Public servants can heave a sigh of relief now. For, one cannot simply drag them to the Special Lokayukta Courts citing corruption charges against them through a private complaint like what has been done in cases of many Ministers, MLAs, and bureaucrats during the past three years.

The Karnataka High Court has now made it clear that the Special Lokayukta Courts in the State cannot entertain private complaints, alleging offences under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, unless the complaint is “accompanied with the sanction for prosecution” of public servants concerned under Section 19 (1) of the PC Act.

In the four recent verdicts — one in the case filed against Baburao Chinchansur, MLA, in two cases against IAS officer M.K. Aiyappa and other officials, and one case with respect to BMS Trust — the High Court ruled that the Special Lokayukta Courts had no jurisdiction in law “even to take notice of” such complaints if the complainant had not obtained sanction from the competent authority for prosecuting public servants against whom the allegations were made.

The High Court also declared that the Special Courts [established under PC Act], cannot even direct the Lokayukta police to conduct an investigation under Section 156 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr. PC) on the allegations made in the complaint sans sanction.

In separate judgments on the petitions filed by Mr. Chinchansur, Mr. Aiyappa and others, the judges — Justice K.N. Keshavanarayana, Justice Anand Byrareddy, and Justice V. Jagannathan, who has since retired — cited the apex court’s verdict in the Subramanian Swamy vs. Manmohan Singh 2G scam case to conclude that “sanction for prosecution is a mandatory requirement even to take notice of the complaint against public servants.”

The High Court pointed out that the apex court had “refused to accept the contention of the Attorney-General [in 2G scam case] that the sanction order [for prosecution] is not required to be filed along with the complaint and question of granting sanction arises only at the stage of taking cognisance of offence.”

The High Court pointed out that the apex court had said that in the absence of sanction “…the complaint cannot be taken notice of… A court, therefore, is precluded from entertaining a complaint or taking notice of it or exercising jurisdiction if it is in respect of a public servant who is accused of an offence alleged to have been committed during discharge of his official duty.”

“…the requirement of sanction is a pre-requisite in respect of a private complaint filed under Section 200 of the Cr. PC in respect of a public servant who is alleged to have committed an offence in discharge of a public servant,” the High Court ruled in one of its orders.

The former Additional Advocate-General K.M. Nataraj pointed out that the interpretation of law earlier was that there was no bar on referring the private complaint for investigation under Section 156 (3) of the Cr. PC but the recent verdicts had made it clear that Special Lokayukta Courts could not even look into such complaints in the absence of sanction.

Meanwhile, a counsel appearing for the Lokayukta cases in Bangalore pointed out that the Special Lokayukta Courts were already going slow on many of the complaints pending before them as they had to relook at these complaints in the light of the High Court verdicts.