Sanction for prosecution of corrupt Government Official

Prosecution of corrupt official.

The right of private citizen to file a complaint against a corrupt public servant must be equated with his right to access the Court in order to set the criminal law in motion against a corrupt public official.

This right of access, a Constitutional right should not be burdened with unreasonable fetters. When a private citizen approaches a court of law against a corrupt public servant who is highly placed, what is at stake is not only a vindication of personal grievance of that citizen but also the question of bringing orderliness in society and maintaining equal balance in the rule of law.

[Source: Sheonandan Paswan vs. State of Bihar, (1987) 1 SCC 288 at page 315 ]

CVC guidelines were circulated vide office order No.31/5/05 dated 12.5.2005. The relevant clauses of the guidelines are extracted below:

“2(i) Grant of sanction is an administrative act. The purpose is to protect the public servant from harassment by frivolous or vexatious prosecution and not to shield the corrupt. The question of giving opportunity to the public servant at that stage does not arise. The sanctioning authority has only to see whether the facts would prima-facie constitutes the offence.

(ii) The competent authority cannot embark upon an inquiry to judge the truth of the allegations on the basis of representation which may be filed by the accused person before the Sanctioning Authority, by asking the I.O. to offer his comments or to further investigate the matter in the light of representation made by the accused person or by otherwise holding a parallel investigation/enquiry by calling for the record/report of his department.

(vii) However, if in any case, the Sanctioning Authority after consideration of the entire material placed before it, entertains any doubt on any point the competent authority may specify the doubt with sufficient particulars and may request the Authority who has sought sanction to clear the doubt. But that would be only to clear the doubt in order that the authority may apply its mind proper, and not for the purpose of considering the representations of the accused which may be filed while the matter is pending sanction.

(viii) If the Sanctioning Authority seeks the comments of the IO while the matter is pending before it for sanction, it will almost be impossible for the Sanctioning Authority to adhere to the time limit allowed by the Supreme Court in Vineet Narain’s case.”

Directions by Supreme Court:

The aforementioned guidelines are in conformity with the law laid down by this Court that while considering the issue regarding grant or refusal of sanction, the only thing which the Competent Authority is required to see is whether the material placed by the complainant or the investigating agency prima facie discloses commission of an offence. The Competent Authority cannot undertake a detailed inquiry to decide whether or not the allegations made against the public servant are true.

[Source: per G.S. Singhvi J. in Subramanium Swami vs. Manmohan Singh]

If we look at Section 19 of the P.C. Act which bars a Court from taking cognizance of cases of corruption against a public servant under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 of the Act, unless the Central or the State Government, as the case may be, has accorded sanction, virtually imposes fetters on private citizens and also on prosecutors from approaching Court against corrupt public servants. These protections are not available to other citizens. Public servants are treated as a special class of persons enjoying the said protection so that they can perform their duties without fear and favour and without threats of malicious prosecution. However, the said protection against malicious prosecution which was extended in public interest cannot become a shield to protect corrupt officials. These provisions being exceptions to the equality provision of Article 14 are analogous to provisions of protective discrimination and these protections must be construed very narrowly. These procedural provisions relating to sanction must be construed in such a manner as to advance the causes of honesty and justice and good governance as opposed to escalation of corruption. Therefore, in every case where an application is made to an appropriate authority for grant of prosecution in connection with an offence under P.C. Act it is the bounden duty of such authority to apply its mind urgently to the situation and decide the issue without being influenced by any extraneous consideration. In doing so, the authority must make a conscious effort to ensure the rule of law and cause of justice is advanced. In considering the question of granting or refusing such sanction, the authority is answerable to law and law alone. Therefore, the requirement to take the decision with a reasonable dispatch is of the essence in such a situation. Delay in granting sanction proposal thwarts a very valid social purpose, namely, the purpose of a speedy trial with the requirement to bring the culprit to book.

Therefore, in this case the right of the sanctioning authority, while either sanctioning or refusing to grant sanction, is coupled with a duty. The sanctioning authority must bear in mind that what is at stake is the public confidence in the maintenance of rule of law which is fundamental in the administration of justice.

Delay in granting such sanction has spoilt many valid prosecution and is adversely viewed in public mind that in the name of considering a prayer for sanction, a protection is given to a corrupt public official as a quid pro quo for services rendered by the public official in the past or may be in the future and the sanctioning authority and the corrupt officials were or are partners in the same misdeeds. I may hasten to add that this may not be factual position in this but the general demoralizing effect of such a popular perception is profound and pernicious. By causing delay in considering the request for sanction, the sanctioning authority stultifies judicial scrutiny and determination of the allegations against corrupt official and thus the legitimacy of the judicial institutions is eroded. It, thus, deprives a citizen of his legitimate and fundamental right to get justice by setting the criminal law in motion and thereby frustrates his right to access judicial remedy which is a constitutionally protected right. In this connection, if we look at Section 19 of the P.C.

Act, we find that no time limit is mentioned therein. This has virtually armed the sanctioning authority with unbridled power which has often resulted in protecting the guilty and perpetuating criminality and injustice in society.

[Source: per Asok Kumar Ganguly J. in Subramanium Swami vs. Manmohan Singh]



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