Prosecution sanction: SC to examine guv's powers

Prosecution sanction: SC to examine guv's powers

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine if immunity granted to the governor is open to judicial review when he exercises his power as competent authority under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act in granting sanction for prosecution of a public servant.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha termed as “interesting” a question of law raised by former Karnataka chief minister N Dharam Singh.

“This is an interesting question of law. We keep it for final disposal on July 18,” the bench told senior advocates P P Rao and Mahalakshmi Pavani, representing the senior Congress leader.

Singh challenged a high court order that allowed recovery of over Rs 23 crore from him for the losses caused to the exchequer in transportation of illegally-extracted iron ore.

The governor, acting as competent authority in case of complaints against the then chief minister, had in June 2009 rejected the recommendation of the Lokayukta, which was not open to judicial review, Singh's counsel had claimed.

The high court, however, has taken a view that since the governor acted as competent authority under the Lokayukta Act, there was no immunity attached to his decision.

The Lokayukta, in its first report on mining, had held Singh guilty of misconduct and responsible for causing losses to the exchequer by permitting transportation of 2.38 lakh tonnes of iron ore during his tenure as chief minister.

Bengaluru resident D Natesh filed a PIL in the high court, claiming that Singh had ignored the advice given by then secretary of the Mines and Minerals department. But then Governor Rameshwar Thakur had on June 23, 2009, held that no action was required against Singh as he had not made pecuniary gains.

Senior advocate F S Nariman, appointed as amicus curiae, however, had said that the governor had taken a decision as the “competent authority” under the Act and not as governor of the state. Such competent authority cannot claim any immunity under Article 361 (1) of the Constitution.

This immunity is conferred on him only for acts done by him as governor under the Constitution.