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  • Published 4.05.12

New Delhi, May 3: The Centre today sought to tackle persistent reluctance to sanction prosecution of bureaucrats by making it mandatory to keep a department under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) posted if any ministry is inclined to deny such permission.

The department of personnel and training (DoPT), which falls under the PMO, this evening issued a memorandum asking all ministries and departments to convey to it at least three weeks in advance if they proposed to disagree with the recommendation of an investigative agency or watchdog to sanction the prosecution of any official.

The advance information will help the DoPT finalise its own views and communicate them to the sanctioning authority, the office memorandum said.

Sources said the new rule was an indirect way of telling ministries to exercise caution in refusing sanction — which is now more the norm than exception.

The memorandum also asked ministries and departments to submit “copies of orders refusing sanction to prosecute” to the next higher authority for information within seven days. So, wherever a minister is the competent authority and decides to deny the permission, the minister will have to submit the order to the Prime Minister within seven days.

Investigating agencies like the CBI need the sanction of the department or the ministry where a bureaucrat is posted to prosecute the official. If the official is of the rank of joint secretary or above, sanction is needed even to start a probe.

It is extremely rare for competent authorities to sanction the prosecution of officials. CBI officers say that of the 2,000 cases filed in the past three years, the agency is awaiting sanction in over 700 cases. In most cases that evoked a response, sanction was refused.

The memorandum issued today laid down several other rules but most of them are an iteration of existing norms. The order intended at keeping tabs on refusals to sanction prosecution is a new initiative.

Another problem bedevilling efforts to fight corruption among officials is a tendency by many departments to sit on applications and break a three-month deadline with impunity.

In the memorandum, the DoPT instructed all ministries and departments for “strict compliance” of already laid-out procedures and timelines for “sanctioning prosecution of public servants”.

Perhaps keeping in mind the reality that such iterations are rarely heeded, the DoPT has asked the departments and ministries to follow a reporting system.

All ministries and departments have been asked to submit a certificate to the cabinet secretary every month “to the effect that no case is pending for more than three months and wherever a case is pending for more than three months, the reasons for such pendency and the level where it is pending”.