|SC says sanction not
needed to prosecute CMs, ministers
New Delhi, December 6
In a verdict having a far reaching import for the political fraternity, the Supreme Court today ruled that prior sanction was not required for the prosecution of public servants, including chief ministers and ministers in corruption cases. Never before had so many former chief ministers felt the heat of a judgment of the Supreme Court like the one it gave on Wednesday ó unfettering the police from seeking sanction before initiating the prosecution of ministers, legislators and bureaucrats facing corruption charges.
The court said that no sanction is required to prosecute corrupt public servants accused of misusing their official position for personal gains. "Where a criminal act is performed under the colour of authority but in reality is for the public servantís own pleasure or benefit, then such acts shall not be protected under the doctrine of state immunity," said a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and SH Kapadia.
The verdict, at one stroke, defeats the legal manoeuvre by former chief ministers Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi (Bihar) and Prakash Singh Badal (Punjab) to frustrate efforts to prosecute them for alleged acts of corruption, clearing the way for the resumption of trials against them in corruption cases.
The former CMs had challenged their prosecution claiming that charges were politically motivated and that the agencies had not secured the proper sanction.
Coming in the wake of the conviction of Shibu Soren in a murder case, the verdict will have the effect of amplifying the message about the weakening of the immunity that the political class thought it had.
In realistic terms, it will address the serious problem concerning the misuse of Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The provision was put on the statute book to shield public servants from vindictive prosecution for their official actions. While this had been conceived as an important safeguard and was meant to help officials discharge their obligations fearlessly, it has over the years been reduced to an obstacle in the way of investigating agencies seeking to bring the corrupt to justice.
The verdict may affect fortunes
across the political spectrum. In the immediate run, it may have the effect
of sealing the escape route CBI has been accused of leaving in its attempt
to book UP ex-chief minister Mayawati. Mr Badal is facing allegations of
amassing assets to the tune of about Rs 3,500 crores during his reign as
the Chief Minister of Punjab. Former ministers in the previous Badal government
might also be affected by the ruling of the Supreme Court. Mr Yadav and
his wife Rabri Devi are facing corruption cases for their alleged involvement
in the fodder scam case.
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