The Supreme Court Tuesday urged the government to make changes in the Prevention of Corruption Act to fix a time frame of three months for deciding on representations seeking sanction for prosecution of public servants.
The observation came in the separate judgment of Justice A.K. Ganguly, who said: “In my view, the parliament should consider the Constitutional imperative of Article 14 enshrining the rule of law wherein ‘due process of law’ has been read into by introducing a time limit in Section 19 of the P.C. (Prevention of Corruption) Act, 1988 for its working in a reasonable manner.”
The court was reacting to a petition by Janata Party pchief Subramaniam Swamy that the prime minister’s office (PMO) sat for months on his request seeking sanction to prosecute former telecom minister A. Raja under the act for his alleged involvement in the 2G scam.
“The parliament may, in my opinion, consider amending Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act so that all the representations for sanction for the prosecution of public servant placed before any sanctioning authority, must be decided within a period of three months of the receipt of the representation”.
Having urged the parliament to consider statutory provisions to make sanction time bound, the bench of Justice G.S.Singhvi and Justice Ganguly said: “At the same time, we deem it proper to observe that in future every competent authority shall take appropriate action on the representation made by a citizen for sanction of the prosecution of a public servant strictly in accordance with the direction” contained in Vineet Narain case and the guidelines framed by the Central Vigilance Commission.
In Vineet Narain case, the apex court gave several directions which included that the time limit of three months for grant of sanction for prosecution must be strictly adhered to.
In his separate guidelines, Justice Ganguly said that all representations for sanction placed before any sanctioning authority under section 19 of the act must be decided within a period of three months of the receipt representations.
In case in some case, he said, if consultation with the attorney general was required, then this period of three months was extendable by another one month.
“If no decision is taken, sanction will be deemed to have been granted to the proposal for prosecution, and the prosecuting agency or the private complainant will proceed to file the chargesheet/complaint in the court to commence prosecution within 15 days of the expiry of the aforementioned time limit.”
Having suggested the time frame, Justice Ganguly said that he was the opinion that the questions raised and argued in this case are of considerable constitutional and legal importance, and wished to “add my own reasoning on the same”.
“Today, corruption in our country not only poses a grave danger to the concept of constitutional governance, it also threatens the very foundation of Indian democracy and the rule of law. The magnitude of corruption in our public life is incompatible with the concept of a socialist, secular democratic republic.
“It cannot be disputed that where corruption begins, all rights end. Corruption devalues human rights, chokes development and undermines justice, liberty, equality, fraternity which are the core values in our preambular vision.”
“Therefore, the duty of the court is that any anti-corruption law has to be interpreted and worked out in such a fashion as to strengthen the fight against corruption. That is to say in a situation where two constructions are eminently reasonable, the court has to accept the one that seeks to eradicate corruption to the one which seeks to perpetuate it.”
“Time and again this court has expressed its dismay and shock at the ever-growing tentacles of corruption in our society but even then situations have not improved much,” Justice Ganguly said.