rs 15,86,970/-

Therefore the total benefit was allowed to M/s Pratibha Industries Ltd. is Rs 24,91,27,177/- (Rupees Twenty Four Crores Ninety One Lacs Twenty Seven Thousand One Hundred and Seventy Seven Only)."

According to the complainant, therefore, in view of the said facts, the Petitioner had committed an offence punishable under section 120-B read with section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act.

24. From the averments which are made in the complaint, it is abundantly clear that the complainant had made the order passed by the Petitioner under Section 7A as fulcrum on the basis of which the complainant - CBI relying on the balance-sheets for the period from 2004-05 to 2008-09, came to be conclusion that the dues ought to have been calculated at Rs 43,52,67,618/. The manner in which the said figure is arrived at is mentioned in paras 9, 10 and 11 of the complaint; the sole basis being the balance-sheet between the period 2004-05 and 2008-09. The CBI practically, therefore, acted as an appellate court and on the basis of the order passed by the Petitioner came to the conclusion that though dues ought to be "X" the order showed the dues X minus 1 and on that basis it was observed that the offence had been committed by the Petitioner and others. The averments, therefore, in the complaint even if they are accepted at its face value, do not constitute an offence since they are directly hit by the legal bar under section 77 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985. It is surprising that though the said order was passed on 20/3/2009, no appeal has been preferred against the said order to the Tribunal till today. No application for review has been filed, though the review is maintainable under section 7B nor an application is filed for redetermination of the amount under section 7C. This clearly shows the malafide intention of EPFO as well as the CBI because if the EPFO had come to the conclusion that the order under Section 7A was not proper, it would have filed an appeal. Neither the Workers' Kamgar Akta Union, nor the EPFO, nor any aggrieved person had filed an appeal against the said order. Apart from that, as rightly pointed out by Shri Mahesh Jethmalani, the learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner that the statutory provisions have not been taken into consideration to see whether employees whose salaries are reflected in the balance- sheet are excluded employees within the meaning of section 2(f) of the Employees' Provident Fund Scheme. Mechanically, the figures in the balance-sheet for each year in respect of salaries and wages mentioned in the balance-sheet and the salaries on which the PF is paid as per Form 6-A has been considered and the difference is calculated as a loss caused to the EPFO. This clearly reflects the complete non-application of mind on the part of CBI in filing the FIR or in arriving at a figure of loss caused to EPFO on the basis of the order passed by the Petitioner under Section 7A.

25. In our view, therefore, the legal bar under section 77 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 is clearly applicable to the facts of the present case and on this ground alone the FIR is liable to be quashed and set aside. The submissions made by the learned Senior Counsel Shri Mahesh Jethmalani, therefore, will have to be accepted.

26. The learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner invited our attention to the judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in State of M.P. vs. Rajeev Jain (2001(4) MPHT 58). In the said case, the accused Rajeev Jain at the relevant time was Collector, Stamps appointed under the provisions of Indian Stamp Act, 1899 and the other accused persons were the sellers and purchasers of certain immovable properties which were sold/purchased under five different sale deeds and these sale deeds were registered under the Indian Registration Act at the Office of Sub-Registrar, Ujjain. The said sale deeds were referred to the Collector, Stamps for determination of the market value of the property and for the payment of proper stamp duty payable thereon. The accused Rajeev Jain after holding an inquiry passed the order determining market value of the said property. A complaint was made against the accused Rajeev Jain to the Lok Ayukta, Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal which led to enquiry and, ultimately, offence was registered by Special Police Establishment. Application for discharge was filed and the Trial Court passed an order of discharge against which Revision Application was filed in the High Court. The High Court upheld the order of the Trial Court and held that the Collector was a judge within the meaning of section 2 of the Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1850. In our view, though the word "Collector" is not specifically mentioned in the said definition under Section 2, the observations made by the Madhya Pradesh High Court are very relevant and squarely apply to the facts of the present case. It would be relevant to reproduce the observations made by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the said case in paras 8 and 9 which read as under:-

"8. In the instant case the basis for prosecution of the accused persons are the two Orders dated 3-3-1992 and 10-6-1992 passed by accused Rajeev Jain in his capacity as the Collector Stamps whereby he has passed a definitive judgment as to the market value of the properties covered by the said five deeds. It is significant to note here that no appeal was preferred by the Department against those Orders as provided under sub-sections (5) and (6) of Section 47-A. The orders, therefore, attained finality as provided under sub-section (8). The case against accused Rajeev Jain, therefore, squarely fell within the purview of the Act of 1850 and Act of 1985 and no civil or criminal action could be maintained against him in view of the bar contained in these statutes. Under the common law also, ever since 1613, if not before, it has been accepted that no action is maintainable against a Judge for anything said or done by him in exercise of a jurisdiction which belongs to him. The words he speaks are protected by an absolute privileges. It was well stated by Lord Tcntcrden C.J in Gamett Vs. Ferrand, (1827) 6 B and C 611 :

"This freedom from action and question at the suit of an individual is given by the law to the Judges, not so much for their own sake as for the sake of the public, and for the advancement of justice, that being free from actions, they may be free in thought and independent in judgment, as all who are to administer justice ought to be". (Excerpts from "The Due Process of Law" by Lord Denning)."

Needless to say that these words apply not only to Judges of the superior Courts but to Judges of all ranks high or low, as provided under the aforesaid two Acts of 1850 and 1985."

"9. Of course, it" the Judge has accepted bribes or been in the least degree corrupt, or has perverted the course of justice, he can certainly be prosecuted and punished in Criminal Courts. However, in the instant case, there is not even an iota of evidence beyond the said two Orders passed by accused Collector to show that he accepted any bribe or been in the least degree corrupt. The prosecuting agency cannot be allowed to sit in judgment over the orders passed on judicial or quasi-judicial side by a Judge. May be that the accused Collector has mistaken even grossly mistaken, yet he acted judicially and for that reason no action shall lie against him. The wrong, if any, committed by him could be corrected in appeal. That cannot always form a basis for initiating criminal proceedings against him while he is acting as a judicial or quasi- judicial authority. It must be kept in mind that he being a quasi-judicial authority he is always subjected to judicial supervision in appeal or by the High Court under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution [See : Zunjarrao MANU/SC/0453/1999 : (1999) 7 SCC 409]. The prosecution against him should, therefore, fail on merit also."

The Madhya Pradesh High Court in para 9 of its judgment has specifically observed that the prosecuting agency cannot be allowed to sit in judgment over the orders passed on judicial or quasi-judicial side by a Judge. It has also observed that an error in the judgment cannot always form a basis for initiating criminal proceedings against him while he is acting as a judicial or quasi-judicial authority. These observations clearly apply to the facts of the present case.

