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Sanction to try public servant not unconstitutional, rules SC

Posted on Aug 07 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Aug 6 : The Supreme Court Wednesday said the requirement of prior sanction of the government before prosecuting a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, was not unconstitutional, and balance has to be struck between protecting a public servant against mala fide and probity in public life.

"Thus while it is not possible to hold that the requirement of sanction is unconstitutional, the competent authority has to take a decision on the issue of sanction expeditiously as already observed," said the bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.

Justice Goel said: "A fine balance has to be maintained between the need to protect a public servant against mala fide prosecution on the one hand and the object of upholding the probity in public life in prosecuting the public servant against whom prima facie material in support of allegation of corruption exists, on the other hand."

The court said this while addressing the question "whether Section 19 of the PCA Act is unconstitutional and whether any further direction is called for in public interest and for enforcement or fundamental rights".

"Requirement of sanction has salutary object of protecting an innocent public servant against unwarranted and mala fide prosecution. Undoubtedly, there can be no tolerance to corruption which undermines the core constitutional values of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity," the court said.

However, the court said: "At the same time, the need to prosecute and punish the corrupt is no ground to deny protection to the honest."

"The mere possibility of abuse cannot be a ground to declare a provision, otherwise valid, to be unconstitutional. The exercise of power has to be regulated to effectuate the purpose of law.

"The matter has already been dealt with in various decisions of this court," the bench said, referring to earlier judgments of the apex court on the issue.

The court said this while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) by Manzoor Ali Khan - an advocate in Jammu and Kashmir - who sought declaration that Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, was unconstitutional.

He had sought direction that all cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act against politicians, legislators, parliamentarians and government officials be proceeded by investigating agencies without prior sanction as required under Section 19 of the Act.

The petitioner contended that in Jammu and Kashmir, many government officials have been charged with corruption but in the absence of requisite sanction, they could not be prosecuted.

Khan said the sanction provision was being misused by the central government and the state government to protect dishonest and corrupt politicians and government officials.

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