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Criminal cases against Patwaris and Kanungos-HC Notice to Punjab Govt.

Chandigarh (Gurpreet) H.C. notice to State of Punjab, in appeal filed against Revenue Department’s letter, directing the DGP, Punjab, against registration of criminal cases against Patwaris and Kanungos, without getting opinion of District Magistrate or competent revenue officer.

A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice and Justice Arun Palli today issued notices to the Govt. of Punjab, Department of Revenue, and DGP, Punjab, in a PIL filed by Advocate H.C. Arora, challenging the letter dated 21st September, 2021, issued by Special Secretary, Revenue, Govt. of Punjab, to the DGP, Punjab, against registering criminal cases, against Patwaris / Kanungos, without first getting the opinion of the concerned District Magistrate or the competent Revenue Officer. In the said letter, the Special Secretary, Revenue has drawn the attention of the DGP Punjab to previous letter dated 16th May, 2001 issued by the Department of Home Affairs and Justice (Home-4 Branch) addressed to all the Senior Superintendents of Police in the State of Punjab, in which it was stated that as desired by the Revenue Department, no criminal case be registered against Revenue Officers, on the basis of any complaint by any person, in relation to the decisions taken by them in their quasi judicial capacity. In the said letter dated 16th May, 2001, it was also stated that unnecessary harassment was being caused to the Revenue Officers by such complaints, and sometimes the complaints were found to be false.

Advocate H.C. Arora, petitioner appearing in person, brought to the notice of the H.C. that revenue patwari / kanungo cannot be treated to be Revenue Officers. They are Class-III employees, and they do not decide any cases in quasi judicial capacity. The petitioner also pleaded that while no such protection has been granted to any employee of Class-III of any other department, such protection granted only to Revenue Patwari / Kanungo of the Revenue Department would be an act of discrimination against other employees. He also pointed out that under the provisions of Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, it is the prerogative of the SHO to investigate into a complaint regarding cognizable offence, and to register the case. In case of refusal by SHO to register an FIR in such a cognizable offence, the Superintendent of police has the power to intervene in the matter, and to get the complaint investigated by registration of FIR. According to the petitioner, the impugned letter dated 21.09.2021 is intended to modify the provisions of law as contained in Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, which cannot be done in view of the Judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Vineet Narian’s case and another judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court itself, in the case of Charanjit Singh. The petitioner therefore, has prayed for quashing the impugned letter dated 21.09.2021. While issuing notices to respondents, the HC has also issued notice regarding staying the operation of impugned letter on next date of hearing.