The second judgment on which reliance was placed by the learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner is in Abboy Naidu vs. Kanniappa Chettiar (1929 Cr.L.J. 365). In the said case, the President of Union Board, after examining a nomination paper of a candidate at an election to a seat in the Union Board, rejected it on the ground that he was a leper and hence disqualified under section 55 of the Madras Local Boards Act. A complaint for defamation was filed against the President by the candidate under section 500 of the Penal Code. It was held by the Madras High Court that the President had acted in a legal proceeding and purported to act in discharge of his official duty in publishing his notice and, therefore, it was held that the Magistrate could not take cognizance of the complaint without sanction of the Government and the proceedings were liable to be quashed. The High Court held that the President of Union Board was a "Judge" within the meaning of section 19 of the Indian Penal Code. It would be relevant to see the observations made by the Madras High Court.

"It is a Judge within the meaning of s.19 of the Indian Penal Code who is protected by s. 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Under s. 19, Indian Penal Code "Judge" denotes not only every person who is officially designated as a Judge but also every person who is empowered by law to give, in any legal proceedings, civil or criminal, a definitive judgment or a judgment which, if not appealed against, would be definitive, or a judgment which, if confirmed by some other authority, would be definitive. A President of a Union Board accepting or rejecting a nomination paper after scrutiny undoubtedly gives a definitive judgment and is empowered by law to do so as the Rules for the Conduct of Elections have effect as if part of the Act. But does he give his judgment in a legal proceeding? It is contended for Kanniappa Chetitar that "legal procedure" in s. 19 of the Indian Penal Code is the same as a judicial proceeding as defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure. If so, I doubt whether that would affect the result. But as "judicial proceeding" is an expression used in other parts of the Indian Penal Code, we are not at liberty to say, unless absolutely driven to it, that "legal proceeding" is exactly equivalent to "judicial proceeding" and that the Legislature carelessly used two different expressions to convey exactly the same idea; nor is the definition of "judicial proceeding" in the Code of Criminal Procedure necessarily applicable to that expression when used in the Penal Code. If we confine ourselves to s.19 of the Penal Code, "legal proceeding" there is obviously a proceeding in which a judgment may or must be given, a judgment being not an arbitrary decision but a decision arrived at judicially. In my opinion, "legal proceeding" in s.19 of the Penal Code means a proceeding regulated or prescribed by law, in which a judicial decision may or must be given. And in my opinion it is clear that a President when accepting or rejecting a nomination under r.4 is giving a definitive judicial decision in such a proceeding : Of. Sarvothama Rao v. Chairman, Municipal Council, Saidapet (73 Ind. Cas 619 : 47M 585: 17 l.W. 431 : (1923) M.W.N.266/32 M.L.T. 178: 45 M.L.J. 23 : A.I.R. 1923 Mad. 475.)

Ratio of the said judgment also would squarely apply to the facts of the present case.

The learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioner then placed reliance on the judgment of the Kerala High Court in C.V. Sankara Pillai vs. M. Chandran and 4 Ors ((1991) 1 Ker LT 418). In the said case, Plaintiff filed the suit claiming damages on the ground that the Defendant did not act in good faith when he assessed the building tax. Defendant contended inter alia that he is entitled to the benefits under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985. This contention was rejected by the Trial Court. While deciding the question as to whether the Defendant was protected under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985, after taking into consideration the judgment of the Supreme Court in Jaswant Sugar Mills vs. Lakshmi Chand (MANU/sc/0277/1962 : A.I.R. 1963 S.C. 677), in para 9 the Kerala High Court has observed as under:-

"9. Under the Building Tax Act the assessing authority has to decide the annual value of the building and the tax to be paid by the owner of the building. He has to assess the value of the building as postulated under the Act. He has to issue notice to the landlord and the local authority. He has to follow the guidelines under Section 6(4). His decision is appealable and revisable as the case may be. Once he decides the annual value of the building the determination of the tax is dependent upon it. Under section 17 the assessing authority is conferred with the powers under the Code of Civil Procedure to enforce the attendance of any person and to examine him on oath or affirmation. As the assessing authority determines the annual value of the building and consequently the tax observing the legal requirements under the Act he is entitled to the protection under the Judges Protection Act, 1985."

In the said case, though the Defendant was an assessing authority, he determined the annual value of the building after observing the legal requirements under the Act and, therefore, it was held that he was entitled to protection under the Judges (Protection) Act. In our view, ratio of the said judgment also squarely applies to the facts of the present case.

The next judgment on which the reliance was placed by the learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioner is in Anwar Hussain vs. Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee and Others (AIR 1965 SC 1651). In the said case, a Petition was filed seeking compensation for false imprisonment against the order passed by the Sub-Divisional Officer. The Apex Court held and observed in para 8 of its judgment as under:-

"(8) In this appeal, the only question raised is that in ordering the arrest of the respondent the appellant acted in discharge of his judicial duties, and he was on that account protected by the Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1850. Section 1 of the Act, in so far as it is material, provided:

"No Judge, Magistrate * * * Collector or other person acting judicially shall be liable to be sued in any Civil Court for any act done or ordered to be done by him in the discharge of his judicial duty, whether or not within the limits of his jurisdiction: Provided that he at the time, in good faith, believed himself to have jurisdiction to do or order the act complained of: * * *".

The statute is clearly intended to grant protection to Judicial Officers against suits in respect of acts done or ordered to be done by them in discharge of their duties as such officers. The statute, it must be noticed, protects a Judicial Officer only when he is acting in his judicial capacity and not in any other capacity. But within the limits of its operation it grants large protection to Judges and Magistrates acting in the discharge of their judicial duties. If the act done or ordered to be done in the discharge of judicial duties is within his jurisdiction, the protection is absolute and no enquiry will be entertained whether the act done or ordered was erroneously, irregularly or even illegally, or was done or ordered without believing in good faith, that he had jurisdiction to do or order the act complained of. If the act done or ordered is not within the limits of his jurisdiction, the Judicial Officer acting in the discharge of his judicial duties is still protected, if at the time of doing or ordering the act complained of, he in good faith believed himself to have jurisdiction to do or order the act. The expression "jurisdiction" does not mean the power to do or order the act impugned, but generally the authority of the Judicial Officer to act in the matter: Tayen v. Ram Lal. ILR 12 All 115."

The observations made by the Apex Court are very relevant. In the present case, Regional Provident Fund Commissioner was the only authority who could have determined the liability in view of the power conferred on him under Section 7A. The Apex Court in Anwar Hussain (supra) had went to the extent of observing that even if the act done or ordered is not within the limits of his jurisdiction, the Judicial Officer acting in discharge of his judicial duties is till protected at the time of doing or ordering the act complained of, if he in good faith believed himself to have jurisdiction to do or order the act. In the present case, it is an admitted position that that the Petitioner who was a Regional Provident Fund Commissioner had undisputedly the jurisdiction to decide the dispute which was raised for the purpose of determining the question which was raised before him.

