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Ensuring that lack of sanction does not stop corruption cases against Government officials – Judgement by the Supreme Court




The Government has a number of laws against corruption on the books; if implemented in a proper way, they should be enough to ensure that corruption levels go down. However, when the investigating arms of the Government (such as the CBI, ED, etc) are forced by the Government to behave in a certain way, then there is the need for having an independent investigator such as the Lokpal, or to remove the control of the Government from the current investigating agencies. So, the Government suffers a credibility gap in terms of the reputation of its commitment to fighting corruption.
What causes more problems is the state of corruption cases against Government officers, where a sanction is needed from the Government. Under the Prevention of Corruption Act, a sanction is needed from the Government for the investigation / prosecuting agencies to go ahead with a case against a Government official. One would think that the Government should ensure that those indulging in corruption are proceeded against, and not deny this sanction; this is more so especially when the Government is in such a bind over corruption with its public image battered. And yet, one third of such cases are in a position where the agencies are waiting for Government sanction of the cases.
The suspicion is that in many cases, some elements of the political classes are complicit along with the accused Government official, or that the Government does not really want that official to face prosecution because they want that particular case to die down (as has happened in the past). These cases would get highlighted from time to time in the media, but the situation remained that the Government would not buckle down; what would typically happen is that when the agencies asked for permission, they were not denied nor were the given approval. Instead, there would be a deafening silence to the repeated request for sanction for prosecution, until the agency would give up.

With a recent judgment, this is now over. Subramanian Swamy had filed a case over his attempt to get the prosecution of A Raja in the 2G case; and this was a time when the Prime Minister failed to respond, and the CBI refused to take any action (if you remember, the Prime Minister and his ministers defended Raja, and it was not till the Supreme Court asked some really tough questions did the CBI start taking action and the Government started blaming everything on Raja). The judgement is significant since it outlines 2 main items – that any citizen can request prosecution of a public servant, and that the Government has to take some action on the complaint within a period of 3 months (4 months if opinion is sought from the Attorney General), or, and this is the most important part, the sanction is deemed to have been given (link to article):

Setting aside the Delhi high court judgement on sanction of prosecution in 2G case, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that filing of a complaint under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a constitutional right of a citizen and the competent authority should take a decision on giving the sanction within a time frame.
If the sanction is not given within four months then it is deemed to have been granted, the two judge bench of the apex court held in a case filed by Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy seeking a direction to the Prime Minister for sanction to prosecute the then telecom minister A Raja.

This was a indictment of the policy of the Government, since the Government had delayed action in the Raja case, and also in many other cases where the Government has been delaying any action. Now, with this decision by the Supreme Court, one hopes that the cases against corruption will get a leg-up.




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