Sanction for prosecution indicating application of mind should not be lightly dealt with

Flimsy technicalities cannot become a tool in the hands of a person accused of corruption, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

While sanctity attached to an order of sanction for prosecution of a public servant should never be forgotten, simultaneously rampant corruption in society had to be kept in view. “It has come to the notice of this court how adjournments are sought maladroitly to linger the trial and how at every stage ingenious efforts are made to assail every interim order.”

The Bench said: “Corruption fundamentally is perversion and infectious, and an individual perversity can become a social evil. In these kinds of matters, there has to be a reflection of promptitude, abhorrence of procrastination and a real understanding of the law.” The court should “remain alive to differentiating between hyper-technical contentions and acceptable legal proponents.”

In the instant case, the State of Maharashtra was aggrieved over dismissal of an appeal by a single judge of the Bombay High Court against a trial court order acquitting Mahesh G. Jain, an employee of the State Bank of India, who was charged with accepting a bribe of Rs. 1,000. The trial court had held that the sanction granted by the competent authority was defective and illegal as there was non-application of mind.

The Supreme Court said: “The reasonings are absolutely hyper-technical and, in fact, can always be used by an accused as a magic trick to pave the escape route. The reasons ascribed by the trial judge appear as if he is sitting in appeal over the order of sanction.”

True, grant of sanction was intended to provide a safeguard to the public servant against vexatious litigation. But “when there is an order of sanction by the competent authority indicating application of mind, the same should not be lightly dealt with. The flimsy technicalities cannot be allowed to become tools in the hands of an accused. In the obtaining factual matrix, the approach of the learned trial judge as well as that of the single judge is wholly incorrect and does not deserve acceptance,” the Bench said.

Allowing the appeal, it set aside the High Court judgment and the trial judge conclusion pertaining to the validity of sanction, and remitted the matter to the High Court. “As we have not dealt with any other finding recorded by the trial judge, it has to be construed that there has been no expression of opinion on the merits of the case on those counts. The High Court shall be well advised to consider all the aspects barring what has been dealt with in this appeal while dealing with the application for grant of leave,” the Bench said.

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