Government sanction not needed to probe public servants: SC
17 December 2013
The Supreme Court today ruled that the government's sanction was not required for the CBI to prosecute senior civil servants when the court was monitoring corruption cases against them.
The court thus removed the main hurdle in the pursuit of corruption cases, like the 2G scam and Coalgate.
The order comes in a public interest petition related to the coal block allocation scandal. The government had been dithering in granting sanction due to the involvement of top dignitaries.
Clearing the road block, the three-judge bench headed by justice RM Lodha allowed prosecution to go ahead without waiting for sanction under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, under which the CBI falls.
Attorney general G E Vahanvati and other law officers had put up a strong defence of the rule, which was also found in the Prevention of Corruption Act.
According to the government, a provision of the type was necessary, in order to prevent frivolous and vexatious charges being made against honest bureaucrats, which affected the efficiency of administration.
Accepting the argument of the petitioner, Common Cause, the bench stated that the hurdle needed to be removed to allow speedier conclusion of the investigation and trial of those who held the post of joint secretary and above.
It was argued by the petitioner that when the court took over the monitoring, the role of the government with regard to sanction ended.
Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act would not bar the CBI from investigating top bureaucrats in corruption cases into which probes were either directed or being monitored by the apex court, according to the bench.
Expressing its reservation over the centre's stand on mandatory sanction for investigation of senior bureaucrats in all corruption cases, the apex court ruled that such statutory provision would hamper judicial power in court-monitored probes like in the coalgate case.
It rejected the contention of the centre that the competent authority's approval for holding inquiry or probe against officers from the rank of joint secretary level under section 6A of the DSPE Act was necessary as it acted like a "filter" to shield honest officers from harassment.