New Delhi, Jan. 31: The uneasy head that wears the Prime Ministers crown has been given a clean chit but not the bureaucrats.
The Supreme Court today acknowledged that a Prime Minister could not be expected to look into minute details of every case placed before him but launched a blistering attack on officials of the PMO and the law ministry for failing to apprise Manmohan Singh of the gravity of the charges against A. Raja when he was telecom minister.
The court upheld citizens right to seek the prosecution of public servants and suggested Parliament enact a law that requires a decision within four months. If no decision is conveyed within the stipulated time, sanction should be deemed as granted.
Such a guideline — a decision within three months and an extra month if the attorney-general needs to be consulted — already exists in the shape of a Supreme Court judgment but it is rarely adhered to when citizens seek permission to prosecute public servants such as ministers, legislators and bureaucrats.
The courts observations came on a petition by Subramanian Swamy who alleged the government sat on his plea to prosecute Raja when he was telecom minister for allotting 2G spectrum.
The bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly did not make any adverse comment on the Prime Minister, restricting itself to saying that had he been properly advised, he may not have allowed the matter to linger for over a year.
The position of the Prime Minister in our democratic polity seems to have been summed up in the words of Shakespeare — uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, Justice Ganguly said.
The judges focused on the officials. In our view, officers in the PMO and the ministry of law and justice were duty-bound to apprise (the Prime Minister) about the seriousness of allegations made by (Swamy) and judgments of this court…
The judges said that by the very nature of the office held by him, (the Prime Minister) is not expected to personally look into minute details of each and every case placed before him and has to depend on his advisers and other officers. Unfortunately, those expected to give him proper advice and place full facts and legal position before him failed to do so.
We have no doubt that if (the Prime Minister) had been apprised of the true factual and legal position regarding the representation made by Dr Swamy, he would have surely taken an appropriate decision….
The PMO seized upon the positive aspect of the observations. We welcome the fact that both the learned judges have completely vindicated the Prime Minister whilst appreciating the onerous duties of his office, the PMO said.
On the less flattering remarks on officials, the PMO statement deadpanned: The government is examining their directions regarding the manner in which applications are to be dealt with.