Reliance was, thereafter, placed by the learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioner on the judgment of the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in Abdul Aziz Ansari vs. The State of Bombay (AIR 1958 Bombay 279). The said judgment was relied upon for the proposition that the expression "legal proceeding" is synonymous with "judicial proceedings" and, therefore, it was submitted that the proceedings may be legal even if they are not judicial proceedings if they are authorized by law. It was submitted by relying on the said judgment that, in any event, the order passed by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner under Section 7A was in a legal proceeding and, therefore, he would be squarely covered under the definition of "Judge" which refers to every person who is empowered by law to give a definitive judgment in any legal proceeding.

Reliance was also placed by the learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner on the judgment in Rachapudi Subba Rao vs. Advocate General, Andhra Pradesh ((1981) 2 SCC 577). Ratio of the said judgment would squarely apply to the facts of the present case, though the appeal was filed against the judgment passed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh whereby the appellant was convicted for committing gross contempt of Court under section 12 read with sections 10 and 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act. In the said case, the appellant had filed suit in the subordinate court, Vijayawada and the First Additional Subordinate Judge dismissed the suit of the appellant and decreed the suit filed by the Defendant. In execution proceedings, a notice was issued to the Additional Subordinate Judge who had decided the suit against the appellant and various allegations were made therein. It was contended by the appellant that the judge had deliberately delivered a dishonest judgment against him and the judge was guilty of serious misbehaviour in the performance of his duties and that the allegations of 'bad faith', 'malice', etc. in the notice were facts constituting the cause of action. The Apex Court rejected the said contention and relied on Section 1 of the Judicial Officers Protection Act, 1850 and, thereafter, has made the observations in para 9, 10, and 11 which read as under:-

"9. As pointed out by this Court in Anwar Hussain vs. Ajay Kumar Mukherjee (AIR 1965 SC 1651 : (1965) 2 Cri LJ 686) the section affords protection to two broad categories of acts done or ordered to be done by a judicial officer in his judicial capacity. In the first category fall those acts which are within the limits of his jurisdiction. The second category encompasses those acts which may not be within the jurisdiction of the judicial officer, but are, nevertheless, done or ordered to be done by him, believing in good faith that he had jurisdiction to do them or order them to be done."

"10. In the case of acts of the first category committed in the discharge of his judicial duties, the protection afforded by the statute is absolute, and no enquiry will be entertained as to whether the act done or ordered to be done was erroneous, or even illegal, or was done or ordered without believing in good faith."

"11. In the case of acts of the second category, the protection of the statute will be available if at the time of doing the act, the judicial officer acting judicially, in good faith believed himself to have jurisdiction to do or order the same. The expression "jurisdiction" in this section has not been used in the limited sense of the term, as connoting the 'power' to do or order to do the particular act complained of, but is used in a wide sense as meaning 'generally' the authority of the judicial officer to act in the matters. Therefore, if the judicial officer had the general authority to enter upon the enquiry into the cause, action, petition or other proceeding in the course of which the impugned act was done or ordered by him in his judicial capacity, the act, even if erroneous will not put it beyond his 'jurisdiction'. Error in the exercise of jurisdiction is not to be confused with lack of jurisdiction in entertaining the cause or proceeding. It follows that if the judicial officer is found to have been acting in the discharge of his judicial duties, then, in order to exclude him from the protection of this statute, the complainant has to establish that (1) the judicial officer complained against was acting without any jurisdiction whatsoever, and (2) he was acting without good faith in believing himself to have jurisdiction."

These observations are very much relevant and, therefore, the ratio of the said judgment would also squarely apply to the facts of the present case.

27. On the other hand, the learned Additional Solicitor General on the aspect of the power of the High Court to quash the FIR and stay the investigation in cases registered under the P.C. Act, has relied upon the following judgments:-

(1) State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal (AIR 1992 SC 604, Para 108) (2) State of Bihar vs. Mohd. Kalique ((2002) 1 SCC 652, Para 4) (3) M. Narayandas vs. State of Karnataka (AIR 2004 SC 555 Para 5)

On the aspect of bar of grant of stay by any Court to the proceedings under the P.C. Act as envisaged under section 19(3)(c), the learned Additional Solicitor General relied upon the judgment in Satyanarayan Sharma vs. State of Rajasthan (AIR 2001 SC 2856, Para 26)

28. So far as the judgment in Bhajanlal (supra) and other judgments are concerned, there cannot be any dispute regarding the ratio of the said judgments and, hereinabove, this Court has already noted the power of the High Court in quashing the FIR and we have already held that the two tests laid down in R.P. Kapur (AIR 1960 SC 866) (supra) are squarely applicable to the facts of the present case. So far as the bar envisaged under section 19(3)(c) of the P.C. Act of granting stay to the proceedings is concerned, the said question will not arise in the present case. After the Petition was filed in this Court Division Bench of this Court by its order dated 03/12/2010 had granted interim relief in terms of prayer clause (c) and the investigation was stayed. This order was challenged by the Respondents by filing an SLP in the Apex Court. The Apex Court, however, declined to interfere with the interim order which was passed by the Division Bench of this Court and directed this Court to finally dispose of the matter as expeditiously as possible. In view of this, it is no longer open for Respondent No.1 to contend that stay to the investigation cannot be granted in view of the provisions of section 19(3)(c) as the matter has been finally heard and the question before this Court while deciding this Writ Petition finally is, whether the said FIR is liable to be quashed or not. The submission of the learned Additional Solicitor General, therefore, on this aspect is without any substance.

29. It was then contended by the learned Additional Solicitor General that for the purpose of invoking protection either under section 3 of 1985 JP Act or section 77 of the IPC, it is necessary to lead evidence and only then a decision can be given whether the said provision can be invoked or not and, therefore, Writ Petition was not the appropriate remedy for the purposes of quashing the FIR on the ground of protection being afforded to a judge under section 3 of 1985 JP Act or under section 77 of the IPC. Secondly, I t was contended that though the protection was granted under section 3(1), this was restricted to the acts done in the discharge of his official or judicial duty or function and it was further subject to the provisions of section 3(2). It was submitted that in section 3(2), it is made clear that nothing in section 3(1) would debar or affect the power of the Central Government or the State Government or the Supreme Court of India or any High Court or any other authority under law to take action whether civil, criminal or departmental against the person who is a Judge or was a Judge. It was submitted that, therefore, the provisions under section 2 of the 1985 JP Act and Section 77 of the IPC would give immunity to the Judge, provided the Judge was acting judicially and in good faith. Lastly, it was submitted that the judicial independence and judicial accountability are both equally important public interests and judicial independence could never be at the cost of judicial accountability. In support of this submission, he relied upon the following Judgments.

(1) E.Giri Yadav, M.A. vs. Union of India (2009(2) ALD 608, MANU/AP/0864/2008 Paras 17, 18, 26 to 33, 35, 36)

(2) Advocate General, Andhra Pradesh vs Rachapudi Subba Rao (1991 Cri.LJ. 613, MANU/AP/0084/1990, Paras 14 and 15)

(3) Izzat Ali vs. Muhammad Sharapat-ullah Khan (1917 Allahabad 355(2), Para 2))

The next judgment on which the reliance was placed was in Ratilal Bhanji Mithani vs. State of Maharashtra and others (1979) 2 SCC 179, Para 28). It was submitted that section 3(1) is available in the form of defence against framing of charges and, therefore, on that ground, a Petition could not be entertained for quashing the FIR.

