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SC ruling forces govt to amend anti-graft law

B S Arun New Delhi, Jan 31, 2012, DHNS: 1:34 IST
The Supreme Court, through its judgment on Tuesday, has virtually forced the government to bring in an amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, to fix a deadline of maximum four months to grant sanction for prosecution of any public servant facing charges of graft.

Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, who gave a separate but concurring judgement along with Justice G S Singhvi in the petition filed by former minister Subramanian Swamy in the case relating to sanction of prosecution of former minister A Raja, has made it clear: “In my view, Parliament should consider the Constitutional imperative of Article 14 enshrining the rule of law wherein ‘due process of law’ has been read into by introducing a time limit in Section 19 of the PC Act 1988 for its working in a reasonable manner.”

Thus the government’s hands are tied and it can no longer make excuses as it did in the case of former telecom minister A Raja, allegedly involved in the 2G spectrum scam, where the PMO kept delaying a decision on the issue of giving sanction to prosecute him. It was done only at the intervention of the Supreme Court. Observing that Section 19 of the Act, which deals with sanctions, has set no time limit, the judge noted that “the absence of any time limit in granting sanction in Section 19 of the PC Act is not in consonance with the requirement of the due process of law...”

In a shocking revelation, the government had told the court — Justice Ganguly mentions it in his order — that the Attorney General admitted out of a total 319 requests for sanction, sanction was awaited in respect of 126 cases.

The court went on to say: “Therefore, in more than 1/3rd cases of request for prosecution in corruption cases against public servants, sanctions have not been accorded. The aforesaid scenario raises very important constitutional issues as well as some questions relating to interpretation of such sanctioning provision and also the role that an independent judiciary has to play in maintaining rule of law and common man’s faith in the justice delivering system.”

“If the Competent Authority is satisfied that the material placed before it is sufficient for prosecution of the public servant, then it is required to grant sanction. If the satisfaction of the Competent Authority is otherwise, then it can refuse sanction. In either case, the decision taken on the complaint made by a citizen is required be communicated to him and if he feels aggrieved by such decision, then he can avail appropriate legal remedy to be communicated to him and if he feels aggrieved by such decision, then he can avail appropriate legal remedy.”

The Supreme Court may have let off Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but it is certain embarrassing for the PMO.

“Unfortunately, those expected to give proper advice to (Manmohan Singh) and place full facts and legal position before him failed to do so,” the bench said.“By the very nature of the office held by him, (prime minister) is not expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case placed before him and has to depend on his advisers and other officers.”

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