2 G - AND SANCTION FOR PROSECUTION

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1193   OF 2012

(Arising out of SLP(C) No. 27535 of 2010)

 

Dr. Subramanian Swamy                                      ... Appellant

versus

Dr. Manmohan Singh and another                             ... Respondents

 

J U D G M E N T

G. S. Singhvi, J.

1.    Leave granted.

2.    Whether a complaint can be filed by a citizen for prosecuting a public servant for an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act,   1988   (for   short,   `the   1988   Act')   and   whether   the   authority competent to sanction prosecution of a public servant for offences under   the   1988   Act   is   required   to   take   an   appropriate   decision  within the time specified in clause I(15) of the directions contained  in paragraph 58 of the judgment of this Court in Vineet Narain v.

Union of India (1998) 1 SCC 226 and the guidelines issued by the  Central   Government,   Department   of   Personnel   and   Training   and the   Central   Vigilance   Commission   (CVC)   are   the   question   which require consideration in this appeal.

3.    For   the   last   more   than   three   years,   the  appellant   has   been vigorously   pursuing,   in   public   interest,   the   cases   allegedly  involving   loss   of   thousands   of   crores   of   rupees   to   the   Public Exchequer   due   to   arbitrary   and   illegal   grant   of   licences   at   the  behest   of   Mr.   A.   Raja   (respondent   No.   2)   who   was   appointed   as Minister   for   Communication   and   Information   Technology   on 16.5.2007 by the President on the advice of Dr. Manmohan Singh  (respondent No. 1).  After collecting information about the grant of licences,   the   appellant   made   detailed   representation   dated

29.11.2008   to   respondent   No.   1   to   accord   sanction   for prosecution of respondent No. 2 for offences under the 1988 Act. In   his   representation,   the   ppellant   pointed   out   that   respondent No.   2   had   allotted   new   licences   in   2G   mobile   services   on   `first come, first served' basis to novice telecom companies, viz., Swan Telecom and Unitech, which was in clear violation of Clause 8 of the   Guidelines   for   United   Access   Services   Licence   issued   by   the Ministry   of   Communication   and   Information   Technology   vide letter   No.10-21/2005-BS.I(Vol.II)/49   dated   14.12.2005   and, thereby, caused loss of over Rs. 50,000 crores to the Government. The appellant gave details of the violation of Clause 8 and pointed out that the two officers, viz., R.J.S. Kushwaha and D. Jha of the Department of Telecom, who  had  opposed the  showing  of undue favour to Swan Telecom, were transferred just before the grant of  licences   and   Bharat   Sanchar   Nigam   Limited   (BSNL)   which   had never   entered   into   a   roaming   agreement   with   any   operator,   was forced  to   enter   into   such   an  agreement  with   Swan  Telecom.   The appellant further pointed out that immediately after acquiring 2G spectrum licences, Swan Telecom and Unitech sold their stakes to foreign companies, i.e., Etisalat, a telecom operator from UAE and Telenor of Norway respectively and, thereby, made huge profits at the   expense   of   public   revenue.   He   claimed   that   by   2G   spectrum allocation under respondent No. 2, the Government received only one-sixth   of   what   it   would   have   received   if   it   had   opted   for   an  auction. The appellant pointed out how respondent No. 2 ignored the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and gave totally unwarranted benefits to the two companies and   thereby   caused   loss   to   the   Public   Exchequer.     Some   of   the portions of the appellant's representation are extracted below:

"Clause   8   has   been   violated   as   follows:   While   Anil Dhirubhai   Ambani   Group   (ADAG),   the   promoters   of Reliance   Communications   (R   Com),   had  more   than   10 per   cent   stake   in   Swan   Telecom,   the   figures   were manipulated   and   showed   as   9.99   per   cent   holding   to beat the said Clause.  The documents available disclose that on March 2, 2007, when Swan Telecom applied for United Access Services Licences, it was owned 100 per

cent   by   Reliance   Communications   and   its   associates viz.   Reliance   Telecom,   and   by   Tiger   Trustees   Limited, Swan   Infonet   Services   Private   Limited,   and   Swan Advisory Services Private  Limited  (see Annexure  I).    At

one   or   the   other   point   of   time,   employees   of   ADAG (Himanshu   Agarwal,   Ashish   Karyekar,   Paresh   Rathod) or   its   associate   companies   have   been   acquiring   the shares   of   Swan   Telecom   itself.     But   still   the   ADAG manipulated the holdings in Swan to reduce it to only 9.99 per cent.  Ambani has now quietly sold his shares in   Swan   to   Delphi   Investments,   a   Mauritius   based company   owned   by   Ahmed   O.   Alfi,   specializing   in

automobile spare parts.   In turn,   Swan has sold 45% of   its   shares   to   UAE's   Emirates   Telecom   Corporation (Etisalat)   for   Rs.9000   crores!     All   this   is   highly suspicious   and   not   normal   business   transactions. Swan   company   got   60%   of   the   22   Telecom   licenced areas at a throw away price of Rs.1650 crores, when it was worth Rs.60,000 crores total.  Room   has   operations   in   the   same   circles   where the application for Swan Telecom was filed.   Therefore,

under   Clause   8   of   the   Guidelines,   Swan   should   not have been allotted spectrum by the Telecommunication Ministry.     But   the   company   did   get   it   on   Minister's direction,   which   is   an   undue   favour   from   him   (Raja). There  was   obviously  a  quid   pro  quo  which  only   a   CBI enquiry can reveal, after an FIR is registered.   There is no need for a P/E, because the CVC has already done

the preliminary enquiry.