Then the reliance was placed on the judgment in M/s Lakshmiratan Engineering Works Ltd. vs. Asst. Commissioner (Judicial) I, Sales Tax, Kanpur (AIR 1968 SC 468, Paras 7, 9, 10) and on the judgment in Hindusthan Commercial Bank Ltd. vs. Punnu Sahu (AIR 1970 SC 1384, Para 4)). Reliance was placed on these judgments for the purpose of extending the meaning of the word "entertain" which is found in section 3(2) of the JP Act. It was submitted that the Court may entertain the criminal proceedings only after charges have been framed which would allow the court to adjudicate upon the charges and to proceed with the trial on the basis of the material collected during investigation.

It was also contended that the authorities passing orders under section 7A of the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 are not judges and in support of the said submission reliance was placed on the following judgments:-

(1) Brajanandan Sinha vs. Jyoti Narayan (AIR 1956 SC 1966, para 18)

(2) Iqbal Singh Narang vs. Veeran Narang (AIR 2012 SC 466, paras 13 and 14)

(3) S.K. Nasruddin Beedi Merchant Ltd vs. Central Provident Fund Commissioner and another (AIR 2001 SC 850, para 6)

(4) Gujarat State Civil Supplies Corporation vs. Regional PF Commissioner (2000) GLR 398, para 20)

(5) Food Corporation of India vs. Provident Fund Commissioner and others (1990) 1 SCC 68, Para 9)

(6) Regional Provident Fund Commissioner vs. Bhavani (AIR 2008 SC 2957, Para 21)

(7) Union of India vs. K.K. Dhawan (AIR 1993 SC 1478, para 28)

(8) Veeraswamy vs. Union of India (1991) 3 SCC 655, para 9 and para 56

(9) Harihar Prasad vs. State of Bihar ((1972) 3 SCC 89, para 66))

On the question of whether the State would fall within the definition of the word 'person' as expressed in section 420 of the IPC read with section 11 of the IPC, reliance was placed on the following judgments:-

(1) Krishnan vs. Krishnaveni ((1997) 4 SCC 241)

(2) Ram Prakash Singh vs. State of Bihar (1998 Cri.LJ 502, para 11)

(3) Tulsi Ram vs. State of U.P. (1963(1) Cri.LJ 623, paras 14-17)

(4) State vs. Ramados Naidu (1977 Cri. LJ 2048, para 7)

30. In view of the submissions made by the learned Additional Solicitor General, the question which falls for consideration is : whether the provisions of section 3(2) overrides section 3(1) of 1985 JP Act. It has been strenuously urged after relying on number of judgments that section 3(2) being a substantive provision, it expressly overrides section 3(1). It was further submitted that section 3(1) also expressly states that it is subject to provisions of section 3(2). It is, therefore, necessary to decide the scope and ambit of section 3(1) and 3(2). The said section is already reproduced hereinabove. However, for the sake of convenience, it would be appropriate if it is reproduced again:-

"3(1) Not withstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force and subject to the

provisions of sub-sec. (2), no Court shall entertain or continue any civil or

criminal proceeding against any person who is or was a Judge for any act, thing or word committed, done or spoken by him when, or in the course of, acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official or judicial duty or function.

(2) Nothing in sub-sec.(1) shall debar or affect in any manner the power of the Central Government or the State Government or the Supreme Court of

Indiaor any High Court or any other authority under any law for the time being in force to take such action (whether by way of civil, criminal, or departmental proceedings or otherwise) against any person who is or was a Judge."

Perusal of the section clearly discloses that section 3(1) starts with non-obstante clause and it states that notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force and subject to provisions of sub-sec. (2), the protection which is sought to be given to a Judge is mentioned. The said sub-section (1) clearly mentions that the act which is sought to be protected is one which has been performed in the course of acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official or judicial duty or function. The said provision, therefore, firstly imposes a bar on the court to entertain or continue any civil or criminal proceeding against the Judge for any act which he has performed in the discharge of his official duty. Sub-section (2), however, makes it clear that nothing in sub-section (1) would debar or affect in any manner the power of the Central Government, or State Government or Supreme Court of India or any High Court or any other authority under any law to take such action (civil, criminal or departmental proceedings) against a Judge.

31. It has been strenuously urged by the learned Additional Solicitor General that sub-section (2) overrides sub-section (1) and, as such, despite protection being granted to a Judge under sub-section (1), Central Government, State Government, Supreme Court or High Court can institute civil, criminal or departmental proceedings against the Judge and, therefore, the proceedings cannot be quashed at the inception and in view of sub-section (1), at the highest, a defence could be taken by the Judge, which could be decided by the Court at the conclusion of the Trial after the evidence was led by both the parties. It has been strenuously urged that sub- section (1) deals with judicial independence, whereas sub- section (2) deals with judicial accountability and, therefore, the High Court while acting under its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of Indian and under inherent jurisdiction under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code was not competent to quash the proceedings. In support of the said submission, reliance was placed on number of judgments which have been mentioned hereinabove.

32. In our view, it will not be possible to accept the submissions canvassed by the learned Additional Solicitor General. If the said submission is accepted, it would render the protection given to a Judge under section 3(1) nugatory and the provision would be otiose or meaningless. It is a very well settled position in law that while interpreting the provision the words have to be interpreted in a harmonious manner and the words also have to be interpreted in a contextual manner after ascertaining the intention of the legislature. If the submission made by the Additional Solicitor General is accepted, it would mean that the legislature on the one hand had given protection to a Judge who was acting in the discharge of his official duty and, on the other hand, the same protection was taken away under section 3(2) of the said Act. If the provision is so interpreted, it would be rendered meaningless.

33. The said two provisions viz. sub-section (1) and (2) of Section 3 of the Act, therefore, have to be construed in a harmonious manner. In Principles of Statutory Interpretation (11th Edition 2008 - Justice G.P. Singh), the author has observed as under:-

"(b) Inconsistency and repugnancy to be avoided; harmonious construction

It has already been seen that a statute must be read as a whole and one provision of the Act should be construed with reference to other provisions in the same Act so as to make a consistent enactment of the whole statute. 74 Such a construction has the merit of avoiding any inconsistency or repugnancy either within a section or between a section and other parts of the statute. It is the duty of the courts to avoid "a head on clash"75 between two sections of the same Act and, "whenever it is possible to do so to construe provisions which appear to conflict so that they harmonise".76 It should not be lightly assumed that "Parliament had given with one hand what it took away with the other".77 The provisions of one section of a statute cannot be used to defeat those of another "unless it is impossible to effect reconciliation between them".78 The same rule applies in regard to sub-sections of a section. In the words of GAJENDRAGADKAR, J: "The sub- sections must be read as parts of an integral whole and as being interdependent; an attempt should be made in construing them to reconcile them if it is reasonably possible to do so, and to avoid repugnancy".79 As stated by VENKATARAMA AIYAR, J.: "The rule of construction is well settled that when there are in an enactment two provisions which cannot be reconciled with each other, they should be so interpreted that, if possible, effect should be given to both. This is what is known as the rule of harmonious construction."80 That, effect should be given to both, is the very essence of the rule. Thus a construction that reduces one of the provisions to a "useless lumber" 81 or "dead letter"82 is not harmonious construction."

