I thank my god every day for having blessed this country with a Supreme Court, which is the savior of good against the evil and beholder of light against the darkness.
Central Bureau of Investigation, a caged parrot of the Centre has been freed and at least one door of the cage is now being opened by the Supreme Court which gave a free hand to the Agency to inquire into corruption charges against top bureaucrats. The Court invalidated a provision that mandated the CBI to obtain the government’s nod before investigating officers of the rank of joint secretary and above.
This was done in a recent significant ruling comprising of five judges Bench of apex court including the Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices A.K. Patnaik, S.J. Mukhpadhyaya, Dipak Misra and F.M. Khalifullah which declared section 6-A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act as invalid and unconstitutional thereby providing some freedom to the ‘caged parrot CBI’.
What is more sardonic in this picture is the fact that it is for the third time the Supreme Court has overturned a legislative action to set the CBI free to inquire against senior bureaucrats. The first time was on December 18, 1997 when the Court struck down the ‘single directive provision in the famous Vineet Narain’s case. Whatever was invalidated by the Court was undone by the Centre when it promulgated an ordinance in the year 1998. This was the second time when the Supreme Court objected and a result of which the provision was again deleted from the ordinance.
However, this particular protection for senior babus was again fortified by the then NDA Government which inserted section 6-A in the DSPE Act in the year 2003 which prevents the agency to carry out any investigations against top bureaucrats suspected of corruption without prior consent of the centre. It was then challenged by Subramanian Swamy and an NGO named ‘Centre for Public Interest Litigation’.
There are different opinions on the ‘Single directive’ provision with many senior officials and others believing it to be a necessary provision which prevents malicious prosecution and empower the bureaucrats with proper discretion in public interest. On the other hand, the CBI and many other activists condemned the provision as a big obstacle in their way for investigating charges of corruption and other related offences.
The Supreme Court saw no justification for section 6A and declared it unconstitutional which violates Art. 14 of the Indian Constitution.
“The Classification which is made in section 6A on the basis of status in government service is not permissible under Article 14 as it defeats the purpose of finding prima facie truth into allegations of graft, which amounts to be an offence under the PC Act, 1988”, The Court observed.
While this ruling of the apex court is a welcome step, it is to be remembered hat only one door of the caged parrot has been opened by the Court. The bird is still in the Cage eagerly flapping her wings to escape & to have a tryst with complete freedom. The investigation agencies like CBI need to be freed absolutely. An independent, unhampered, unbiased, efficient and fearless investigation agency is the need of the hour. The CBI, if given free hands will sure do wonders in the near future. But the road to glory before the CBI is full of legislative hurdles and administrative and other technical obstacles. There is still a long way to go.
Prof. Aman Mishra is Asst. Professor at New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Maharastra