Offences by or relating to Public Servants

Public Servants

Chapter XI deals with offences related to public servants. Public Servants in a democracy play a very important role in administration; they are responsible for the implementation of all the plans and policies of the Government. Section 161 to 165A have been repealed but the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 and it has also inserted sections 166 A and 166B.

Section 166A deals with the duties of a public servant while conducting an investigation. There are three clauses in section 166A, clause (a) explains that a public servant who knowingly disobeys any order which prohibits him from requiring the attendance at any place of any person for investigation into an offence or other matters shall be punished. Clause (b) provides that when a public servant knowingly disobeys, to the prejudice of any person, any other direction of the law regulating the manner in which he shall conduct such investigation shall also be punishable. Clause (c) provides that a public servant who fails to record any information given to him under certain sections shall be liable to be punished. The punishment for being guilty of any of the above clauses is rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months and which may extend upto two years with fine.

Section 166B deals with the punishment for non-treatment of a victim. It punishes any person in charge of a hospital whether the hospital is public or private and whether it is run by Central or State Government, hospitals run by local bodies or any person is covered under this section. The punishment may extend to one-year imprisonment or fine or both.

Section 167 deals with public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury, the underlying principle in this sections is that public records owe their sanctity to the presumption that arises as to their correctness and as representing the true record, of proceedings of the courts and the public servants concerned. The tampering of such documents prepared by the very persons charged with the duty of preparing them is an egregious offence and punishable under this section. There is a distinction between section 167 and 193 of the Indian Penal Code, the former section related to the incorrect preparation of a public record, section 193 applies when the record forms part of the record of a judicial proceeding.

Section 168 deals with public servant unlawfully engaging in trade, the principle of this sections is that if a public servant was permitted to engage in trade, they will not only neglect their legitimate duties for the purpose of trade but will moreover secure an unfair advantage over rival traders not so favourable circumstances. According to this section they are only debarred from trading and are not otherwise prohibited from laying out their savings to advantage. They may lend money on interest, which is not “unlawfully engaged in trade” within the meaning of the rule.

The word ‘trade’ in its ordinary sense means “exchange of goods for money or goods for goods with the object of making profit.” The word has a general application and must be considered with the context with which it is used. The word ‘trade’ in its narrow popular sense means ‘exchange of goods or for money with the object of making profit’ in its widest sense, it includes any business carried on with a view to earn profit.

In the case of State of Gujrat v. Mahesh Kumar Dhirajlal Thakkar, the respondent had entered into an agreement with the railway administration not to engage in trade, business or profession but for the sole purpose of receiving training, so that on completion of the training he could be employed by the railway administration. The mere fact that he was paid a stipend during the training period, as an apprentice, did not make him an employee of the railway administration. Indeed, C 17 of the agreement stated in clear terms that the railway administration did not bind itself to employ himon the completion of the training. It was held that the act of the accused respondent did not amount to engaging in trade. Even if the wider interpretation were to be put on the word ‘trade ‘ in section 168, IPC, the engagement of the respondent as an apprentice-trainee would not bring him within the ambit of the expression; ‘trade;. The punishment under this section is a fine of 1,000/- or imprisonment of three months or fine or both.

Section 169 deals with public servant unlawfully buying or bidding for property-the principle under this section is the prohibition here contemplated must be in respect of property with which the public servant was connected in his official capacity. Being thus placed in a position of advantage, he could not be permitted to purchase property of which he is in effect a trustee. So in the case of Rajkristo Biswas, where a sub inspector of Police in charge of a station house was charged with having purchased a pony which had been impounded at the station, and it appeared that he had, in fact held no sale but falsely reported that a sale had been held and the pony sold to another party, from whom he alleged to have subsequently purchased it. It was held that the accused should have then been convicted under this section and not for breach of trust of which he was convicted.

Section 170 deals with impersonating a public servant, this section punishes the fraudulent act done in the guise of a public servant, the words‘pretend to hold any particular office’, means that whoever, falsely holds himself out, or alleges that he is a public servant when he is not. The punishment under this section is for assuming the character of a public servant, the act of pretending to hold a particular office as a public servant alone does not make a person punishable unless that person in such an assumed character does or attempts do some act under colour of such office. The act or acts done by the person who personated a public servant merely gives a clear indication that the person has misused his position i.e. has done some overt act in exercise of the authority of the assumed public servant. When a person ‘falsely personates’ any other person he does not necessarily act fraudulently or with any dishonest intention. It cannot be said that in doing various acts successively the person personating is successively committing distinct offences.

“The views of the authors are personal

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a bank officer a public servant?

Section 46A of BR Act provides for officers of a bank to be deemed as public servants for the purposes of Chapter IX of the IPC.

Can you wear garb or a token to impersonate a public servant?

No, Section 171 of the Indian penal code punishes the offence of wearing garb or carrying token used by a public servant fraudulently.

Who is a public servant?

The term public servant may be defined to signify any person duly appointed and invested with authority to administer any part of the executive power if the government or to execute any other public duty imposed by law, whether judicial, ministerial or mixed.


  • The Indian Penal Code, K.D. Gaur, fourth Edition, Universal Law Publishing Co.
  • Criminal Law, PSA Pillai, 11th Edition , Lexis Nexis
  • Cecil Turner.J. (2013), Kenny’s Outllines of Criminal Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Textbook of Criminal Law, Glanville Williams, fourth Edition, Sweet & Maxwell South Asian Edition
  • State of Gujrat v. Mahesh Kumar Dhirajlal Thakkar
  • Rajkristo Biswas165 W.R. 52

Srishti John
Srishti is a law student at CMR School of Legal Studies, Bangalore. In her time at law school, she has found herself lost in subjects like Jurisprudence and Criminology. She loves a good debate and people who challenge her to become better. She is a Political Science graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Her resolutions involve reading 30 books in 2020 and spreading a message of joy, kindness and love. She wants to pursue her LLM and aid the violated and vulnerable in their quest for equality & justice.