34. Sub-section (1) gives complete protection to a Judge who is acting in judicial capacity. Sub-section (2), however, clarifies that the power of the Central Government, State Government, Supreme Court, High Court is not taken away to institute civil, or criminal proceedings against the said Judge. It, therefore, follows that if there is any other material which is available with the State or Central Government or higher judicial authorities which could show that the act of the Judge was not in discharge of his official duty then the protection was not available and the said Judge could be prosecuted. Therefore, if there is material to show that the judgment which was delivered was passed on extraneous considerations then on the basis of that material criminal case could be instituted against the said Judge and the said protection which is given under sub-section (1) would not be available. However, at the same time, it would not be open to entertain or continue the proceeding which is based solely on the judgment which is delivered by the Court. Thus, it will not be open for the prosecuting agency to say that the judgment which is delivered is wrong because, according to the prosecution, the judgment should have been "X" and not "Y" more particularly since against the impugned order there is a remedy of filing appeal or Writ Petition in the High Court or SLP in the Supreme Court.

35. Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code lays down that sanction to prosecute has to be obtained against the public servant. The Apex Court has in several judgment interpreted the said provision and has held that acceptance of a bribe or cheating or criminal breach of trust is not part of the official duty of a public servant and if he accepts a bribe and commits criminal breach of trust then it cannot be said that he is acting in the discharge of his duty and, therefore, in such cases, the question of taking sanction to prosecute does not arise. Similarly, in cases where a public servant commits murder or such other offence, it cannot be said that he is acting in the discharge of his official duty and, therefore, the question of obtaining sanction does not arise. The Apex Court has accordingly interpreted the term "discharge of official duty" in number of Judgments. In Hori Ram Singh vs. Emp. (AIR 1939 FC 159), the accused was a Civil Surgeon in charge of an hospital was charged and convicted under section 409 and 477-A, Penal Code, without sanction for his prosecution under section 197 having been obtained. The case against him was that he had dishonestly removed from the hospital certain medicinal stocks and had converted them to his own use. It was held that sanction under section 197 is not required for the charge under section 409 in that case as the act of removal of the stocks of medicine did not involve any official capacity and that act was not done in the discharge of his official duty. In Gill, H.H.B. vs. King (AIR 1948 PC 128), the charge was under section 161, Penal Code, and it was held that of its very nature, the offence was such that the accused could not claim that his act of acceptance of bribe was done in virtue of his office or involved his official capacity. Hence, sanction under section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code was not required. In Albert West Mead vs. King (AIR 1948 PC 156), the accused who was an Army Officer was charged under section 409, Penal Code, for being unable to account for a sum of money which had been entrusted to him in his official capacity. It was held that though the money was received by him in his official capacity, his act of misappropriation of that money was not an act as to which the accused could claim that it was done 'by virtue of his office', and hence sanction under section 197, Cr.P.C., was not required for his prosecution. These principles were re-affirmed by the Privy Council in Phanindra Chandra vs. King (AIR 1954 SC 455) and by the Supreme Court in Shreekantiah Ramayya Munipalli vs. State of Bombay (AIR 1955 SC 287) and in Amrik Singh vs. State of Pepsu (AIR 1955 SC 309)

36. In our view, therefore, sub-section (1) of section (3) of the said Act has to be interpreted to mean that the protection which is afforded to a Judge is for an act which has been performed during the course of his official duties and that cannot form a basis for instituting criminal case against him and, therefore, ratio of the judgments of the Apex Court which has interpreted the term "discharge of official duty" in the judgments referred to above would also on the same analogy apply to the protection which is afforded under section 3(1) of the said Act. In the present case, the Petitioner who was a Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, was called upon to decide the dispute and, accordingly, after holding the enquiry, he was pleased to pass the said order. It became final since no appeal or review was filed. CBI has held that the actual liability of the employer was much higher which conclusion has been arrived at on the basis of the balance-sheet and other accounts on which reliance has been placed by the CBI. In our view, prosecution cannot be launched on the basis of an act such as delivery of a judgment which was done in the course of his official duty.

37. It was open for the CBI in view of provisions of section 3(2) to initiate criminal proceedings on the basis of the material which could show that the judgment which was given was on extraneous considerations after accepting bribe and if such a complaint would have been filed, the Petitioner could not have asked for the protection under sub-section (1) of section (3) of the said Act.

Reliance was placed on the judgment of E.Giri Yadav, M.A vs Union of India rep. By its Secretary, Law and Legislative Affairs and Anr. (2009(2) ALD 608). In the said case, the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India had granted permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation to examine two Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The said order was challenged by filing a Writ Petition by an advocate on the ground that it was an administrative order open to challenge since it curtailed the independence of judiciary. The validity of section 3(2) of the Judges Protection Act, 1985 was also challenged on the ground that it is unconstitutional as it is violative of Articles 124(4) and 218 of the Constitution of India etc. In this context, the Division Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court came to the conclusion that section 3(2) of the said Act of 1985 is not shown to be beyond the legislative competence of the Parliament and not contrary to section 3 of the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 and, therefore, it held that section 3(2) of the Act of 1985 is constitutionally valid. The Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, however, has not considered the scope and ambit of the provisions of section 3(2) of the said Act with reference to provisions of section 3(1) and, therefore, the ratio of the said judgment would not be of any assistance to the Respondents.

Reliance was also placed on the judgment of the Andhrapradesh High Court in Advocate Genral, Andhra Pradesh vs Rachapudi Subba Rao (1991 Cri.L.J. 613) and more particularly on paras 14 and 15 of the said judgment. In the said case, the question which fell for consideration before the Full Bench was : whether sanction of the Central Government under section 197(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure is a condition precedent for Court to take cognizance of the offence alleged in the private complaint against the Judge of the High Court in respect of his acts in the discharge of judicial functions and, in this context, Full Bench held that so far as the Judges of the High Court and Supreme Court are concerned the Central Government or the State Government had no power to grant sanction to prosecute since they are constitutional authorities. It was, however, held that so far as members of subordinate judiciary are concerned, the State Government, after obtaining the concurrence of the High Court has power to accord previous sanction for the prosecution of a member of subordinate judiciary. Ratio of this Judgment also, therefore, is of no assistance to the Respondents.

