If a public servant commits an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, sanction for prosecution will not be necessary if on the date of court taking cognisance of it he continues to be a public servant but in a different capacity or holds an office different than the one he allegedly abused, the Supreme Court held on Monday.
A Bench of Justices V.S. Sirpurkar and T.S. Thakur rejected the arguments by Abhay Chautala and Ajay Chautala, sons of the former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, against whom disproportionate assets (DA) cases are pending. The Bench, dismissing their appeals, vacated the interim stay on trial.
In his special leave petition, Abhay Chautala, MLA, challenged the Punjab and Haryana High Court order dismissing his plea for quashing the charge sheet. He said the Central Bureau of Investigation could not initiate the DA case proceedings without taking prior sanction of the Speaker of the Assembly.
The case pertained to the period he was MLA from June 2000 to March 2005. Now he is a sitting member, and as per the Prevention of Corruption Act, he could not be proceeded against without the Speaker's sanction.
The CBI, in its charge sheet filed on February 2, 2010, accused Mr. Abhay Chautala of having assets worth Rs. 8 crore, and another Rs. 125 crore in the names of the Chaudhary Devi Lal Memorial Trust and other multiple societies.
Mr. Ajay Chautala was charged with amassing wealth to the tune of about Rs. 27 crore beyond the known sources of his income during the period from May 1993 to May 2006, when he was an MLA and MP, once in the Lok Sabha and then in the Rajya Sabha. Later, he was again elected MLA in November 2009.
Both brothers sought quashing of the High Court order and the charge sheet.
Writing the judgment, Justice Sirpurkar said: “The High Court was absolutely right in relying on the decision in Parkash Singh Badal v. State of Punjab to hold that the appellants in both appeals had abused entirely different office or offices than the one which they were holding on the date on which cognisance was taken and, therefore, there was no necessity of sanction under Section 19 of the PC Act as held in K. Karunakaran v. State of Kerala and the later decision in Parkash Singh Badal v. State of Punjab.”
The Bench said if the public servant had abused a particular office and was not holding that office on the date the offence was taken cognisance of, there would be no necessity to obtain sanction. “We do not agree with the proposition that the [PC] Act expressly contemplates that a public servant may be holding office in a capacity different from the one that he was holding when the offence is alleged to have been committed at the time when cognisance is taken. That is not, in our opinion, the eventuality contemplated in Section 6 (2) or 19 (2) as the case may be,” the Bench said.