Quite   surprisingly,   the   2G   spectrum   licences   were priced   at   2001   levels   to   benefit   these   private   players. That   was   when   there   were   only   4   million   cellphone  subscribers; now it is 350 million.  Hence 2001 price is      not applicable today.  Immediately after acquiring 2G spectrum licences both      Swan   and   Unitech   sold   their   stakes   to   foreign      companies at a huge profits.  While Swan Telecom sold    its   stakes   to   UAE   telecom   operator   Etisalat,   Unitech  signed   a   deal   with   Telenor   of   Norway   for   selling   its      share at huge premiums.   In   the   process   of   this   2G   spectrum   allocation,   the   government   received   only   one-sixth   of   what   it   would    have   got   had   it   gone   through   a   fresh   auction   route.   The total loss to the exchequer of giving away 2G GSM   spectrum   in   this   way   -   including   to   the   CDMA   operators   -   is   over   Rs.50,000   crores  and   is   said   to   be    one   of   the   biggest   financial   scams   of   all   times   in   the   country.  While   approving   the   2G   licences,   Minister   Raja   turned a blind eye to the fact that these two companies  do not have any infrastructure to launch their services.   Falsely claiming that the Telecom Regulatory Authority  of   India   had   approved   the   first-cum-first   served   rule,  Raja   went   ahead   with   the   2G   spectrum   allocation   to  two   debutants   in   the   Telecom   sector.     In   fact   earlier      TRAI had discussed the spectrum allocation issue with      existing   services   providers   and   suggested   to   the  Telecom   Ministry   that   spectrum   allocation   be   made  through   a   transparent   tender   and   auction   process.      This is confirmed by what the TRAI Chairman N. Misra  told   the   CII   organized   conference   on   November   28,  2008 (Annexure 2).  But Raja did not bother to listen to the TRAI either and pursued the process on `first come,   first   served'   basis,   benefiting   those   who   had   inside  information,   causing   a   loss   of   Rs.50,000   crores   to   the  Government.     His   dubious   move   has   been   to   ensure   benefit to others at the cost of the national exchequer."

     The   request   made   in   the   representation,   which   was   relied upon   by   the   learned   Attorney   General   for   showing   that   the appellant had himself asked for an investigation, is also extracted below:

        "According   to   an   uncontradicted   report   in   CNN-IBN  news channel of November 26, 2008, you are said to be   "very   upset   with   A.   Raja   over   the   spectrum   allocation  issue". This confirms   that   an investigation   is  necessary,   for   which   I   may   be   given   sanction   so   that   the process of law can be initiated.

        I,   therefore,   writ   to   demand   the   grant   of   sanction   to  prosecute   Mr.   A.   Raja,   Minister   for   Telecom   of   the  Union   of   India   for   offences   under   the   Prevention   of  Corruption   Act.     The   charges   in   brief   are   annexed  herewith (Annexure 3)."  

4.      Since   the   appellant   did   not   receive   any   response   from respondent   No.1,   he   sent   letters   dated   30.5.2009,   23.10.2009, 31.10.2009,   8.3.2010   and   13.3.2010   and   reiterated   his request/demand   for   grant   of   sanction   to   prosecute   respondent No.2.  In his letter dated 31.10.2009, the appellant referred to the  fact   that   on   being   directed   by   the   CVC,   the   Central   Bureau   of Investigation   (CBI)   had   registered   a   first   information   report,   and claimed   that  prima   facie  case   is   established   against   respondent No.   2   for   his   prosecution   under   Sections   11   and   13(1)(d)   of   the  1988   Act.     The   appellant   also   claimed   that   according   to   various  Supreme   Court   judgments   it   was   not   necessary   to   carry   out   a detailed   inquiry,   and   he   had   produced   sufficient   evidence   for grant   of   sanction   to   initiate   criminal   prosecution   against respondent No. 2 for the misuse of authority and pecuniary gains from   corrupt   practices.     In   his   subsequent   letters,   the   appellant again   asserted   that   the   nation   had   suffered   loss   of   nearly

Rs.65,000   crores   due   to   arbitrary,   unreasonable   and   mala   fide action   of   respondent   No.2.     In   letter   dated   13.3.2010,   the  appellant   referred   to   the   proceedings   of   the   case   in   which   this Court refused to interfere with the order of the Delhi High Court  declaring that the decision of respondent No.2 to change the cut off   date   fixed   for   consideration   of   applications   made   for   grant   of licences was arbitrary and mala fide.

5.    After  1 year and  4-1/2 months  of the  first letter  written by him, Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel sent letter dated 19.3.2010 to the appellant mentioning  therein that the CBI had registered a case on 21.10.2009 against  unknown officers of the Department of elecommunications (DoT), unknown   private   persons/companies   and   others   and   that   the issue   of   grant   of   sanction   for   prosecution   would   arise   only   after  perusal of the evidence collected by the investigating agency and

other   material   provided   to   the   Competent   Authority   and   that   it would  be premature to consider  sanction  for  prosecution  at that stage.

6.    On   receipt   of   the   aforesaid   communication,   the   appellant  filed   Civil   Writ   Petition   No.   2442/2010   in   the   Delhi   High   Court and prayed for issue of a mandamus to respondent No.1 to pass  an order for grant of sanction for prosecution of respondent No. 2.  The   Division   Bench   of   the   Delhi   High   Court   referred   to   the  submission of the learned Solicitor General that when respondent No. 1 has directed investigation by the CBI and the investigation is   in   progress,   it   is   not   permissible   to   take   a   decision   on   the  application of the appellant either to grant or refuse the sanction because that may affect the investigation, and dismissed the writ petition by recording the following observations:

      "The   question   that   emanates   for   consideration   is       whether,   at   this   stage,   when   the   investigation   by   the       CBI  is in   progress  and  this  Court  had  earlier  declined       to   monitor   the   same   by   order   dated   25th  May,   2010,   which   has   been   pressed   into   service   by   the   learned       Solicitor   General   of   India,   it   would   be   appropriate   to   direct   the   respondent   no.   1   to   take   a   decision   as  regards   the   application   submitted   by   the   petitioner  seeking sanction to prosecute.   In   our   considered   opinion,   when   the   matter   is   being  investigated   by   the   CBI,   and   the   investigation   is   in       progress, it would not be in fitness of things to issue a   mandamus to the first respondent to take a decision on  the application of the petitioner."

