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Supreme Court of India
State Of A.P. vs A. Sathyanarayana And Ors. on 11 October, 2000
Equivalent citations: 2002 CriLJ 265, 2001 (2) SCALE 690, (2001) 10 SCC 597
Bench: G Pattanaik, M Shah, S Phukan


1. This appeal is directed against the order of the learned Designated Court, Karimnagar, returning the chargesheet to be filed before an appropriate court by deleting Section 5 and 6 of the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (hereinafter referred to as “TADA”). The learned Designated Judge being of the view that there was no prior approval of the District Superintendent (DSP) in writing as required under Section 20A(1) of TADA and the order dated 6.1.1994 issued by the Superintendent of Police tantamounts to post facto sanction of the registration of the case, he passed the impugned order.

2. The facts are undisputed that on 6.1.1994 the Sub Inspector of Police, Huzurabad seized certain explosive substances and then contracted the Superintendent of Police, Karimnagar on VHP who is the appropriate authority for getting prior approval for registering a case under Section 20A(1) of TADA. The said Superintendent of Police instructed the Sub Inspector to register the case and book the accused under Sections 4 and 5 of TADA in compliance of which the Sub Inspector did register the case. The said Superintendent of Police on the self-same day, i.e., on 6.1.1994, accorded approval in writing for registration of the case under Section 4 and 5 of TADA which however reached the Sub Inspector on the 7th of January 1994. When the chargesheet was filed, the learned Designated Judge on the basis of the aforesaid materials being of the opinion that there was no approval in writing of the competent authority the registration of the case under the TADA is bad in law, directed return of papers for being presented in appropriate forum.

3. The State of A.P. is in appeal against the aforesaid order. When this matter came up before a Bench of this Court, as two divergent views of two-Judge Benches of this Court were placed, the matter had been referred to us.

4. In Mohd. Yunus v. State of Gujarat a Division of this Court in which one of us (Justice G.B. Pattanaik) was a Member, considered the question of prior approval as required under Section 20A(1) and it was indicated therein that Section 20A(1) must be construed by indicating that the prior approval of the statutory authority referred to in the said Sub-section must be in writing so that there is transparency in the action of the statutory authority and there is no occasion for any subterfuge subsequently by introducing oral permission. The Court was persuaded to make that observation in the facts of that case inasmuch as even the subsequent written approval referred to in the judgment indicated that there had been no mention about the so-called oral permission having been granted by the Commissioner of Police. This judgment was delivered on 15th October, 1997.

5. On 6th of November, 1997, another Bench of this Court disposed of a batch of cases since [Kalpnath Rai v. State (through CBI)] and in that case also the question of prior approval of the competent authority was under consideration. In paragraph 19 of the said judgment their Lordships held:

Then the question is whether prior approval envisaged in Section 20A(1) of TADA should necessarily be in writing. There is nothing in the Sub-section to indicate that prior approval of the District Superintendent of Police should be in writing. What is necessary is the fact of approval which is sine qua non for recording the information about the commission of the offence under TADA. The provision is intended to operate as a check against the police officials of lower ranks commencing investigation into offences under TADA because of the serious consequences which such action befalls the accused. However, the check can effectively be exercised if a superior police official of the rank of DSP first considers the need and feasibility of it. His approval can be obtained even orally if such an existence arises in a particular situation. So oral approval by itself is not illegal and would not vitiate the further proceedings.

6. It is undoubtedly true that the earlier decision has not been brought to the notice of the Bench delivering the subsequent judgment and therefore there appears to be apparently some inconsistency between the observations made in the earlier judgment in Mohd. Yunus (supra) and the latter judgment in Kalpnath Rai’s case (supra).

7. We have considered the provisions of the statute itself which nowhere made it imperative that the so-called prior approval must be in writing. It is no doubt true that this provision was brought in by way of amendment by Act 43 of 1993 so that there would be some amount of check by the superior authority before a case is registered under TADA. But, innumerable cases may arise where it may not be possible to obtain approval in writing before registering the case and without registering the case, the concerned officer will not be entitled to proceed with the investigation of the matter which may lead to obliteration of the evidence in the case.

8. Having applied our mind to the aforesaid two judgments of this Court, we are in approval of the latter judgment and we hold that it is not the requirement under Section 20A(1) to have the prior approval only in writing. Prior approval is the condition precedent for registering a case, but it may be either in writing or oral also, as has been observed by this Court in Kalpnath Rai’s case (supra) and, therefore, in the case in hand, the learned Designated Judge was wholly in error in refusing to register the case under Sections 4 and 5 of TADA. We, therefore, set aside the impugned order of the learned Designated Judge and direct that the matter should be proceeded with in accordance with law.

9. The criminal appeal is disposed of accordingly.

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