38. Provisions of section 3(1) and 3(2), therefore, if they are construed harmoniously, it would be clear that if the allegation in the complaint is made on the basis of a judgment which is given by a Judge while discharging his official duties as a Judge and that is made the basis of the criminal complaint, as has been done in the present case, then, in that case, the Judge would be entitled to get protection as laid down under section 3(1) of the said Act. However, if the said act of a Judge has not been done in discharge of his official duties as a Judge, in that case the protection would not be available and section 3(2) clarifies that in such a case, the Central Government, State Government or Supreme Court or High Court would have power to initiate civil, criminal or departmental proceedings against the Judge. As laid down therefore in the judgments in Hori Ram Singh (AIR 1939 FC 159) (supra), Gill H.H.B. (1948 PC 128) (supra), and in Albert West Mead (AIR 1948 PC 156) (supra) as discussed hereinabove, if the Judge commits an offence punishable under sections 420, 409 of the IPC and under section 13(1)(d), 13(1)(e) of the P.C. Act and there is material on record to that effect and a complaint is filed on the basis of the said material, the protection which is given under section 3(1) would not be available and the Court would be entitled to entertain and continue the criminal complaint which is filed against him. The intention behind granting protection to a Judge under section 3(1) of the JP Act, 1985 or section 77 of the IPC is to ensure that while discharging his Official function, his independence of deciding the case is not curtailed or he is under any pressure regarding consequences of judgment which is delivered by him when he is acting in the discharge of his official duties. But if there is material to show that the judgment has been passed on extraneous considerations and the said material is mentioned in the FIR, then, in that case, protection is no longer available and that clarification has been given in sub-section (2) of section 3 of the said Act. The submission of the learned Additional Solicitor General Shri Khambata that section 3(2) overrides section 3(1), therefore, is unacceptable.

Reliance was placed on number of judgments by the Additional Solicitor General in support of the submission that the protection to a Judge is qualified by requirement that the Judge has acted judicially and in good faith and that section 3(1) is a defence on merits which could be raised at the commencement of trial. He relied upon the judgment in Izzat Ali vs. Muhammad Sharapat-ullah Khan (AIR 1917 Allahabad 355(2)) (Para 2). In this case, District Judge of Budaun was pleased to dismiss the suit. The order of dismissal was based upon the finding that the plaint did not disclose any cause of action and, in the order, it was mentioned that from the statement of facts given in the plaint itself it was clear that the suit is one the cognizance of which is forbidden by the provisions of the Judicial Officers'

Protection Act No. XVIII of 1850. The Allahabad High Court held in the facts of the said case that in the plaint the cause of action was stated to be that the Defendant took the Plaintiff into custody and, secondly, he brought a false charge against the Plaintiff, knowing the said charge to be false. It was held that the order was passed on preliminary point. It was held that the plaint could be struck out and a suit dismissed on the ground that the plaint discloses no cause of action. But, for that purpose, it was necessary to look at the plaint and nothing else. However, it was observed that on reading the plaint, it is clear that if the allegations are proved in accordance with the plaint, there is any sort of cause of action, however, trivial, frivolous and doubtful it may be, it is the duty of the Court to hear the evidence and decide it on merits. Under these circumstances, it was observed that defence was really a defence which goes to the merits and could only be tested when the facts relied upon by the Plaintiff were brought before the Court. In our view, the ratio of the said judgment does not take the case of the Respondents any further. In the said case, civil suit was dismissed on the ground of protection being afforded under the Judicial Officers' Protection Act and, therefore, the High Court observed that there was no cause of action and, therefore, under these circumstances, High Court held that evidence had to be adduced for the purpose of deciding on merits whether the facts as alleged in the plaint were established or not.

In the present case, however, the facts are entirely different. In the Plaint, it is alleged that the judgment was delivered and liability was fixed. It is further alleged that, according to CBI, the liability ought to have been fixed at a higher amount. Such a course of action is not permissible since the CBI cannot seat in appeal over the judicial decision which was given by the accused. Moreover, the old Act was repealed and apart from protection being given against filing of a civil suit by 1985 Act, protection is also given against institution of criminal proceedings. The facts of the said case in Izzat Ali vs. Muhammad Sharapat- ullah Khan (AIR 1917 Allahabad 355(2)) being different the ratio will not apply to the facts of the present case.

39. It was then strenuously urged that the investigation could not be stayed and section 3(1) did not impose a bar upon investigating agency to proceed with the investigation and submit a charge-sheet under section 173(2) of the Code. Reliance was placed on the Judgment of the Apex Court in Ratilal Bhanji Mithani vs. State of Maharashtra and others ((1979) 2 SCC 179 at para 28). In our view, there cannot be any dispute regarding the ratio laid down in the said judgment. However, ratio of the said judgment has no application to the facts of the present case.

40. It was then strenuously urged that the word 'entertain' which is found in section 3(1) means "to admit to consideration" or "to adjudicate upon" and, therefore, it was submitted that the Court can entertain the proceedings once charges have been framed. Reliance was placed on the judgments in M/s Lakshmiratan Engineering Works Ltd vs Asst. Commissioner (Judicial) I, Sales Tax Kanpur (AIR 1968 SC 468) (Paras 7, 9 10) and in Hindusthan Commercial Bank Ltd vs. Punnu Sahu (AIR 1970 SC 1384) (Para 4). It was further submitted that even if contextual interpretation is adopted the word 'entertain' must be given the aforesaid meaning, otherwise provisions of section 3(2) would be defeated. In our view, ratio of the said judgments would not apply to the facts of the present case. In the present case, if contextual interpretation is adopted the word 'entertain' or 'continue" will have different connotation and the said words would clearly reflect the intention of the Parliament imposing a bar on the Court to entertain these proceedings. Once the Court comes to the conclusion that the averments made in the FIR are such which would be hit by legal bar to proceed further, High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India or under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure within the ambit and scope of the power of the High Court, as laid down in R.P. Kapur vs State of Punjab (AIR 1960 SC 866), Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal (AIR 1992 SC 604) and in State of Bihar vs. Mohd. Khalique (2002) 1 SCC 652), is entitled to quash the FIR and, therefore, submission made by the Counsel for the Respondents is without any substance.