7.    The special leave petition filed by the appellant, out of which this  appeal  arises,  was  initially  taken up  for  consideration   along with SLP(C) No. 24873/2010 filed by the Center for Public Interest  Litigation   against   order   dated   25.5.2010   passed   by   the   Division  Bench of the High Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3522/2010 to  which  reference  had   been  made   in  the   impugned   order.    During  the   course   of   hearing   of   the   special   leave   petition   filed   by   the  appellant,   the   learned   Solicitor   General,   who   had   appeared   on behalf of respondent No. 1, made a statement that he has got the

record   and   is   prepared   to   place   the   same   before   the   Court. However,   keeping   in   view   the   fact   that   the   record   sought   to   be produced   by   the   learned   Solicitor   General   may   not   be   readily available   to   the   appellant,   the   Court   passed   order   dated 18.11.2010   requiring   the   filing   of   an   affidavit   on   behalf   of respondent   No.   1.   Thereafter,   Shri   V.   Vidyavati,   Director   in   the PMO filed affidavit dated 20.11.2010, which reveals the following  facts:

      "(i) On 1.12.2008, the Prime Minister perused the letter   and noted "Please examine and let me know the facts of  this case". This was marked to the Principal Secretary   to   the   Prime   Minister   who   in   turn   marked it to the Secretary. The Secretary marked it to me as Director in  the   PMO.   I   prepared   a   note   dated   5.12.2008   factually  summarizing   the   allegations   and   seeking   approval   to obtain the factual position from the sectoral side (in the PMO dealing with Telecommunications).

(ii)   On   11.12.2008,   a   copy   of   appellant's   letter   dated 29.11.2008   was   sent   to   the   Secretary,   Department   of Telecommunication   for   submitting   a   factual   report. The Department of Telecommunication sent reply dated 13.02.2009 incorporating his comments.

(iii)   In   the   meanwhile,   letters   dated   10.11.2008   and 22.11.2008   were   received   from   Shri   Gurudas   Gupta and   Shri   Suravaran   Sudhakar   Reddy   respectively (copies   of   these   letters   have   not   been   produced   before the Court). The same were forwarded to the Department of   Telecommunication   on   25.03.2009   for   sending   an appropriate reply to the appellant.

(iv)   On   01.06.2009,   letter   dated   30.05.2009   received from the appellant was placed before respondent No.1, who   recorded   the following   endorsement   "please examine and discuss".

(v) On 19.06.2009, the Director of the concerned Sector in   the   PMO   recorded   that   the   Minister   of Telecommunications   and   Information   Technology   has

sent   D.O.   letter   dated   18.06.2009   to   the   appellant. When   letter   dated   23.10.2009   of   the   appellant   was placed   before   respondent   No.1,   he   recorded   an endorsement on 27.10.2009 "please discuss".

(vi)    In   response   to   letter   dated   31.10.2009   of   the appellant,   respondent   No.1   made   an   endorsement "please examine".

(vii)   On   18.11.2009,   respondent   No.1   stated   that Ministry   of   Law   and   Justice   should   examine   and advice.  The   advice   of  Ministry  of  Law   and   Justice   was received on 8.2.2010.  Para 7 thereof was as follows:

        "From the perusal of letter dated 23.10.2009 and  31.10.2009,   it   is   noticed   that   Shri   Swamy   wants  to   rely   upon   the   action   and   investigation   of   the  CBI   to   collaborate   and   strengthen   the   said  allegation   leveled   by   him   against   Shri   A.   Raja, Minister   for   Communication   and   Information             Technology.  It  is specifically  mentioned  in  Para  2 of the letter dated 31.10.2009 of Shri Swamy that  the   FIR   was   registered   by   the   CBI   and   "the  substance   of   the   allegation   made   by   me   in   the  above   cited   letters   to   you   are   already   under  investigation". If it is so, then it may be stated that decision to accord of sanction of prosecution may  be   determined   only   after   the   perusal   of   the evidence   (oral   or   documentary)   collected   by   the investigation agency, i.e., CBI and other materials  to be provided to the competent authority."

      (viii) On 05.03.2010, the deponent prepared a note that  an   appropriate   reply   be   sent   to   the   appellant   in   the  light   of   the   advice   given   by   the   Law   Department   and  final   reply   was   sent   to   the   appellant   after   respondent  No.1 had approved note dated 17.03.2010."

8.    The   appellant   filed   rejoinder   affidavit   on   22.11.2010   along  with a copy of letter dated 18.6.2009 written to him by respondent  No. 2 in the context of representation dated 29.11.2008 submitted by him to respondent No.1.

9.    Although,   respondent   No.2   resigned   from   the   Council   of Ministers on 14.11.2010, the appellant submitted that the issues relating   to   his   right   to   file   a   complaint   for   prosecution   of respondent No.2 and grant of sanction within the time specified in the judgment in Vineet Narain's case should be decided.

10.    During  the   course   of  hearing,   the   learned  Attorney  General filed   written   submissions.     After   the   hearing   concluded,   the learned Attorney General filed supplementary written submissions along   with   a   compilation   of   126   cases   in   which   the   sanction   for  prosecution   is   awaited   for   periods   ranging   from   more   than   one year to few months

11.    Final order in this case was deferred because it was felt that  the   directions   given   by   this   Court   in   Vineet   Narain's   case   may require further elaboration in the light of the order passed in Civil Appeal   No.   10660/2010   (arising   out   of   SLP(C)   No.   24873/2010)  and   the   fact   that   decision   on   the   question   of   grant   of   sanction  under the 1988 Act and other statutes is pending for a sufficiently long time in 126 cases. However, as the investigation with regard to some of the facets of what has come to be termed as 2G case is yet   to   be   completed,   we   have   considered   it   appropriate   to   pass final order in the matter.

12.    Appellant Dr. Subramanian Swamy argued that the embargo contained in Section  19(1) of the  1988 Act operates only against  the   taking   of   cognizance   by   the   Court   in   respect   of   offences punishable under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 committed by a public   servant,     but   there   is   no   bar   to   the   filing   of   a   private  complaint   for   prosecution   of   the   concerned   public   servant   and  grant   of   sanction   by   the   Competent   Authority,   and   that respondent No. 1 was duty bound to take appropriate decision on  his representation within the time specified in clause I(15) of the  directions   contained   in   paragraph   58   of   Vineet   Narain's   case, more   so   because   he   had   placed   sufficient   evidence   to   show   that respondent No.2 had committed offences under the 1988 Act.

