Can Criminal Proceedings Be Initiated Against Public Servants For Passing Incorrect Quasi-Judicial Orders?

While granting significant relief to ex Assistant Tax Commissioner G Santosh Kumar, the Kerala High Court ruled that criminal proceedings cannot be initiated against a Public Servant for passing an incorrect quasi-judicial order against the Government.

Background:-

It was alleged that the petitioner, who was the assessing authority, deliberately omitted to verify the audited statement of accounts, assessment files, revised returns and other relevant records related to Nano Excel Enterprises for years 2008-2009 and 2009-10. It was further alleged that the petitioner did not follow the statutory provisions and passed an order refunding Rs.48,20,606 as excess tax remitted for the year 2009-2010. It was also alleged that he passed another order refunding Rs.1,98,000, resulting in the Government losing Rs.50,18,606. It was stated that the petitioner and the co-accused had hatched the plan.

Contentions:-

Petitioner’s counsel CS Manu submitted that the petitioner had done the act in good faith in the discharge of his duties and, therefore, he was entitled to protection u/s 79 of KVAT Act.

However, the Public Prosecutor stated that the act was not done in good faith and violated the Deputy Commissioner’s written directions.

Court’s Observation:-

The Hon’ble Court relied on Ramesh Chennithala vs the State of Kerala wherein the Court held that in all cases of misfeasance, or all cases of loss/damage caused to the Government through discharge of duty by a public servant, a case under the P.C. Act would not stand. 

On enquiry, if a case is detected, then the only action could be initiated against the erring public servant.

After perusing the case, the Bench concluded that the petitioner is entitled to get protection u/s 3(1) of Judges Protection Act. Therefore, the charge sheet and criminal proceedings against the petitioner are liable to be quashed.

Read/Download Judgment

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