The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre whether invoking a “blanket immunity” clause in graft cases involving joint-secretary-level bureaucrats wouldn’t be contrary to the principle of Constitutional equality and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“If the policymaker in the top bureaucrats gets protection from inquiry, who should face the rigour of law? The lower bureaucracy which implements the policy decisions? How is this class of bureaucrats separate from others?,” a Bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said.
“All bureaucrats and government servants have protection under the Prevention of Corruption Act, which requires a probe agency to seek sanction from the authority concerned prior to prosecution. Why this special protection for a small band?,” the Bench added.
The Centre faced some tough questions while defending Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which makes it mandatory for the CBI to seek approval before probing top bureaucrats.
The court virtually endorsed the contention that the legal provision would create a privileged class of central government employees and be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The Bench asked Additional Solicitor General L Nageshwar if the immunity clause was necessary for top bureaucrats to work fearlessly. “On what classification can you deprive other public servants of this benefit”? the Bench wanted to know. In a note submitted in the court, the Centre had said: “Public servants of the joint-secretary level and above take all policy decisions. As they take all policy decisions, there is a need to protect them from frivolous inquiries and investigations so that policy- making doesn’t suffer.” Two petitions -- one by Subramanian Swamy and the other by the Centre for PIL -- had challenged the validity of Section 6A, alleging that it gave the government an excuse to stall inquiries into corruption and discriminate between those could be probed and those who couldn’t be.