New Delhi, Jan. 31: The Supreme Court today said a public servant facing corruption charges need not be heard before the competent authority decides on sanctioning prosecution.
…the person for whose prosecution the sanction is sought is not required to be heard before a decision in the matter. What is required to be seen is whether the facts placed before it, which, in a given case, may include the material collected by the complainant or the investigating agency, prima facie disclose commission of an offence by a public servant, the bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly said.
If the competent authority is satisfied that the material placed before it is sufficient for prosecution of the public servant, it is required to grant sanction. In either case, the decision taken on the complaint made by a citizen is required to be communicated to him and, if he feels aggrieved by such decision, then he can avail appropriate legal remedy.
Justice Ganguly decried attempts being made to protect the corrupt by resorting to the sanction clause in the Prevention of Corruption Act. In over one-third cases of requests for prosecution in corruption cases against public servants, sanctions have not been accorded, he said, quoting statistics cited by the attorney-general who said 216 of 319 such requests were pending for sanction.
Public servants are treated as a special class of persons enjoying the protection so that they can perform their duties without fear and favour and without threats of malicious prosecution. However, this protection cannot become a shield to protect corrupt officials, Justice Ganguly said.
He cited contemporary discourse to underscore the need to interpret anti-corruption laws. Today, corruption in our country not only poses a grave danger to the concept of constitutional governance, it also threatens the very foundation of Indian democracy and the rule of law. The magnitude of corruption in our public life is incompatible with the concept of a socialist, secular democratic republic. It cannot be disputed that where corruption begins all rights end…. Therefore, the duty of the court is that any anti-corruption law has to be interpreted and worked out in such a fashion as to strengthen the fight against corruption, Justice Ganguly said.
The court, hearing a petition by Subramanian Swamy, upheld citizens right to move court for initiating a probe against any corrupt public servant and write to the Prime Minister demanding sanction.
There is no provision, either in the 1988 Act or the CrPC, 1973, which bars a citizen from filing a complaint for prosecution of a public servant who is alleged to have committed an offence, the bench said, rejecting the attorney generals submission that Swamy cannot file a complaint for prosecuting A. Raja, then telecom minister.
Referring to the delay in deciding on Swamys plea to the Prime Minister seeking Rajas prosecution, the court said: The concerned officers in the PMO kept the matter pending and then took the shelter of the fact that the CBI had registered the case and the investigation was pending.
The bench noted that for one year, the matter remained dormant and the CBI took steps for vigorous investigation only when the court intervened.
The material placed on record does not show that the CBI had registered a case or started investigation at the instance of (the Prime Minister), it said.
The affidavit filed by V. Vidyawati, director in the PMO, shows that the matter was placed before Dr Singh on December 1, 2008, who directed the concerned officer to examine and apprise him of the facts of the case.
Surprisingly, instead of complying with the direction, the concerned officer sent Swamys representation to the DoT, which was headed by none other than Raja, against whom Dr Swamy had made serious allegations of irregularities in the grant of licences.