The Supreme Court on Tuesday held as invalid and unconstitutional the legal provision which makes the sanction of a competent authority mandatory for the CBI to probe a corruption case against an officer of joint secretary rank or above. The apex court held that the provision has the propensity of shielding the corrupt.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, delivered the judgment after examining Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPEA), which protects top bureaucrats from being investigated in corruption cases without prior approval. “We hold Section 6A of the Act, which requires Central Government's approval for the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) to make inquiry against officer of the rank of joint secretary and above, as invalid and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” the bench said.
The bench said there cannot be any classification of officers for the purpose of inquiry of offence under the PCA. “The corrupt public servants, higher or lower in rank, are the birds of same feather and have to be dealt with equally," it observed. The bench added that prior approval would result, indirectly, in halting the investigation.
Additional Solicitor General K V Vishwanath told the bench that the government does not want to protect any corrupt official and the provision is only to ensure that senior bureaucrats are not quizzed without adequate safeguards as they are involved in policy making. The issue had come under the scrutiny of the apex court 17 years ago when the Centre’s argument was trashed that being policy makers, they needed protection from frivolous complaints. EDIT: P8