13.    The   learned   Attorney   General   argued   that   the   question   of grant of sanction for prosecution of a public servant charged with any of the offences enumerated in Section 19(1) arises only at the  stage when the Court decides to take cognizance and any request made prior to that is premature.   He submitted that the embargo contained   in   Section   19(1)   of   the   Act   is   applicable   to   the   Court which   is   competent   to   take   cognizance   of   an   offence   punishable under   Sections   7,   10,   11,   13   and   15   alleged   to   have   been

committed by a public servant and there is no provision for grant  of sanction at a stage before the competent Court applies its mind to the issue of taking cognizance. Learned Attorney General relied upon the judgment of the Calcutta High Court in Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs v. Abani Kumar Banerjee AIR 1950 Cal. 437 as also the judgments of this Court in R.R. Chari v.

State   of   Uttar   Pradesh   1951   SCR   312,   Devarapalli Lakshminarayana Reddy v. V. Narayana Reddy (1976) 3 SCC 252,  Ram Kumar v. State of Haryana (1987) 1 SCC 476, Krishna Pillai v. T.A. Rajendran, 1990 (Supp) SCC 121,  State of West Bengal v. Mohd.   Khalid   (1995)   1   SCC   684,   State   through   C.B.I.   v.   Raj 

Kumar   Jain   (1998)   6   SCC   551,   K.   Kalimuthu   v.   State   (2005)   4  SCC   512,   Centre   for   Public   Interest   Litigation   v.   Union   of   India 

(2005) 8 SCC 202 and State of Karnataka v. Pastor P. Raju (2006)6  SCC  728 and   argued  that   letter  dated  29.11.2008 sent by  the  appellant   for   grant   of   sanction   to   prosecute   respondent   No.2   for the alleged offences under the 1988 Act was wholly misconceived and   respondent   No.1   did   not   commit   any   illegality   or constitutional impropriety by not entertaining his prayer, more so because the appellant had himself asked for an investigation into  the   alleged   illegal   grant   of   licences   at   the   behest   of   respondent No.2.  Learned Attorney General further argued that the appellant does not have the  locus standi  to file a complaint for prosecuting respondent   No.2   because   the   CBI   is   already   investigating   the allegations of irregularity committed in the grant of licences for 2G spectrum and the loss, if any, suffered by the Public Exchequer.

14.    We have considered the respective submissions.   Section 19 of the 1988 Act reads as under:

       "19. Previous sanction  necessary for  prosecution. -  (1) No court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable  under   sections   7,   10,   11,   13   and   15   alleged   to   have  been   committed   by   a   public   servant,   except   with   the        previous sanction, -

             (a)   in   the   case   of   a   person   who   is   employed   in  connection with the affairs of the Union and is not removable   from   his   office   save   by   or   with   the  sanction   of   the   Central   Government,   of   that  Government;

             (b)   in   the   case   of   a   person   who   is   employed   in connection   with   the   affairs   of   a   State   and   is   not removable   from   his   office   save   by   or   with   the sanction   of   the   State   Government,   of   that  Government;

             (c) in the case of any other person, of the authority  competent to remove him from his office.

       (2)   Where   for   any   reason  whatsoever  any  doubt   arises  as to whether the previous sanction as required under  sub-section   (1)   should   be   given   by   the   Central  Government   or   the   State   Government   or  any  other authority,   such   sanction   shall   be   given   by   that Government   or   authority   which   would   have   been  competent to remove the public servant from his office        at the time when the offence was alleged to have been    committed.

       (3) Notwithstanding  anything  contained  in the  Code  of  Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974),-  

             (a)   no   finding,   sentence   or   order   passed   by   a  special   Judge   shall   be   reversed   or   altered   by   a  court   in   appeal,   confirmation   or   revision   on   the  ground of the absence of, or any error, omission or irregularity   in,   the   sanction   required   under   sub-section   (1),  unless  in  the  opinion  of  that  court,  a failure   of   justice   has   in   fact   been   occasioned  thereby;

             (b) no court shall stay the proceedings under this  Act   on   the   ground   of   any   error,   omission   or  irregularity   in   the   sanction   granted   by   the              authority,   unless   it   is   satisfied   that   such   error,  omission or irregularity has resulted in a failure of  justice;

             (c)    no   court   shall   stay   the   proceedings   under this   Act   on   any   other   ground   and   no   court   shall  exercise   the   powers   of   revision   in   relation   to   any  interlocutory   order   passed   in  any   inquiry, trial,  appeal or other proceedings.

       (4)   In   determining   under   sub-section   (3)   whether   the        absence   of,   or   any   error,   omission   or   irregularity   in,        such sanction has occasioned or resulted in a failure of  justice the court shall have regard to the  fact whether        the objection could and should have been raised at any   earlier stage in the proceedings.

             Explanation. - For the purposes of this section,

            (a)   error   includes   competency   of   the   authority   to  grant sanction;

            (b)   a   sanction   required   for   prosecution   includes reference to any requirement that the prosecution  shall be at the instance of a specified authority or  with   the   sanction   of   a   specified   person   or   any  requirement of a similar nature."

15.    The question whether sanction for prosecution of respondent No.2 for the offences allegedly committed by him under the 1988 Act   is   required   even   after   he   resigned   from   the   Council   of Ministers,   though   he   continues   to   be   a   Member   of   Parliament, need not detain us because the same has already been answered by the Constitution Bench in R. S. Nayak v. A. R. Antulay (1984) 2 SCC 183 the relevant portions of which are extracted below:

     "Now   if   the   public   servant   holds   two   offices   and   he   is    accused   of   having   abused   one   and   from   which   he   is  removed   but   continues   to   hold   the   other   which   is  neither   alleged   to   have   been   used   (sic  misused)   nor  abused,   is   a   sanction   of   the   authority   competent   to     remove him  from  the  office  which  is neither  alleged or  shown to have been abused or misused necessary? The  submission   is   that   if   the   harassment   of   the   public servant   by   a   frivolous   prosecution   and   criminal   waste  of   his   time   in   law   courts   keeping   him   away   from  discharging   public   duty,   are   the   objects   underlying  Section 6, the same would be defeated if it is held that       the   sanction   of   the   latter   authority   is   not   necessary.  The submission does not commend to us. We fail to see  how   the   competent   authority   entitled   to   remove   the  public servant from an office which is neither alleged to  have been used (sic  misused) or abused would be able   to   decide   whether   the   prosecution   is   frivolous   or   tendentious.   An   illustration   was   posed   to   the   learned   counsel   that   a   minister   who   is   indisputably   a   public      servant   greased   his   palms   by   abusing   his   office   as   minister, and then ceased to hold the office before the   court was called upon to take cognizance of the offence  against him and therefore, sanction as contemplated by  Section   6   would   not   be   necessary;   but   if   after  committing the offence and before the date of taking of  cognizance of the offence, he was elected as a Municipal      President   in   which   capacity   he   was   a   public   servant  under the relevant municipal law, and was holding that  office   on   the   date   on   which   court   proceeded   to   take cognizance   of   the   offence   committed   by   him   as   a      minister, would a sanction be necessary and that too of   that authority competent to remove him from the office   of   the   Municipal   President.   The   answer   was   in   affirmative.   But   the   very   illustration   would   show   that      such   cannot   be   the   law.   Such   an   interpretation   of   Section   6   would   render   it   as   a   shield   to   an  unscrupulous   public   servant.   Someone   interested   in  protecting   may   shift   him   from   one   office   of   public      servant   to   another   and   thereby   defeat   the   process   of  law. One can legitimately envisage a situation  wherein  a   person   may   hold   a   dozen   different   offices,   each   one clothing him with the status of a public servant under  Section   21   IPC   and   even   if   he   has   abused   only   one  office   for   which   either   there   is   a   valid   sanction   to  prosecute   him   or   he   has   ceased   to   hold   that   office   by  the time court was called upon to take cognizance, yet  on this assumption, sanction of 11 different competent      authorities   each   of   which   was   entitled   to   remove   him  from   11   different   public   offices   would   be   necessary  before   the   court   can   take   cognizance   of   the   offence  committed   by   such   public   servant,   while   abusing   one  office   which   he   may   have   ceased   to   hold.  Such   an      interpretation is contrary to all canons of construction  and leads to an absurd end product which of necessity  must   be   avoided.   Legislation   must   at   all   costs   be  interpreted in such a way that it would not operate as a  rogue's charter.

     We   would   however,   like   to   make   it   abundantly   clear that if the two decisions purport to lay down that even if   a   public   servant   has   ceased   to   hold   that   office   as   public   servant   which   he   is   alleged   to   have   abused   or   misused for corrupt motives, but on the date of taking  cognizance   of   an   offence   alleged   to   have   been committed by him as a public servant which he ceased to be and holds an entirely different public office which  he   is   neither   alleged   to   have   misused   or   abused   for corrupt   motives,   yet   the   sanction   of   authority  competent to remove him from such latter office would      be   necessary   before   taking   cognizance   of   the   offence  alleged   to   have   been   committed   by   the   public   servant  while   holding   an   office   which   he   is   alleged   to   have  abused   or   misused   and   which   he   has   ceased   to   hold, the decision in our opinion, do not lay down the correct  law   and   cannot   be   accepted   as   making   a   correct  interpretation of Section 6."

16.    The same view has been taken in Habibullsa Khan v. State of Orissa (1995) 2 SCC  437 (para 12), State of H.P. v. M. P. Gupta (2004)   2   SCC   349   (paras   17   and   19),   Parkash   Singh   Badal   v. State of Punjab (2007) 1 SCC 1 and Balakrishnan Ravi Menon v. Union  of India  (2007) 1 SCC  45.   In Balakrishnan  Ravi  Menon's  case, it was argued that the observations made in para 25 of the 

judgment   in   Antulay's   case   are   obiter.     While   negating   this submission, the Court observed :     

       "Hence, it is difficult to accept the contention raised by   Mr.   U.R.   Lalit,   the   learned  Senior   Counsel   for   the   petitioner that the aforesaid finding given by this Court   in Antulay case is obiter. Further, under Section 19 of the PC Act, sanction is to  be   given   by   the   Government   or   the   authority   which       would   have   been   competent   to   remove   the   public   servant from his office at the time when the offence was  alleged   to   have   been   committed.   The   question   of  obtaining   sanction   would   arise   in   a   case   where   the  offence has been committed by a public servant who is  holding   the   office   and   by   misusing   or   abusing   the    powers of the office, he has committed the offence. he   word "office" repeatedly used in Section 19 would mean  the "office" which the public servant misuses or abuses  by   corrupt   motive   for   which   he   is   to   be   prosecuted.

       Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 19 are as under:

             "19.  Previous   sanction   necessary   for   prosecution.

             --(1) No court shall take cognizance of an offence  punishable   under   Sections   7,   10,   11,   13   and   15  alleged   to   have   been   committed   by   a   public  servant, except with the previous sanction,--

             (a)   in   the   case   of   a   person   who   is   employed   in   connection with the affairs of the Union and is not  removable   from   his   office   save   by   or   with   the  sanction   of   the   Central   Government,   of   that  Government;

        (b)   in   the   case   of   a   person   who   is   employed   in  connection   with   the   affairs   of   a   State   and   is   not  removable   from   his   office   save   by   or   with   the  sanction   of   the   State   Government,   of   that  Government;

        (c) in the case of any other person, of the authority  competent to remove him from his office.

        (2)   Where   for   any   reason   whatsoever   any   doubt   arises   as   to   whether   the   previous   sanction   as  required under sub-section (1) should be given by  the Central Government or the State Government  or   any   other   authority,   such   sanction   shall   be   given   by   that   Government   or   authority   which  would  have  been competent to  remove the  public   servant   from   his   office   at   the   time   when   the  offence was alleged to have been committed."