41. In support of the submission that authorities passing orders under section 7A of the said Act are not judges, the learned Additional Solicitor General relied upon the judgments in the following cases:-

(1) Brajanandan Sinha vs. Jyoti Narayan (AIR 1956 SC 1966, para 18) (2) Iqbal Singh Narang vs. Veeran Narang (AIR 2012 SC 466, paras 13 and 14) (3) S.K. Nasruddin Beedi Merchant Ltd vs. Central Provident Fund Commissioner and another (AIR 2001 SC 850, para 6) (4) Gujarat State Civil Supplies Corporation vs. Regional PF Commissioner (2000) GLR 398, para 20)

(5) Food Corporation of India vs. Provident Fund Commissioner and others (1990) 1 SCC 68, Para 9)

(6) Regional Provident Fund Commissioner vs. Bhavani (AIR 2008 SC 2957, Para 21) In Brajanandan Sinha (AIR 1956 SC 1966, para 18) (supra), the facts were that the appeal under Article 134(1)(c) was filed arising out of an application under section 2 of the Contempt of Courts Act and section 8 of Public Servants (Inquiries) Act (37 of 1850) and the question which fell for consideration was : whether the Commissioner appointed under Act 37 of 1850 is a Court. The facts were that the State Government had received reports to the effect that the respondent had been guilty of serious misconduct and corrupt practices in the discharge of his official duties while employed as Sub- Divisional Officer at Aurangabad and, accordingly, an inquiry was to be held in respect of the said charges under the provisions of Public Servants (Inquiries) Act (37 of 1850). The District and Sessions Judge of Gaya was appointed as Commissioner under the Act for making inquiry. Certain allegations were made against the Commissioner and, therefore, he filed a reference before the High Court which convicted the appellant therein under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act by holding that the Commissioner was a Court. In the background of the facts of the said case, the Apex Court has considered whether the Commissioner is a Court. After taking into consideration the number of judgments of the Apex Court, High Courts and also judgments of Privy Council and other Judgments given by English Courts, the Apex Court came to the conclusion that the Commissioner appointed under the Act 37 of 1850 is not a Court within the meaning of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1952.

Reliance was placed on para 18 of the said Judgment. It was submitted that one of the essential conditions for deciding whether the authority is a Court or not is to see whether it has power to give a decision or a definitive judgment which has finality and authoritativeness which are the essential tests of a judicial pronouncements. In our view, ratio of the said judgment does not assist the case of the Respondents. We have already considered the provisions of the Act and have observed that the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner who passes an order under section 7A, attains finality and can be executed against the employer and the said order can be executed by following the procedure which is similar to the procedure of execution of a decree and it also entails penal consequences.

In Iqbal Singh Narang (AIR 2012 SC 466, paras 13 and 14) (supra), which is a very recent judgment, the question which fell for consideration before the Apex Court was : whether any private complaint could be maintainable in respect of the statements alleged to have been made falsely before the Rent Controller even if he is held "not to be a Court". The Apex Court, after taking into consideration the consistent view which was taken by the Apex Court, held that though Rent Controller discharges quasi-judicial function, he is not a Court as understood in the conventional sense and, therefore, he

cannot make a complaint under section 340 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Again, the said judgment which has been relied upon for the proposition that the authority exercising quasi judicial power cannot be termed as Court, will have no application to the facts of the present case. The question which fell for consideration before the Apex Court in the said case was whether the Rent Controller could file a private complaint for giving false evidence before him and in the context of deciding the said question the Apex Court has made the aforesaid observation.

42. It has to be noted here that the law of precedent is quite well settled. The Apex Court in Zee Telefilms Ltd. and another vs. Union of India and others (2005) 4 SCC 649) has observed in paras 254, 255 and 256 as under:-

"Precedent

254. Are we bound hands and feet by Pradeep Kumar Biswas (2002) 5 SCC 111? The answer to the question must be found in the law of precedent. A decision, it is trite, should not be read as a statute. A decision is an authority for the questions of law

determined by it. Such a question is determined having regard to the fact situation obtaining therein. While applying the ratio, the court may not pick out a word or a sentence from the judgment divorced from the context in which the said question arose for consideration. A judgment, as is well known, must be read in its entirety and the observations made therein should receive consideration in the light of the questions raised before it. (See Punjab National Bank v. R.L. Vaid (2004) 7 SCC 698).

255. Although decisions are galore on this point, we may refer to a recent one in State of Gujarat v. Akhil Gujarat Pravasi V.S. Mahamandal (2004) 5 SCC 155 wherein this Court held : (SCC p. 172, para 19)

"It is trite that any observation made during the course of reasoning in a judgment should not be read divorced from the context in which it was used."

256. It is further well settled that a decision is not an authority for a proposition which did not fall for its consideration. It is also a trite law that a point not raised before a court would not be an authority on the said question. In A-One Granites v. State of U.P. (2001) 3 SCC 537 it is stated as follows : (SCC p. 543, para 11)

"11. This question was considered by the Court of Appeal in Lancaster Motor Co. (London) Ltd. v. Bremith Ltd. (1941) 1 KB 675 and it was laid down that when non consideration was given to the question, the decision cannot be said to be binding and precedents sub silentio and without arguments are of no moment"

[See also State of U.P. v. Synthetics and Chemicals Ltd. (1991) 4 SCC 139, Arnit Das v. State of Bihar (2000) 5 SCC 488 (SCC para 20), Bhavnagar

University v. Palitana Sugar Mills (P) Ltd. (2003) 2 SCC 111, Cement Corpn. of India Ltd. v. Purya (2004) 8 SCC 270, Bharat Forge Co. Ltd. v. Uttam Manohar Nakate (2005) 2 SCC 489 and Kalyan Chandra Sarkar v. Rajesh Ranjan (2005) 2 SCC 42, See para 42.]"

Similarly, in Punjab National Bank vs. R.L. Vaid and others (AIR 2004 SC 4269) the Apex Court in para 5 has observed as under:-

"5. We find that the High Court has merely referred to the decision in R.K. Jain's case (AIR 1993 SC 1769 : 1993 AIR SCW 1899) (supra) without even indicating as to applicability of the said decision and as to how it has any relevance to the facts of the case. It would have been proper for the High Court to indicate the reasons and also to spell out clearly as to the applicability of the decision to the facts of the case. There is always peril in treating the words of a judgment as though they are words in a Legislative enactment and it is to be remembered that judicial utterances are made in the setting of the facts of a particular case. Circumstantial flexibility, one additional or different fact may make a difference between conclusions in two cases. Disposal of cases by merely placing reliance on a decision is not proper. Precedent should be followed only so far as it marks the path of justice, but you must cut out the dead wood and trim off the side branches else you will find yourself lost in thickets and branches, said Lord Denning, while speaking in the matter of applying precedents. The impugned order is certainly vague."

Similarly in State of Uttar Pradesh Vs. Synthetics and Chemicals Limited (1991-SCC-4-139), the Apex Court in para 41 has observed as under:-

"41. Does this principle extend and apply to a conclusion of law, which was neither raised nor preceded by any consideration. In other words can such conclusions be considered as declaration of law? Here, again the English courts and jurists have carved out an exception to the rule of precedents. It has been explained as rule of sub-silentio. "A decision passes sub-silentio, in the technical sense that has come to be attached to that phrase, when the particular point of law involved in the decision is not perceived by the court or present to its mind." (Salmond on Jurisprudence 12th Edn., p. 153. In Lancaster Motor Company (London) Ltd. vs. Bremith Ltd the court did not feel bound by earlier decision as it was rendered 'without any argument, without reference to the crucial words of the rule and without any citation of the authority'. It was approved by this court in Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs. Gurnam Kaur. The bench held that, 'precedents sub-silentio and without argument are of no moment'. The courts thus have taken recourse to this principle for reliving from injustice perpetrated by unjust precedents. A decision which is not express and is not founded on reasons nor it proceeds on consideration of issue cannot be deemed to be a law declared to have a binding effect as is contemplated by Article

141. Uniformity and consistency are core of judicial discipline. But that which escapes in the judgment without any occasion is not ratio decidenti. In B. Shama Rao v. Union Territory of Pondicherry it was observed, 'it is trite to say that a decision is binding not because of its conclusions but in regard to its ratio and the principles, laid down therein'. Any declaration or conclusion arrived without application of mind or preceded without any reason cannot be deemed to be declaration of law or authority of a general nature binding as a precedent. Restraint in dissenting or overruling is for sake of stability arid uniformity but rigidity beyond reasonable limits is inimical to the growth of law."

