The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine a plea by Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and former State Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani challenging restoration of a criminal case against them.
The Court, however, refused to stay the Karnataka High Court order which had allowed the plea for restoration of the criminal complaint in relation to allegedly reneging on a commitment to grant 26 acres to a private investor in 2011.
Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi representing Yediyurappa said that once cognizance is taken pursuant to pursuant to the High Court order, they will issue warrant against the Chief Minister. He, therefore, sought protection from arrest.
“You are the sitting Chief Minister. Who can issue warrant against you. Moreover, against Chief Minister, they issue letter of request and not warrant,” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde who was heading the Bench.
The Karnataka High Court had ruled that quashing of an earlier complaint for want of sanction for prosecution “will not operate as a bar to maintain the instant complaint”.
“That being the position of law, the quashing of the earlier complaint filed by the petitioner in PCR.No.25/2012 for want of sanction, in my view, will not operate as a bar to maintain the instant complaint. The prohibition contained in Article 20(2) of the Constitution of India and section 300 Cr.P.C. does not get attracted to the facts of the case as the respondents have not been prosecuted or acquitted based on the earlier complaint lodged against them in PCR.No.25/2012. In that view of the matter, I do not find any impediment for the Trial Court to proceed with the instant complaint as per law,” the High Court had said.
Alam Pasha, MD of a firm called Pash Space International Ltd, alleged that he participated in a global investors’ meet and proposed a Rs. 600-crore housing project for which he was granted 26 acres in June 2010. However, the grant was cancelled in March 2011.
It was alleged that Yediyurappa and others entered into a criminal conspiracy and forged documents purported to have been issued by Pasha seeking to withdraw the approval granted by the High-Level Clearance Committee for allotment of 26 acres of land to Pasha at Devanahalli Industrial Area in Bangalore.
A private complaint by Pasha in 2012 was referred to the Lokayukta Police and a chargesheet filed in 2013. The case was quashed after Yediyurappa approached the High Court claiming that the Police failed to obtain sanction for investigating the case against him.
After Yediyurappa stepped down as Chief Minister, a fresh PCR was filed stating that no sanction is needed to prosecute Yediyurappa since he was no longer holding public office. The case was, however, dismissed in 2016 by the Special Court on the grounds that the earlier complaint was quashed for want of sanction to investigate the case and prosecute Yediyurappa.
Aggrieved by the same, Pasha filed a criminal petition before the High Court seeking to quash the subordinate court order and restore the said complaint against Yediyuruppa and others.
The High Court, after careful consideration of the submissions, had observed that obtaining sanction before prosecuting the respondents was not necessary as they had demitted office, which was alleged to have been abused by them at the time of commission of the offences.
Reliance was placed on the Supreme Court decision in Station House Officer, CBI/ACB/Bangalore v. BA Srinivasan before arriving at the said conclusion.
“If the complainant had liberty to approach the Court after obtaining sanction from the competent authority, as ordered by the Trial Court in the impugned order, by the same logic, the complaint could be maintained if the sanction for prosecution of the accused is not required under law. Since the impugned order is contrary to the well-established principle of law that sanction for prosecution of the public servants is not necessary after they demit the office or retire from service, the same cannot be sustained.”
With these observations, the High Court had set aside that part of the 2016 order passed by the Special Judge, and restored the complaint against Yediyuruppa and others.