Sanction by the Central or State government is not necessary to prosecute a public servant for an offence of ‘abetment’ under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice B. Sudershan Reddy said: “The language employed in Section 19 of the PC Act is couched in mandatory form directing the courts not to take cognisance of an offence punishable under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 only, alleged to have been committed by a public servant, except with the previous sanction of the government.”

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Reddy said: “When Section 19 of the Act specifically omits Section 12 for the purposes of sanction, the courts, by process of interpretation, cannot read Section 12 into Section 19 as it may amount to rewriting the very Section 19 itself. It is settled law that where there is no ambiguity and the intention of the Legislature is clearly conveyed, there is no scope for the court to undertake any exercise to read something into the provisions which the legislature, in its wisdom, consciously omitted. Such an exercise, if undertaken by the courts, may amount to amending or altering the statutory provisions.”

The Bench said: “The court cannot, on an assumption that there is a defect or an omission in the words used by the Legislature, correct or make up assumed deficiency, when the words are clear and unambiguous. Courts have to decide what the law is and not what it should be. The courts adopt a construction which will carry out the obvious intention of the Legislature, but cannot set at naught legislative judgment because such a course would be subversive of constitutional harmony offences.”

Larger good

Quoting an earlier judgment, the Bench said: “Punishment of the offender in the interest of society being one of the objects behind penal statutes enacted for larger good of society, right to initiate proceedings cannot be whittled down, circumscribed or fettered by putting it into a strait-jacket formula of locus standi.”

In the instant case, the CBI appealed against a judgment of the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court confirming the order of discharge passed by the special judge, North Goa, Panaji, that sanction was necessary for an offence under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act to prosecute two public servants, Parmeshwaran Subramani (respondent No. 1), the then Commissioner of Customs and Central Excise, Panaji, and another person (respondent No. 2), (who was caught offering and delivering bribe on behalf of the respondent no. 1 at the house of the complainant.)

Allowing the appeal and setting aside the judgment, the Bench said: “In our considered opinion, the interpretation sought to be placed by the High Court on Section 19 is wholly erroneous. The court, at that stage, cannot go into the question whether there was any abetment of any offence punishable under Section 7 or 11. Section 12, in clear and categorical terms, speaks that whoever abets any offence punishable under Section 7 or 11, whether or not that offence is committed in consequence of that abetment, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term as provided thereunder. It is precisely for the reason, Section 19 of the Act specifically omits Section 12 from its purview.”

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