C lauses ( a )  and ( b)   of sub-section (1) specifically provide  that   in   case   of   a   person   who   is   employed   and   is   not removable from his office by the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be,   sanction    to 

prosecute   is   required   to   be   obtained   either from the Central Government   or   the   State   Government.   The emphasis   is   on   the   words   "who   is   employed"   in connection   with   the   affairs   of   the   Union   or   the   State

Government.   If   he   is   not   employed   then   Section   19 nowhere provides for obtaining such sanction. Further, under   sub-section   (2),   the   question   of   obtaining sanction   is   relatable   to   the   time   of   holding   the   office when the  offence was alleged to have been committed. In case where the person is not holding the said office  as he might have retired, superannuated, be discharged

or   dismissed  then  the   question   of  removing  would  not arise.   Admittedly,   when   the   alleged   offence   was committed, the petitioner was appointed by the Central Government. He demitted his office after completion of   five years' tenure. Therefore, at the relevant time when   the   charge-sheet   was   filed,   the   petitioner   was   not  holding the office of the Chairman of Goa Shipyard Ltd.        Hence,   there   is   no   question   of   obtaining   any   previous  sanction of the Central Government."  (emphasis supplied)

17.    The same view was reiterated in Parkash Singh Badal's case and the argument that even though some of the accused persons had ceased to be Ministers, they continued to be the Members of the   Legislative   Assembly   and   one   of   them   was   a   Member   of Parliament   and   as   such   cognizance   could   not   be   taken   against them without prior sanction, was rejected.

18.    The   next   question   which   requires   consideration   is   whether the   appellant   has   the  locus   standi  to   file   a   complaint   for prosecution   of   respondent   No.2   for   the   offences   allegedly committed   by   him   under   the   1988   Act.       There   is   no   provision either   in   the   1988   Act   or   the   Code   of   Criminal   Procedure,   1973 (CrPC) which bars a citizen from filing a complaint for prosecution  of a public servant who  is alleged to have committed an  offence.

Therefore, the argument of the learned Attorney General that the appellant cannot file a complaint for prosecuting respondent No.2 merits   rejection.     A   similar   argument   was   negatived   by   the Constitution   Bench   in   A.R.   Antulay   v.   Ramdas   Sriniwas   Nayak (1984) 2 SCC 500.   The facts of that case show that on a private  complaint   filed   by   the   respondent,   the   Special   Judge   took cognizance   of   the   offences   allegedly   committed   by   the   appellant.  The latter objected to the jurisdiction of the Special Judge on two

counts, including the one that the Court set up under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952 (for short, `the 1952 Act')  was   not   competent   to   take   cognizance   of   any   of   the   offences enumerated   in   Section   6(1)(a)   and   (b)   upon   a   private   complaint. His   objections   were   rejected   by   the   Special   Judge.     The   revision  filed by the appellant was heard by the Division Bench of the High  Court   which   ruled   that   a   Special   Judge   is   competent   and   is entitled   to   take   cognizance   of   offences   under   Section   6(1)(a)   and

(b)   on   a   private   complaint   of   the   facts   constituting   the   offence. The High Court was of the opinion that a prior investigation under Section   5A   of   the   Prevention   of   Corruption   Act,   1947   (for   short,  `the 1947 Act') by a police officer of the designated rank is not sine  qua non  for taking cognizance of an offence under Section 8(1) of  the   1952   Act.    Before  the   Supreme   Court,   the   argument  against the  locus   standi  of   the   respondent   was   reiterated   and   it   was submitted that  Section   5A of the  1947  Act is mandatory  and an

investigation by the designated officer is a condition precedent to the   taking   of   cognizance   by   the   Special   Judge   of   an   offence   or offences   committed   by   a   public   servant.   While   dealing   with   the  issue   relating   to   maintainability   of   a   private   complaint,   the  Constitution Bench observed:

      "It   is   a   well   recognised   principle   of   criminal       jurisprudence  that  anyone  can  set or  put  the  criminal  law   into   motion   except   where   the   statute   enacting   or  creating   an   offence   indicates   to   the   contrary.   The       scheme   of   the   Code   of   Criminal   Procedure   envisages  two   parallel   and   independent   agencies   for   taking  criminal   offences   to   court.   Even   for   the   most   serious  offence   of   murder,   it   was   not   disputed   that   a   private  complaint can, not only be filed but can be entertained  and   proceeded   with   according   to   law.  Locus   standi   of  the   complainant   is   a   concept   foreign   to   criminal jurisprudence   save   and   except   that   where   the   statute   creating   an   offence   provides   for the eligibility of  the  complainant,   by   necessary   implication   the   general   principle   gets   excluded   by   such   statutory   provision.   Numerous   statutory   provisions,   can   be   referred   to   in  support of this legal position such as (i) Section 187-A  of Sea Customs Act, 1878 (ii) Section 97 of Gold Control   Act,   1968   (iii)   Section   6   of   Import   and   Export   Control   Act,   1947   (iv)   Section   271   and   Section   279   of   the       Income   Tax   Act,   1961   (v)   Section   61   of   the   Foreign   Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, (vi) Section 621 of the   Companies   Act,   1956   and   (vii)   Section   77   of   the   Electricity Supply  Act. This list is only  illustrative  and  not   exhaustive.  While   Section   190   of   the   Code   of  Criminal   Procedure   permits   anyone   to   approach   the   Magistrate  with  a complaint, it does not  prescribe any  qualification  the  complainant  is required to fulfil to be  eligible   to   file   a   complaint.   But   where   an   eligibility  criterion   for   a   complainant   is   contemplated   specific  provisions   have   been   made   such   as   to   be   found   in  Sections   195   to   199   of   the   CrPC.   These   specific   provisions   clearly   indicate   that   in   the   absence   of   any  such   statutory   provision,   a   locus   standi   of   a complainant   is   a concept foreign to criminal   jurisprudence.  In   other   words,   the   principle   that anyone   can   set   or   put   the   criminal   law   in   motion  remains   intact   unless   contra-indicated   by   a   statutory      provision.   This   general   principle   of   nearly   universal application   is   founded   on   a   policy   that   an   offence   i.e. an act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force is not merely an offence committed  relation to the person who suffers harm but is also an  offence   against   society.   The   society   for   its   orderly   and   peaceful   development   is   interested   in   the   punishment of   the   offender.   Therefore,   prosecution   for   serious  offences   is   undertaken   in   the   name   of   the   State  representing   the   people   which   would   exclude   any  element of private vendetta or vengeance. If such is the  public policy underlying penal statutes, who brings an      act or omission made punishable by law to the notice of  the   authority   competent   to   deal   with   it,   is   immaterial  and   irrelevant   unless   the   statute   indicates   to   the  contrary. Punishment of the offender in the interest of the   society   being   one   of   the   objects   behind   penal   statutes enacted for larger good of the society, right to   initiate   proceedings   cannot   be   whittled   down,  circumscribed   or   fettered   by   putting   it   into   a   strait-     jacket   formula   of   locus   standi   unknown   to   criminal  jurisprudence,   save   and   except   specific   statutory  exception. To hold that such an exception exists that a  private   complaint  for  offences  of  corruption  committed by public servant is not maintainable, the court would  require   an unambiguous   statutory   provision   and   a   tangled   web   of   argument   for   drawing   a   far   fetched      implication,   cannot   be   a   substitute   for   an   express   statutory provision."                                                    (emphasis supplied)

