Breaking; S.19 of Prevention of Corruption Act cannot be declared Unconstitutional, but Parliament must consider restructuring Section 19 of the PC Act to make mandatory disposal of Sanction Application within 3 months; SC

Breaking; S.19 of Prevention of Corruption Act cannot be declared Unconstitutional, but Parliament must consider restructuring Section 19 of the PC Act to make mandatory disposal of Sanction Application within 3 months; SC

A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court today dismissed a Public Interest Litigation,  seeking  direction to declare Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988  unconstitutional and to direct  prosecution  of  all  cases  registered  and investigated under  the  provisions  of  PC  Act  against  the  politicians, M.L.As, M.Ps and Government officials, without sanction  as  required  under Section 19 of the PC Act.

The PIL was filed by Manzoor Ali Khan, an Advocate practicing in Jammu and Kashmir. By dismissing the petition the Court held that the   Parliament   and   the   appropriate   authority   must   consider restructuring Section 19 of the PC Act in  such  a  manner  as  to  make  it consonant with reason, justice and fair play.

The Petitioner argued that the provision for sanction  as  a  condition  precedent for prosecution is being used by the  Government  of  India  and  the  State Governments to protect dishonest  and  corrupt  politicians  and  Government officials.  The discretion to grant sanction has been misused. He also referred various Judgments of the Supreme Court where  incumbents were indicted but not prosecuted for want of sanction.  In Common  Cause,  a registered Society vs. Union of India &  Ors.  (1996)  6  SCC  593,  Captain Satish Sharma, the then Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas was  held  to have acted in arbitrary manner in allotting petrol pumps but since  sanction was refused, he could not be prosecuted.  In Shiv Sagar Tiwari vs. Union  of India & Ors. (1996) 6 SCC 599, Smt.  Shiela  Kaul,  the  then  Minister  for Housing and Urban Development, Government of India was indicted  for  making arbitrary, mala fide and unconstitutional allotments  but  still  she  could not be prosecuted. In M.C. Mehta (Taj Corridor Scam) vs. Union  of  India  & Ors., (2007) 1 SCC 110, Ms. Mayawati, the then Chief Minister  of  U.P.  and Shri Nasimuddin Siddiqui, the  then  Minister  for  Environment,  U.P.  were indicted and allegations against them were noticed but  they  could  not  be prosecuted in the absence  of  sanction.

Justice A,K.Goel who wrote the Judgment held that “ In my view, 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 PC Act, 1988  for its working in a reasonable manner. Parliament may, in my opinion,  consider the following guidelines: 

(a) All proposals for  sanction  placed  before  any  sanctioning  authority empowered to grant sanction  for  prosecution  of  a  public  servant  under Section 19 of the PC Act must be decided within a period of three months  of the receipt of the proposal by the authority concerned.

(b) Where  consultation  is  required  with  the  Attorney  General  or  the Solicitor General or the Advocate General of the State, as the case may  be, and the same is not possible within the three  months  mentioned  in  clause (a) above, an extension of one month period may be allowed, but the  request for consultation is to be sent in writing within the three months  mentioned in clause (a) above. A copy  of  the  said  request  will  be  sent  to  the prosecuting agency or the private complainant to  intimate  them  about  the extension of the time-limit.

(c) At the end of the extended period  of  time-limit,  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  charge-sheet/complaint  in  the  court  to  commence prosecution within 15 days of the expiry of the aforementioned time-limit.” “ Thus while it  is  not  possible  to  hold  that  the  requirement  of sanction  is  unconstitutional,  the  competent  authority  has  to  take  a decision on the issue of sanction expeditiously as already observed. A  fine balance has to be maintained  between  need  to  protect  a  public  servant against mala fide prosecution on the one hand and the  object  of  upholding the probity in public life in prosecuting the public  servant  against  whom prima facie material in support of allegation of corruption exists,  on  the other hand”.

In May 2014, a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court quashed Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. which mandates sanction before investigating officers of the rank of joint secretary and above.

Last year a two Judge Bench held that a Magistrate cannot order investigation against a public servant in a corruption complaint if there is no sanction given by the government.