Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will no more require government's prior sanction to launch investigations against officers of joint secretary rank and above in corruption cases. Supreme Court on Tuesday declared this provision 'invalid'.
A constititution bench, comprising five judges, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha quashed Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which mandated prior sanction in case of senior officers in corruption cases. The bench, also comprising justices AK Patnaik, Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, said this section also violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
Terming that the provision is discriminatory and divides the bureaucracy into two sets of officers and shields those at the senior level, the judgement said, "All government officials have to be treated equally and have to face the same process of inquiry in graft cases."
"Corruption is an enemy of nation and tracking down corrupt public servant, howsoever high he may be, and punishing such person is a necessary mandate under the PC Act, 1988. The status or position of public servant does not qualify such public servant from exemption from equal treatment. The decision making power does not segregate corrupt officers into two classes as they are common crime doers and have to be tracked down by the same process of inquiry and investigation," the bench also said.
The court order came on a reference matter on the plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and also an NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL)who had questioned the validity of the legal provision to probe against senior government officers.
Following the Apex court verdict, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, told dna, "This decision will facilitate in expediting investigations. As of now, at least, ten cases from different ministries are pending due to procedural delays."
Joginder Singh, former director of the agency said "The Supreme Court is right in striking down the illegal provision. Due to this provision some corrupt bureaucrats were shielded by the government. Court restored the balance and CBI wasted lot of time waiting for the sanction. Now, hundreds of cases against officers, as per a government data, can be probed by the agency.
Welcoming the judgment regarding, senior journalist and anti-corruption activist Vineet Narain said that it was in his case the Supreme Court had granted the autonomy to CBI 20 years ago.
"Unfortunately, the government brought back the 6A curbing the freedom of CBI which was strongly resisted by activists throughout the country," he said and hoped that the new govt will respect the mood of the nation and will not again tamper with this order of the court top dilute the authority of premier investigating agency.