     The Constitution Bench then considered whether the Special Judge can take cognizance only on the basis of a police report and  answered the same in negative in the following words:

"In   the   matter   of   initiation   of   proceeding   before   a Special Judge under Section 8(1), the Legislature while conferring   power   to   take   cognizance   had   three opportunities to unambiguously state its mind whether the cognizance can be taken on a private complaint or not.   The   first   one   was   an   opportunity   to   provide   in Section   8(1)   itself   by   merely   stating   that   the   Special Judge   may   take   cognizance   of   an   offence   on   a   police report   submitted   to   it   by   an   investigating   officer conducting investigation as contemplated by Section 5-A. While providing for investigation by designated police officers  of   superior   rank,   the   Legislature   did  not   fetter the   power   of   Special   Judge   to   take   cognizance   in   a manner   otherwise   than   on   police   report.   The   second opportunity   was   when   by   Section   8(3)   a   status   of   a deemed   public   prosecutor   was   conferred   on   a   private complainant  if he  chooses to  conduct  the  prosecution. The Legislature being aware of a provision like the one

contained   in   Section   225   of   the   CrPC,   could   have   as well provided that in every trial before a Special Judge  the   prosecution   shall   be   conducted   by   a   Public Prosecutor,   though   that   itself   would   not   have   been decisive   of   the   matter.   And   the   third   opportunity   was when   the   Legislature   while   prescribing   the   procedure prescribed   for   warrant   cases   to   be   followed   by   Special Judge   did   not   exclude   by   a   specific   provision   that   the only   procedure   which   the   Special   Judge   can   follow   is the one prescribed for trial of warrant cases on a police  report.  The   disinclination   of   the   Legislature   to   so provide   points   to   the   contrary   and   no   canon   of construction   permits   the   court   to   go   in   search   of   a hidden or implied limitation on the power of the Special Judge   to   take   cognizance   unfettered   by   such requirement of its being done on a police report alone.  In   our   opinion,   it   is   no   answer   to   this   fairly   well-established legal position  that for the  last 32 years no case   has   come   to   the   notice   of   the   court   in   which cognizance  was  taken  by a  Special Judge  on  a private complaint for offences punishable under the 1947 Act."      (emphasis supplied)

      The   Court   then   referred  to   Section   5A   of   the   1947   Act,   the

provisions   of   the   1952   Act,   the   judgments   in   H.N.   Rishbud   and

Inder Singh v. State of Delhi (1955) 1 SCR 1150, State of M.P. v.Mubarak Ali 1959 Supp. (2) SCR 201, Union  of India v. Mahesh Chandra AIR 1957 M.B. 43 and held:

      "Having carefully examined these judgments in the light  of   the   submissions   made,   the   only   conclusion   that   unquestionably   emerges   is   that   Section   5-A   is   a  safeguard   against   investigation   of   offences   committed       by public servants, by petty or lower rank police officer.  It has nothing to do directly or indirectly with the mode  and   method   of   taking   cognizance   of   offences   by   the  Court   of   Special   Judge.  It   also   follows   as   a   necessary  corollary that provision of Section 5-A is not a condition   precedent to initiation of proceedings before the Special  Judge   who   acquires   power   under   Section   8(1)   to take cognizance   of   offences   enumerated   in Section 6(1)( a ) and ( b ),                    with   this   limitation   alone   that   it   shall   not   be   upon commitment to him by the Magistrate.

      Once   the   contention   on   behalf   of   the   appellant   that  investigation   under   Section   5-A   is   a   condition precedent   to   the   initiation   of   proceedings   before   a  Special   Judge   and   therefore   cognizance   of   an   offence   cannot  be taken except upon a police report, does not   commend   to   us   and   has   no   foundation   in   law,   it   is  unnecessary   to   refer   to   the   long   line   of   decisions  commencing   from   Taylor    v.   Taylor ;    Nazir   Ahmad    v.   King-Emperor        and   ending   with Chettiam   Veettil   Ammad    v.   Taluk   Land   Board ,    laying   down   hitherto  uncontroverted   legal   principle   that   where   a   statute requires   to   do   a   certain   thing   in   a   certain   way,   the       thing   must   be   done   in   that   way   or   not   at   all.   Other   methods of performance are necessarily forbidden. Once   Section   5-A   is   out   of   the   way   in   the   matter   of  taking   cognizance   of   offences   committed   by   public       servants   by   a   Special   Judge,   the   power   of   the   Special Judge to take cognizance of such offences conferred by Section 8(1) with only one limitation, in any one of the  known   methods   of   taking   cognizance   of   offences   by courts   of   original   jurisdiction   remains   undented.   One such   statutorily   recognised   well-known   method   of taking   cognizance   of   offences   by   a   court   competent   to take   cognizance   is   upon   receiving  a   complaint  of   facts which   constitutes   the   offence.   And   Section   8(1)   says that   the   Special   Judge   has   the   power   to   take cognizance   of   offences   enumerated   in   Section   6(1)(a) and   (b)   and   the   only   mode   of   taking   cognizance excluded   by   the   provision   is   upon   commitment.  It therefore,   follows   that   the   Special   Judge   can   take cognizance   of   offences   committed   by   public   servants upon   receiving   a   complaint   of   facts   constituting   such offences.

