The Karnataka High Court recently remitted to a lower court a criminal complaint filed against former Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde and former State Minister CT Ravi in relation to their controversial tweets on Tipu Sultan Jayanti.
A lower court had previously dismissed the complaint for want of sanction against the two legislators.
The order passed by Justice John Michael Cunha reads,
“As the learned Magistrate has failed to apply his mind to the facts of the case and has passed the impugned order by misconstruing the scope of section 196(1) and (1-A) of the Code, the matter is remitted to the jurisdictional Court to consider the complaint afresh in accordance with law.”
The complaint relates to alleged comments made against 18th century Mysore King Tipu Sultan and the controversial tweets pertaining to boycotting Tipu Jayanti celebrations organised by the State government in 2017.
RTI activist A Alam Pasha had filed a private complaint against the legislators in this regard. To support the complaint, he had cited an October 22, 2017 news report containing strongly-worded tweets by both Hegde and Ravi vis-a-vis Tipu Jayanti celebrations scheduled on November 10, 2017.
Pasha sought an investigation, claiming that the statements attract offences under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code regarding promoting enmity between religions.
However, the 10th ACMM, Bengaluru, dismissed the complaint on November 4, 2017, holding that it was not backed by prior sanction from the competent government authority, as Hegde was then serving as a Union Minister.
Pasha challenged this order before the High Court, claiming he had only sought for investigation, which the magistrate failed to consider.
Counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that the bar on action against public servants sans government sanction, as provided under Section 196(1) of Code of Criminal Procedure, would be applicable only at the stage of taking cognizance of the offences and not at the stage of reference under Section 156(3) CrPC.
Counsel appearing for respondents refuted the above submissions and said that the allegations made in the complaint prima facie did not disclose the ingredients of the offences under Sections 153-A, 295-A, 153-B and 505(2) of IPC.
It was further submitted that the trial court was justified in dismissing the complaint, as the complainant failed to make out a case for issuance of direction to the investigating agency to probe the alleged offences.
The Court noted that the need to obtain sanction from the competent authority would arise only after completion of probe at the stage of taking cognizance by the magistrate/court and allowed the petition.
“A reading of the impugned order clearly indicates that the learned Magistrate has not applied his mind to the facts and circumstances of the case and merely by referring to the provisions of law quoted in the complaint, has proceeded to hold that, in view of bar contained under section 196(1) and (1-A) of Cr.P.C., the previous sanction of the Government is necessary for referring the complaint for investigation,” the Court ruled after placing reliance on a number of Supreme Court judgments.
With these observations, the High Court quashed the lower court order and remitted the matter to the jurisdictional court.