Sanction Order for prosecuting Yaddyurappa set aside

S. Yeddyurappa v. Principal Secretary to His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka and Ors.


In this ruling, the Supreme Court considered the legality of the sanction order issued by the Governor of Karnataka according sanction under section 19(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and under Section 197 of the CrPC, to prosecute the petitioner, former Chief Minister of Karnataka, for the alleged offence under Section 405 IPC, and s 13(1)(d) and s 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The Supreme Court observed that as the complaint was a private complaint, great care, caution and proper application of mind was necessary, particularly having regard to the uneasy relationship between the petitioner and the then Governor. The caution that ought to have been exercised was absent. If a crime was registered, followed by investigation for collection of evidence, the Governor could have in the hand materials for application of mind. Also the investigation agencies could have, recorded the statement of the accused, as the allegation was of acquisition of assets disproportionate to the known source of income of the accused.

It was observed that section 197 CrPC, is a protection to the public servant, so that his official acts do not lead to needless or vexatious prosecution. This is intended to guard against vexatious proceedings against public servants, not to be prosecuted without the sanction of the higher authorities. The question is not as to the nature of the offence, but whether it was committed by a public servant acting, or purporting to act as such in the discharge of his official duties. The bar created by the said provision is absolute and, in the absence of sanction, cognizance of the offence is barred. The petitioner raised a serious doubt about the legality of the sanction order. The Court observed that where the accused fails to raise the question of valid sanction, the trial would proceed to its logical end by making a judicial scrutiny of the entire materials. The Court further opined that the sanction could be challenged at any stage.

The Supreme Court dealt with the decision making process. It found that the Governor has quoted the complaint in detail in his order of sanction, but there was no finding as to why he had accorded sanction in favour of the prosecution. There was no discussion as to why he was according sanction when his Council of Ministers have, already, appointed a one-man Commission to look into various irregularities in denotification of lands. The Supreme Court observed that the Governor was free to differ from his Council of Ministers, but no reason was mentioned as to why he was not accepting the opinion. Non-consideration of the relevant matters made the order of sanction illegal and resulted in failure of justice. Hence the exercise of power by the Governor was not in accordance with well settled principles for sanctioning prosecution and the order of sanction was thus set aside.