The Kerala High Court held that as per the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), a private complaint against a public servant cannot be forwarded for the purpose of investigation under Section 156(3) of the CrPC in the absence of sanction granted by a competent authority.

A Single Bench of Justice Kauser Edappagath observed, “… as the law now stands, the requirement of sanction under section 19 of the PC Act is a prerequisite for presenting a private complaint against a public servant alleging the commission of an offence specified in sections 7, 11, 13 and 15 of the PC Act. No such complaint could be forwarded for investigation under section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. in the absence of sanction granted by the competent authority under section 19 of the PC Act.”

The Bench was dealing with a plea filed against the common order passed by the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge forwarding the private complaints to the VACB for investigation under Section 156(3) of CrPC.

Advocate M. Asokan appeared for the petitioners while Special Public Prosecutor A. Rajesh appeared for the VACB and Advocate R. Muraleedharan appeared for the respondents.


A number of four private complaints with identical allegations were filed by the respondents against the petitioners and several others before the court below, alleging that they have committed the offences punishable under Sections 468, 471, and 120B of IPC r/w Sections 7, 8, 10, and 13(1) of the PCA. The allegation set out in all the complaints was that the petitioners, along with the remaining accused i.e., the public servants, hatched a criminal conspiracy and, in pursuance of the conspiracy so hatched, put-up construction in wetlands unauthorizedly and illegally and in violation of the Kerala Building Rules.

It was further alleged that when the direction was given to the petitioners to demolish the building, corporation officials filed a false report to the effect that the building was demolished though it was not demolished. The enquiry officer found that the allegations in the complaints are not fully correct. However, the court below, on perusal of the report and connected documents, concluded that there were materials to show criminal misconduct on the part of the corporation officials and the creation of false documents in connivance with the accused and therefore, the complaints were forwarded to the Station House Officer, VACB for registration of the crime and investigation.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel asserted, “Section 19(1) of the PC Act says that no court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under sections 7, 11, 13 and 15 alleged to have been committed by a public servant, except with the previous sanction of the competent authority referred to in sub clauses (a), (b) and (c). The question of sanction is of paramount importance for protecting a public servant who has acted in good faith while performing his duties. The purpose of obtaining sanction is to see that the public servant is not entangled in false and frivolous cases.”

The Court further noted that the question of whether a sanction under Section 19 of the PC Act is necessary or not while ordering an investigation against a public servant invoking powers under section 156(3) of Cr. P.C is no more res integra.

“I am of the view that the court below could not have forwarded the complaints under section 156(3) of Cr.P.C for investigation without any sanction under section 19(1) of the PC Act obtained by the complainants”, said the Court.

The Court also directed that the court below shall proceed with the complaints in accordance with the law only after the production of the prosecution sanction order under Section 19 of PCA.

Accordingly, the Court set aside the order and allowed the plea.

Cause Title- C.V. Balan & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors.

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