They ought to have told him about seriousness of allegations against A. Raja in 2G spectrum allocation

Delay on the part of the sanctioning authority (SA) in allowing prosecution of a corrupt public servant “thwarts a very valid social purpose, namely, the purpose of speedy trial with the requirement to bring the culprit to book,” the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday.

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly, in two different but concurring judgments, analysed the reasons for the inordinate delay in considering Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy's representations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking sanction to prosecute the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, in the 2G spectrum case.

Justice Ganguly said: “The delay which had taken place in the office of the PMO is unfortunate. The position of the Prime Minister in our democratic polity seems to have been summed up in the words of Shakespeare, ‘uneasy lies the head that wears a crown (Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1)'.”

Public confidence at stake

The judge said taking a decision with reasonable dispatch was of the essence in such a situation. In this case, the right of the SA, in either granting sanction for prosecution or refusing it, was coupled with a duty. “The SA must bear in mind that what is at stake is the public confidence in the maintenance of rule of law which is fundamental in the administration of justice.”

Justice Ganguly said: “Delay in granting sanction has spoilt many a valid prosecution and is adversely viewed in [the] public mind that in the name of considering a prayer for sanction, protection is given to a corrupt public official as a quid pro quo for services rendered by the public official in the past or maybe [to be rendered] in the future and the SA and the corrupt officials were or are partners in the same misdeeds.”

He said: “I may hasten to add that this may not be factual position in this [case] but the general demoralising effect of such a popular perception is profound and pernicious. If we look at Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, we find that no time limit is mentioned therein [for grant of sanction]. This has virtually armed the SA with unbridled power which has often resulted in protecting the guilty and perpetuating criminality and injustice in society.”

In his judgment, Justice Singhvi said: “The affidavit filed by V. Vidyawati, Director in the PMO, shows that the matter was placed before the Prime Minister on December 1, 2008, who directed the concerned officer to examine and apprise him of the facts of the case. Surprisingly, instead of complying with the direction given by the PM, the concerned officer sent the appellant's representation to the DoT, which was headed by none other than Mr. A. Raja, against whom the appellant had made serious allegations of irregularities in the grant of licences. Then the matter was referred to the Ministry of Law and Justice for advice.”

Justice Singhvi said: “It is not possible to appreciate that even though the appellant repeatedly wrote letters to the PM highlighting the seriousness of the allegations made in his first representation and the fact that he had already supplied the facts and documents which could be made [the] basis for grant of sanction to prosecute Mr. Raja, the concerned officers in the PMO kept the matter pending” and then took shelter behind the fact that the CBI had registered the case and the investigation was pending.

Justice Singhvi said: “In our view, the officers in the PMO and the Ministry of Law and Justice were duty-bound to apprise the PM of the seriousness of the allegations made by the appellant and the judgments of this court including the directions contained in the judgment in Vineet Narain's case as also the guidelines framed by the CVC [Central Vigilance Commission] so as to enable him to take appropriate decision in the matter. By the very nature of the office held by him, the PM is not expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case placed before him and has to depend on his advisers and other officers. Unfortunately, those who were expected to give proper advice to the PM and place full facts and the legal position before him failed to do so. We have no doubt that had the PM had been apprised of the true factual and legal position regarding the representation made by the appellant, he would surely have taken an appropriate decision and would not have allowed the matter to linger for a period of more than one year.”

Growing menace

Justice Ganguly expressed concern over the growing menace of corruption. “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 version [of the Constitution].”

Justice Ganguly said: “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. Time and again this court has expressed its dismay and shock at the ever-growing tentacles of corruption in our society.” But the situation had not improved much.

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