‘Cases of administrative decisions and policy making matters need great care in investigations’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here on Monday that investigating agencies were increasingly enquiring into administrative decisions and policy matters and counselled police organisations against labelling the “decisions taken with no ill-intention within the prevailing policy” as criminal conduct.

The statement comes days after the Prime Minister’s Office issued a release defending Dr. Singh’s approval of the Coal Ministry’s decision to overturn a screening committee’s recommendation and accommodate Kumar Mangalam Birla’s company Hindalco, granting it an additional coal block. The allocation is now under the Central Bureau of Investigation scanner.

Dr. Singh was speaking at the opening of a three-day international conference on “Evolving Common Strategies to Combat Corruption and Crime,” organised by the CBI as part of its golden jubilee celebrations.

The Prime Minister said cases of administrative decisions and policy making matters required great care in investigations. “While actions that prima facie show mala fide intent or pecuniary gain should certainly be questioned, pronouncing decisions taken with no ill-intention within the prevailing policy as criminal misconduct would certainly be flawed and excessive.”

Dr. Singh advocated drawing lines of confidence between probe agencies and honest executive functionaries to ensure that “public servants are not paralysed in taking effective decisions based on their own sound judgment and on the apprehension of an ill-informed inquiry or investigation”.

Outlining that “protection of the honest” is a facet of Article 14 of the Constitution, he said keeping this in view only the Prevention of Corruption Act (Amendment) Bill, 2013, was introduced in Parliament to amend a provision that presently criminalises, even in the absence of any mens rea (guilty mind), any action of a public servant that secures for any person a pecuniary advantage.

Earlier, speaking at the conference, Dr. Singh referred to the recent Gauhati High Court judgment pronouncing the institution of CBI as unconstitutional. He said, “This is a matter that will undoubtedly have to be considered also by the highest court in the land. The government will do all that is necessary to establish the need for the CBI and its legitimacy, and protect its past and future work.”

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