HC finds ‘ulterior motive’ in police registering FIR against I-T officials and demanding diary seized from MLC’s house

Observing that the first information report (FIR) registered by the city police against officials of the Income Tax Department in 2017 had “ulterior motive”, the High Court of Karnataka has quashed the FIR registered based on Congress MLC K. Govindaraj’s complaint, which was lodged after I-T sleuths searched his house and seized various documents, including a personal diary.

HC finds ‘ulterior motive’ in police registering FIR against I-T officials and demanding diary seized from MLC’s house

The seizure of the diary and disclosure of some if its contents had created flutter in political circles. The diary contained entries of various transactions with abbreviations and amounts against the abbreviations, which were allegedly related to leaders.

“It is rather shocking that what the complainant [Mr. Govindaraj] wants in the complaint is the diary and what the police want to secure from the petitioners [I-T officials] is the diary; and no other document is required by the police for investigation of the allegations of offences, which run into 15 in number, but only the diary,” the court pointed out.

The court observed, “It cannot but be held that the SHO of Indiranagar police station was acting at the behest of the complainant to secure the diary by invoking Section 91 of the Cr.PC, thereby summoning the diary seized by the I-T officials.”

“The ulterior motive in registration of the FIR is seen in the subsequent proceedings,” the court observed while referring to the action of the police in seeking only the diary for investigation and seeking names of officials who searched the MLC’s house.

Justice M. Nagaprasanna, while allowing the petition filed by the Director-General of Income Tax (Investigation) and others, has held that the FIR cannot be sustained in law as Section 293 of the I-T Act mandates no prosecution, suit or other proceeding shall lie against the government and its officials for actions intended to be done under the Act.

The court noted that search and seizure was done as per the provisions of the Act and what the police wanted to investigate was the act of search and seizure. The complaint ought not to have been entertained by the police and registration of the FIR ought not to have been done in the light of the bar under Section 293 of the Act, the court said.

A perusal at the notice issued by the police, the court said, would clearly indicate that what the police wanted was the diary; and the I-T officials have replied to the notice clearly indicating that no proceedings can be instituted against the petitioners, and not even a notice seeking documents can be issued as confidentiality of such documents is protected under Section 138 of the I-T Act.

A conjoint reading of Section 132 and 138 of the I-T Act, the court said, “would lead to an unmistakable conclusion that once such seizure proceedings are undertaken by officials of the department under authorisation, they are not obliged to furnish any document to any public servant in respect of such matters relating to the assessee against whom search and seizure is taken up”.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 1:43:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/hc-finds-ulterior-motive-in-police-registering-fir-against-i-t-officials-and-demanding-diary-seized-from-mlcs-house/article37798971.ece

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