SC poser on sanction to probe erring top officers

CBI pulled up for seeking nod to share info with govt

SC poser on sanction to probe erring top officers

The Supreme Court on Wednesday queried the government over its attempt to retain the power to grant sanction before investigating any senior official, while wondering if it was required even in case of court-monitored probes.

A three-judge bench presided by Justice R M Lodha favoured building “institutional framework” for the purpose.

The bench, which also has Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, had on July 10 put a poser to the government as to why clarification should not be made that no sanction was required for investigating senior officers in corruption cases.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati strongly defended the provision given under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, dealing with mandatory sanction for investigation of joint secretary and above level officers. He said, “There is a certain philosophy behind it. It is not a cloak to protect people.”

If the CBI has any problem in case of denial of sanction, it can approach the court, he said, adding that there are many legal and constitutional issues. “The CBI would love to investigate anyone and everyone without sanction. We have strong objections, as removing the provision would have serious consequences,” said Vahanvati, adding that it was necessary to have safeguard to protect officers from harassment.

The court, however, was not convinced. “CBI must investigate every case without getting influenced by political bosses. This (coal scam) is not the only case. There has to be some mechanism because of distrust of different institutions. There should be some institutional framework which would remain perennial and permanent,” observed the bench.

The bench further asked what there was for the government to worry when the matter was being looked into by the court. “A permission to investigate should follow as a matter of fact,” said the court.

The court pointed out that the government had initially declined the CBI a sanction to quiz former coal secretary H C Gupta over alleged irregularities in coal block allocation.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing NGO CPIL, described the AG’s argument as “astounding”, and asserted that the provision was a discriminatory one. During the hearing, the bench pulled up the CBI for seeking permission to share its status report in the probe with certain people, including prosecutors before filing of the charge sheets.

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