No filter- Prior approval requirement for initiating corruption probes is not desirable

Source: The post is based on the article “No filter- Prior approval requirement for initiating corruption probes is not desirable” published in “The Hindu” on 13th September 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Governance- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

News: The Supreme Court stated that its 2014 decision, which nullified a law mandating government approval for probing high-ranking officials for corruption, applies retroactively to 2003. This impacts cases from 2003 to 2014, despite a 2018 amendment reintroducing a similar approval requirement.

What does current law say about investigations for corruption?

Original Issue: Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act previously required the Central government’s approval to start an investigation into corruption charges against high-ranked officials. This section was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2014.

Current Provision: In 2018, the Prevention of Corruption Act was amended, introducing Section 17A.

Mandatory Approval: Section 17A requires the government’s prior approval before starting a probe into decisions or recommendations made by a public servant.

Additional Safeguard: A sanction is still needed to prosecute any public servant when the trial court reviews the charge sheet.

Implications: While these approval requirements can prevent baseless investigations, they might also impede genuine anti-corruption efforts, potentially shielding corrupt officials.

What are the views of the Supreme Court on this matter?

Equality Concern: The Court held that Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act violated the norm of equality by protecting only a specific class of public servants.

Retrospective Effect: The recent judgment clarified that the 2014 ruling applies retroactively from 2003, impacting cases between these years.

Constitutional Consistency: Post-Constitution laws must align with the Constitution. If found inconsistent, their invalidation is effective from their inception.

Approval Requirements: The Court observed that approval requirements can block anti-corruption goals, potentially hindering the truth and warning corrupt officials.

Why are approval requirements controversial?

Objective of Anti-Corruption Laws: Such provisions can be destructive of the goal of anti-corruption laws.

Truth Impediment: The approval requirements can block the truth from surfacing in cases of corruption allegations.

Warning to Corrupt Officials: These provisions might act as a forewarning to officials once allegations arise against them.

Balance of Interests: While it’s crucial to have measures that filter out unnecessary inquiries into public servants making genuine decisions, it’s equally vital that these provisions don’t protect dishonest officials.

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