Probing an amendment

Probing an amendment

Article:

  1. N.K Singh, former Joint Director, CBI, discussed that recent changes to the anti-corruption law are very worrying.

Important facts:

2. Recently, the Parliament passed certain amendments to laws on corruption with focus on two aspects:

  • Prior approval for initiating investigation into allegations of corruption against public servants.
  • Requiring prior sanction for prosecution of public servants.

3. Need for approval

  • Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act has been amended, reinterring the requirement of prior approval for initiating investigation of corruption cases against Joint Secretaries and public servants.
  • The only exceptions to this are cases of traps in which public servants are caught red-handed while taking bribe.
  • Till now, under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, previous sanction of the competent authority was required to prosecute public servant. This safeguard has been extended to retired public servants.

4. Hurdles:

  • The amendment requires prior approval of the government to even initiate an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into allegations of corruption against public servants.
  • The police has unfettered jurisdiction to initiate investigation into a crime or acts of corruption, once it gets credible information.
  • Under the scheme of the criminal justice system and rule of law, the police and the CBI are bound by the law and the Constitution to investigate a crime reported to them, if there is credible information.

5. But even after the Directive was set aside, the political class brought it back in the Central Vigilance Commission Act of 2003.

6. This led to protests and was challenged before the court.

7. In 2014, the Supreme Court set aside this provision of the Act.

8. The court had observed:

  • The very power of CBI to enquire and investigate into the allegations of bribery and corruption against a certain class of public servants and officials is subverted and impinged by Section 6A.
  • The scheme of Section 155 and Section 156 CrPC indicates that the local police may investigate a senior Government officer without previous approval of the Central Government.
  • However, CBI cannot do so in view of Section 6A.
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