New Delhi : In directing that a West Bengal police officer be prosecuted for threatening the victim of a shooting incident, the Supreme Court has set aside a high court ruling and reiterated that wrongs committed deliberately by government officials while on duty do not entitle them to protection from being put on trial.
A bench of Justices Altmas Kabir and Markandey Katju maintained the well-known legal position while restoring the prosecution of West Bengal Deputy Superintendent of Police Sahabul Hussain at a magisterial court in Behrampore.
Ordering that the trial against Hussain be resumed for trying to get a Behrampore resident to withdraw his complaint against five people in a 2005 incident of shooting, the bench said: “It was no part of his duties to threaten the complainant or her husband to withdraw the complaint.”
“All acts done by a public servant in purported discharge of his official duties cannot as a matter of course be brought under the protective umbrella of Section 197 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC),” said the bench.
Section 197 of the CrPC accords legal protection to a public servant from prosecution on charges of wrongs committed inadvertently, but not deliberately, during the discharge of his official duty. The ruling was delivered last week but released this week.
In the incident that took place on Sep 9, 2005, Samiul Choudhury suffered grievous injury to his right eye. In his statement to the Behrampore police, he named five people as his assailants.
Hussain, on the pretext of investigating the case, repeatedly visited Choudhury’s residence and tried to persuade him to retract his complaint against all the accused persons.
He and his subordinate also forced Choudhury to sign on some blank papers. At this, Choudhury’s wife Parveen Sultana lodged a complaint against Hussain at the Behrampore magisterial court.
The magistrate ordered the trial of the police officer on charges of threatening the complainant, prompting Hussain to move the Calcutta High Court. He contended that he could not have been put on trial as the alleged wrongs had been committed by him while he was discharging his official duty.
He said he was entitled to legal protection from prosecution under Section 197 of the CrPC and that he could be put on trial unless the government sanctioned his prosecution.
The high court agreed and overturned the magistrate’s order. But the Supreme Court, acting on an appeal by Parveen Sultana, set aside the high court’s order saying it was wrongly swayed by the police officer’s arguments.