PC Act – More Time Taken For Preliminary Enquiry Not A Ground To Quash Criminal Proceedings: Supreme Court

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PC Act – More Time Taken For Preliminary Enquiry Not A Ground To Quash Criminal Proceedings

Case: The State of Jammu and Kashmir v Dr Saleem ur Rehman

Coram: Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna

Case No.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1170 of 2021

Court Observation: “While holding a Preliminary Enquiry under Clause 3.16, whatever is conducted will be in the form of enquiry into the allegations to consider whether any prima facie case is made out or not which requires further investigation after registering the FIR or not. While considering the prima facie case for the purpose of registering the FIR, some enquiry/investigation is bound to be there, however, the same shall be only for the purpose of finding out a prima facie case for the purpose of registration of the FIR only. Whatever enquiry is conducted at the stage of Preliminary Enquiry, by no stretch of imagination, will be considered as investigation under the code of criminal procedure which can only be after registration of the FIR.”

“Even otherwise, merely because while holding a Preliminary Enquiry a detailed enquiry is made into the allegations made against the respondent which, as observed hereinabove, can be said to be only for the purpose of finding out a prima facie case for the purpose of registration of the FIR and merely because some more time is taken in conducting the Preliminary Enquiry before registering the FIR, the entire criminal proceedings cannot be quashed. There shall not be any prejudice caused to the accused at the stage of holding Preliminary Enquiry which as observed hereinabove shall only be for the purpose of satisfying whether any prima facie case is made out with respect to the allegations made in the complaint which requires further investigation after registering the FIR or not. Therefore, the High Court has materially erred in holding and declaring Clause 3.16 as ultra vires”

“on a plain reading of the second proviso to Section 3, only two requirements are required to be satisfied, namely, (i) authorisation in writing by an officer of the Vigilance Organisation not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police to an officer of not below the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police to investigate such offences; and (ii) such officer authorised may investigate the offences so specified in the order of authorisation. Therefore, as such, there is no requirement of giving either special reasons or there is no requirement to mention reasons. What is required to be considered is whether there is an application of mind with respect to offences and the relevant provisions with respect to authorisation. Considering the authorisation reproduced hereinabove, it cannot be said that such authorisation authorising Inspector Nisar Hussain to investigate the FIR for the offences under Sections 5(1)(d) r/w 5(2) of the J&K PC Act, 2006 and 120B of the RPC can be said to be vitiated and/or can be said to be void which warrants quashing of the entire criminal proceedings including the FIR.”

“The offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a substantive offence and the investigation in respect of the offence under the PC Act, when considered and coupled with the offence of conspiracy, there is no requirement of prior sanction of the Magistrate. Merely because the offence of the conspiracy may be involved,investigation into the substantive offence, i.e in the present case, offence under the PC Act which is cognizable is not required to await a sanction from the Magistrate, as that would lead to a considerable delay and affect the investigation and it will derail the investigation.”

“Even otherwise, merely because while holding a Preliminary Enquiry a detailed enquiry is made into the allegations made against the respondent which, as observed hereinabove, can be said to be only for the purpose of finding out a prima facie case for the purpose of registration of the FIR and merely because some more time is taken in conducting the Preliminary Enquiry before registering the FIR, the entire criminal proceedings cannot be quashed. There shall not be any prejudice caused to the accused at the stage of holding Preliminary Enquiry which as observed herein above shall only be for the purpose of satisfying whether any prima facie case is made out with respect to the allegations made in the complaint which requires further investigation after registering the FIR or not. Therefore, the High Court has materially erred in holding and declaring Clause 3.16 as ultra vires.”

“Private Limited Companies and/or their in-charge persons is concerned, it is to be noted that the allegations against the respondent are in respect of his individual capacity. Besides the Directors of the Private Limited Companies, respondent no.1 and other officials have been arrayed as an accused. Therefore, there is no question of any vicarious liability and the observations made by the High Court that in absence of main conspirators – Private Limited Companies and/or their in-charge persons, respondent no.1 cannot be held liable is unsustainable and cannot be accepted.”

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