“A corrupt (government) servant is a corrupt servant” and there cannot be discrimination with senior bureaucrats with the rank of joint secretary and above requiring the government”s prior sanction before the CBI investigation and trial in the corruption cases, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
It struck down Section 6A of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DPSE) that mandate the CBI to take the prior sanction before probing corruption of the senior bureaucrats and again before taking them to court.
The Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R. M. Lodha held Section 6A as discriminatory dividing the bureaucracy into two sets of officers. The judgment was written by Justice Lodha on the writ petition of BJP leader Dr Subramanian Swamy in 1997 and followed up by another writ petition of Centre for Public Interest by Advocate Prashant Bhushan through the Public Interest Litigations (PILs).
The Bench that also included Justices A.K.Patnaik, Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla ruled that the top bureaucrats can be investigated without the government”s sanction.
the provision in the Act governing the CBI struck down by the Bench as unconstitutional required the agency to first obtain the government”s sanction to investigate the senior bureaucrats accused of corruption.
“Corruption is the enemy of the nation. You can’t discriminate between a senior and junior level officer. A corrupt servant is a corrupt servant. You cannot protect one set,” the Constitution Bench held.
“Just because officer happens to be a senior officer above the level of joint secretory he cannot be granted this kind of protection or immunity from investigation,” it added.
In 2003, the rules requiring the government”s permission to investigate top officers were brought in by an administrative order, which was struck down by the court as unconstitutional. It was then brought in through an amendment in the DPSE Act that governs the CBI.