Govt’s nod not required to investigate corruption charges on senior bureaucrats: Supreme Court
As per the Supreme Court, the legal provision which makes approval of competent authority mandatory for CBI to investigate a corruption case against an officer of joint secretary-rank or above is invalid and unconstitutional and has the propensity of protecting the corrupt. The judgement was delivered after the court examined Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPEA), which shields top bureaucrats from being probed in corruption cases without prior approval.
Key observations in the judgment by the SC:
- The requirement of Central Government’s approval to probe corruption charges against officer of the rank of joint secretary and above under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), is invalid and violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
- Equal treatment of corrupt public servants for the purpose of inquiry of offence under the PCA, irrespective of the rank they hold.
- Prior approval under Section 6A would result, indirectly, in obstructing the probe and if the CBI is not allowed to carry on the preliminary inquiry how the investigation can proceed.
The issue of protection from inquiry against senior bureaucrats had come under the scanner of the SC 17 years ago when the Centre’s argument was scrapped that being policy makers, they required protection from frivolous complaints. The first petition in filed in 1997 had contested that execution of criminal law gets affected due to the presence of Section 6A in the statute.