Checking corruption in high places, which was becoming difficult for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as bureaucrats managed to take cover under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPEA), might be easier now with the Supreme Court on Tuesday taking away that cover. “Status or position” cannot shield an officer of the level of joint secretary and above from unconstrained probe by the CBI in cases of corruption, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, quashing a law that requires the agency to go to the government to seek approval for the investigation.
A five-judge constitution bench led by Chief Justice RM Lodha ruled that Section 6A of the DSPEA, which shackles investigations without sanctions, was “discriminatory” and “impedes tracking down corrupt senior bureaucrats”.
The court said that “the protection in Section 6A has propensity of shielding the corrupt”.
The provision “suffers from the vice of classifying offenders differently for treatment thereunder for inquiry and investigation of offences, according to their status in life”, it said.
Over the past year 15 cases had piled up, sources said but the CBI had been unable to pursue them. Cases that were awaiting the central government’s approval include those of Parimal Rai, an IAS officer being investigated for his alleged role in the 2010 Commonwealth Games scam. The CBI had sought sanction from the ministry of home affairs (MHA) last year but so far no decision has been taken. Rai, considered close to former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, is posted in Goa.
The CBI, the Supreme Court added, could not be insulated from “political and bureaucratic control and influence because the approval is to be taken from the central government, which would involve leaks and disclosures at every stage”.
“Office of public power cannot be the workshop of personal gain. Probity in public life is of great importance. How can two public servants against whom there are allegations of corruption or graft or bribe-taking or criminal misconduct under the PC Act be made to be treated differently because one happens to be a junior officer and the other a senior decision maker?” the bench asked.
CBI director Ranjit Sinha told The Indian Express the judgment had given the CBI more responsibility. “The CBI will now have to see to it that no innocent civil servant is harassed. The decision to examine any civil servant will be done with utmost due diligence and be taken