The Centre has issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for police officers to seek mandatory prior approval before conducting any investigation against allegedly corrupt public servants, according to a Personnel Ministry order.
An amendment carried out in the over 30-year-old Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988 in July 2018 bars a police officer from conducting "any enquiry or inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant" without "the previous approval" of the authorities.
The SOPs were issued “to standardize and operationalise procedures with a view to achieving uniform and effective implementation for prior approval processes”, more than three years after the amendments came into force.
They provide for stage-wise processing of information received by a police officer, specify the rank of the police officer to seek prior approval and lay down a single-window procedure for it among others, said the order issued to secretaries of the central and state government departments.
All administrative authorities, including ministries and departments of the central and the state governments, besides the investigating agencies, have been asked to ensure "strict compliance" of the SOPs, it said.
The SOPs have been shared with the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) "with the request that all field units may kindly be apprised of these SOPs for strict compliance", and also with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The SOPs make it mandatory for a police officer to verify whether the information received by him pertains to the allegation of the commission of an offence by a public servant or whether it contains information to identify the public servant(s) against whom the offence has been alleged.
It also makes it mandatory for them to specify act(s) of commission or omission attributable to such public servant(s) and "whether such act(s) are relatable to the official function or duty discharged by such public servant(s) specific to the office/post held at the time of commission of the alleged offence".
“The police officer in receipt of an information shall place the matter before the police officer of appropriate rank for seeking previous approval,” it said.
The SOPs have specified the police officer of appropriate rank who will make a proposal to the appropriate government/authority in respect of a person who is or has been a public servant, said the order.
The police officer of appropriate rank will decide upon whether the information received merits to be "enquired" or inquired into or investigated, it said.
Enquiry for the purposes of these SOPs means any action taken for verifying as to whether the information pertains to the commission of an offence, the order clarified.
A director general (DG) or DG-equivalent police officer has been specified in the SOPs to seek prior approvals for Union ministers, Members of Parliament, ministers of state governments, members of state legislature, judge of the Supreme Court and high court, and chairpersons or managing directors of public sector enterprises (both central and state) and public sector banks (board-level).
The Personnel Ministry has also shared a checklist for police officers for processing cases of prior approvals, said the ministry's order.
The police officer will have to enclose a copy of the complaint if the request seeking approval against an allegedly corrupt officer is based on it.
They would also have to enclose an authenticated translation in case the original complaint has been made in a vernacular language, it said.
They will have to furnish details whether the complaint prima facie reveals deriving of an undue advantage by a public servant for self or any other person, information in respect of bribe giver and "details of the recommendation made or decision taken by a public servant, which is relatable to the offence alleged against the public servant", according to the order.
The government authorities have been asked to "designate an officer" "not below the rank of an under-secretary for receiving the proposals relating to previous approval", it said.