The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday restored a private complaint against the former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on the allegation of accepting a bribe while stating that there is no need of previous sanction for the special court to order an investigation under Section 156 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC).
Justice S. Sunil Dutt Yadav passed the order while setting aside the special court’s July 8, 2021, order of dismissing the private complaint, filed by Abraham T.J., a social activist and president of the Karnataka Anti-Graft and Environmental Forum, Bengaluru.
The special court had said that it cannot order an investigation for want of sanction even though it had found that “there are some material to refer the complaint for investigation” against Mr. Yediyurappa and others on the allegation of receiving ₹12.5 crore as bribe from a construction company in connection with a housing project of Bangalore Development Authority (BDA).
Fetter on police
“The bar for enquiry, inquiry or investigation under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, without previous approval is only a fetter on the power of the police authorities. Wherever the court itself is in seisin of a private complaint and proceeds to order for investigation by the authorities pursuant to order under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C., such a bar under Section 17A of the P.C. Act would not be an embargo on the court’s power,” the High Court said.
“The bar under Section 17A of P.C. Act would kick in only post-registration of the FIR when the police are required to commence the investigation,” the High Court said.
When the special court has already opinioned that “there are some material to refer the complaint for investigation”, there is no reason for the bar under Section 17A of the P.C. Act to prohibit the special court from referring the matter for investigation, the High Court said while making it clear that the police authorities are obligated to register an FIR once the special court passes an order for investigation.
Once the FIR is registered, the police authorities, however, cannot move forward for conducting enquiry, inquiry or investigation without previous approval of the authorities concerned as mandated under Section 17A of P.C. Act, the court said, while clarifying that once the FIR is registered, and the police authorities entertain any doubt on the applicability of the bar under Section 17A to commence the investigation, it is always open to the investigating authorities to obtain clarification from the special court in that regard.
The High Court also clarified that rejection of the complainant’s plea by the then Governor for Mr. Yedyurappa’s prosecution would not come in the way of the special court ordering a probe as the task of securing sanction is of the investigating agency after completion of the probe.
The complainant had sought a direction from the special court to either take cognisance of offences or order an investigation against nine persons, including Mr. Yediyurappa and his son B.Y. Vijayendra.
Minister S.T. Somashekar; IAS officer G.C. Prakash (then Commissioner of the BDA); Chandrakanth Ramalingam of Ramalingam Construction Company Pvt. Ltd.; Virupakashappa Yamakanamardi, husband of Ms. Padmavathi, who is one of the daughters of Mr. Yediyurappa; Shashidar Maradi, son of Ms. Padmavathi; Sanjay Sree, son-in-law Ms. Padmavathi, and K. Ravi, proprietor, 37th Crescent Hotel, Bengaluru, are the others named in the complaint.