43. It is, therefore, not open for the party to rely on some of the observations made in the judgment which is given in the context of some other facts which are not similar to the facts of the case in issue.

44. Moreover, distinction will have to be drawn between the definition of the word "Court" and of "Judge". The Indian Penal Code has clearly made distinction between these two words and and the words "Judge" and "Court" are separately defined and, as such, the judgment in which the decision revolves around the question as to whether the authority is Court or not, would not be relevant in a case where the question which is to be decided is : whether the person is a "judge" or not within the meaning of section

19.

45. Reliance was also placed by the learned Additional Solicitor General on the judgment in M/s. S.K. Nasruddin Beedi Merchant Ltd vs. Central Provident Fund Commissioner and another (AIR 2001 SC 850) and particularly on para 6 of the said judgment which reads as under:-

"..........The applicability of the Act to any class of employees is not determined or decided by any proceeding under Section 7A of the Act but under the provisions of the Act itself. When the Act became applicable to the employees in question, the liability arises. What is done under section 7-A of the Act is only determination of quantification of the same. Therefore, the contention put forth on behalf of the appellant that their liability was attracted only from the date of determination of the matter under Section 7- A of the Act does not stand to reason........."

In the said case, the appellant was the manufacturer of beedis and he challenged the order passed by the Respondent under section 7A of the said Act. The question was from which date the employee was liable and it was contended that the appellant could not be asked to pay retrospectively employees' contribution to the provident fund without deducting that from their wages. Repealing that contention, the said observations were made in para 6. The submission that since the liability is already fixed under the Scheme of the Act, the quantification by the authority under section 7A is not a judgment is without any substance as we have already dealt with the provisions of the Act on this aspect. Reliance was placed on the on the judgments in Gujarat State Civil Supplies Corporation vs. Regional PF Commissioner ((2000) GLR 398, para 20) and in Food Corporation of India vs. Provident Fund Commissioner and others (1990) 1 SCC 68, Para 9). The facts in both these judgments are entirely different and, therefore, these judgments cannot be relied upon as a precedent for the purpose of canvassing the submission that the said authority is not a Judge. In both these cases the issue whether the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner is a Judge or not did not fall for consideration directly or even indirectly and, therefore, observations made therein are of no assistance to the Respondents. Same is the case in respect of the Judgment in Regional Provident Fund Commissioner vs. Bhavani (AIR 2008 SC 2957, Para 21). There, the question was: whether the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner was liable for prosecution under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and, in that context, it was held that the Act was applicable in the case of the Scheme on the ground that its member was a 'consumer' under section 2(1)(d) and the Scheme was a 'service' under section 2(1)(o). The issue as to whether the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner is a 'Judge" or not did not fall for consideration before the Apex Court in the said case.

46. It was also very strenuously urged that the protection under JP Act, 1985 and section 77 of the Indian Penal Code could not be extended to acts which are negligent or reckless and that there was no blanket or absolute protection to a Judge from criminal prosecution and that the criminal act is not an official act. Reliance was placed on the judgments of the Apex Court in Union of India vs. K.K. Dhawan (AIR 1993 SC 1478) (Para 28), Veeraswamy vs Union of India (1991) 3 SCC 655) (Paras 9 and 56) and the Judgment in Harihar Prasad vs. State of Bihar (1972) 3 SCC 89) (Para 66). There cannot be any dispute regarding the ratio laid down in the said judgments. We have already considered hereinabove number of judgments of the Privy Council, High Courts and Supreme Court which have in terms held that any act which is not done by a judge in the official discharge of duty then such act shall not be covered under section 3(2) of the JP Act, 1985. In the present case, we have elaborately observed after going through the averments made in the FIR as to how the protection under section 3(1) is available to a Judge, if the FIR proceeds on the footing that the judgment given by him is wrong and, therefore, he has committed offence of cheating or under the Prevention of Corruption Act and, therefore, these judgments on which the reliance is placed by the learned Additional Solicitor General cannot be of any assistance to the Respondents.

47. Assuming for the sake of arguments, as submitted by the learned Solicitor General Shri Khambatta, that Petitioner does not fall within the definition of a "Judge" within the meaning of section 19 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3(1) of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 even then if the averments which are made in the FIR are accepted at its face value, the offence punishable under section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of PC Act and read with section 120B read with section 420 of the Indian Penal Code is not made out because the entire complaint proceeds on the basis that the order passed by the Petitioner is defective since the liability which is imposed upon the employer is shown to be Rs 6,72,455/- though the liability calculated by CBI was to the extent of Rs.43,52,618/-. From the averments made in the FIR, therefore, it can be seen that, in effect, CBI, practically is sitting in appeal over the said order and has come to the conclusion that the said liability should have been X + 1. This itself shows that the foundation of entire complaint is based on hypothetical calculation made by the CBI as if sitting in appeal over the order passed by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner and, therefore, even if these averments are taken at their face value, they do not constitute the offence alleged.

48. The learned Counsel for the CBI had brought to our notice certain other material which was collected by them after the FIR was lodged and, according to them, this material was procured during investigation prior to the grant of stay to the investigation by this Court. It was submitted that the said material clearly revealed that there was further material showing involvement of the Petitioner. Mr. Mahesh Jethmalani, the learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner submitted that unless this material is brought to the notice of the accused, the Petitioner herein, the Court cannot rely on the said documents. Reliance was placed on the judgment of the Apex Court in ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla (AIR 1976 SC 1207) (Para 487).

49. It is clarified that if other material is available with the CBI which shows that the order was passed on extraneous considerations and the offences under section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act are made out, they are at liberty to file an appropriate complaint.

50. Accordingly, the questions as framed in para 16 above are answered as under:-

QuestionsFindings
(i) Whether the Regional ProvidentFund Commissioner while passing

an order under section 7A is a

Judge within the definition under

section 19 of the IPC and section 2 of

the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985?

In the affirmative
(ii) Whether the averments madein the FIR even if they are taken at

its face value, constitute an

offence?

In the negative
(iii) Whether the prosecution of thePetitioner only on the basis of the

order passed under Section 7A is

barred in view of section 77 of the

Indian Penal Code or section 3(1) of

the Judges (Protection) Act,

1985 ?

In the affirmative
CONCLUSION:

51. In the result, Writ Petition is allowed. Rule is made absolute in terms of prayer clause (b).


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