It was, however, submitted that  even if it be held that the   Special   Judge   is   entitled   to   entertain   a   private complaint,   no   further   steps   can   be   taken   by   him without directing an investigation under Section 5-A so that the safeguard of Section 5-A is not whittled down. This   is   the   selfsame   argument   under   a   different apparel.   Accepting   such   a   submission   would

tantamount   to  saying   that   on   receipt   of   the   complaint the   Special   Judge   must   direct   an   investigation   under Section 5-A, There is no warrant for such an approach. Astounding as it appeared to us, in all solemnity it was

submitted that investigation of an offence by a superior police   officer   affords   a   more   solid   safeguard   compared to   a   court.  Myopic   as  this   is,  it   would   topsy  turvy  the  fundamental   belief   that   to   a   person   accused   of   an offence there  is no  better safeguard than  a court.  And this   is   constitutionally   epitomised   in   Article   22   that upon   arrest   by   police,   the   arrested   person   must   be produced  before  the   nearest  Magistrate  within  twenty-four hours of the arrest. Further, numerous provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure such as Section 161, Section 164, and Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act would   show   the   Legislature's   hesitation   in   placing confidence   on   police   officers   away   from   court's   gaze. And   the   very   fact   that   power   is   conferred   on   a Presidency Magistrate or Magistrate of the first class to  permit police officers of lower rank to investigate these  offences   would   speak   for   the   mind   of   the   Legislature  that   the   court   is   a   more   reliable   safeguard   than   even        superior police officers."   (emphasis supplied)

19.    In view of the aforesaid judgment of the Constitution Bench, it must be held that the appellant has the right to file a complaint for   prosecution   of   respondent   No.2   in   respect   of   the   offences allegedly committed by him under the 1988 Act.

20.    The   argument   of   the   learned   Attorney   General   that   the question  of granting sanction  for prosecution  of a public servant charged   with   an   offence   under   the   1988   Act   arises   only   at   the stage   of   taking   cognizance   and   not   before   that   is   neither supported   by   the   plain   language   of   the   section   nor   the   judicial  precedents relied upon by him.  Though, the term `cognizance' has not been defined either in the 1988 Act or the CrPC, the same has  acquired a definite meaning and connotation from various judicial precedents.  In legal parlance cognizance is "taking judicial notice by the court of law, possessing jurisdiction, on a cause or matter presented before it so as to decide whether there is any basis for  initiating   proceedings   and   determination   of   the   cause   or   matter judicially".     In   R.   R.   Chari   v.   State   of   U.P.   (1951)   SCR   312,   the three Judge Bench approved the  following  observations  made by the Calcutta High Court in Superintendent and Remembrancer of

Legal Affairs, West Bengal v. Abni Kumar Banerjee (supra):

     "What is taking cognizance has not been defined in the  Criminal   Procedure   Code   and   I   have   no   desire   to  attempt to define it. It seems to me clear however that  before   it   can   be   said   that   any   magistrate   has   taken      cognizance   of   any   offence   under   section   190(1)(a),  Criminal   Procedure  Code,   he   must   not   only   have  applied his mind to the contents of the petition but he  must  have   done   so  for   the   purpose   of  proceeding   in  a      particular   way   as   indicated   in   the   subsequent  provisions   of   this   Chapter   -   proceeding   under   section  200   and   thereafter   sending   it   for   inquiry   and   report   under   section   202.   When   the   magistrate   applies   his   mind   not   for   the   purpose   of   proceeding   under   the   subsequent   sections   of   this   Chapter,   but   for   taking   action   of   some   other   kind,   e.g.   ordering   investigation  under   section   156(3),   or   issuing   a   search   warrant   for      the   purpose   of   the   investigation,   he   cannot   be   said   to   have taken cognizance of the offence."

21.   In  Mohd. Khalid's case, the Court referred to Section 190 of the CrPC and observed :

     "In its broad and literal sense, it means taking notice of  an   offence.   This   would   include   the   intention   of   initiating   judicial   proceedings   against   the   offender   in  respect   of   that   offence   or   taking   steps   to   see   whether      there is any  basis for  initiating  judicial  proceedings or  for other purposes. The word `cognizance' indicates the  point when a Magistrate or a Judge first takes judicial   notice of an offence. It is entirely a different thing from   initiation   of   proceedings;   rather   it   is   the   condition   precedent   to   the   initiation   of   proceedings   by   the Magistrate   or   the   Judge.  Cognizance   is   taken   of   cases  and not of persons."

22.    In Pastor P. Raju's case, this Court referred to the provisions of Chapter XIV and Sections 190 and 196 (1-A) of the CrPC and observed :

       "There is no bar against registration of a criminal case   or investigation by the police agency or submission of a report   by   the   police   on   completion   of   investigation,   as contemplated by Section 173 CrPC. If a criminal case is        registered, investigation   of the   offence  is done   and the   police submits a report as a result of such investigation  before a Magistrate without the previous sanction of the  Central   Government   or   of   the   State   Government   or   of        the   District   Magistrate,   there   will   be   no   violation   of   Section   196(1-A)   CrPC   and   no   illegality   of   any   kind   would be committed."

       The Court then referred to some of the precedents including the judgment in Mohd. Khalid's case and observed :

       "It is necessary to mention here that taking cognizance   of   an   offence   is   not   the   same   thing   as   issuance   of  process.   Cognizance   is   taken   at   the   initial   stage   when the   Magistrate   applies   his   judicial   mind   to  the  facts        mentioned in a complaint or to a police report or upon  information   received   from   any   other   person   that   an offence has been committed. The issuance of process is at   a   subsequent   stage   when   after   considering   the  material   placed   before   it   the   court   decides   to   proceed   against the offenders against whom  a prima facie case   is made out."

23.    In   Kalimuthu's   case,   the   only   question   considered   by   this

Court   was   whether   in   the   absence   of   requisite   sanction   under

Section  197 CrPC, the Special Judge for CBI  cases, Chennai did not   have   the   jurisdiction   to   take   cognizance   of   the   alleged offences.     The   High   Court   had   taken   the   view   that   Section   197 was   not   applicable   to   the   appellant's   case.     Affirming   the   view taken by the High Court, this Court observed :

       "The   question   relating   to   the   need   of   sanction   under  Section   197   of   the   Code   is   not   necessarily   to   be  considered  as  soon   as  the  complaint  is  lodged  and   on  the   allegations   contained   therein.   This   question   may  arise   at   any   stage   of   the   proceeding.   The   question        whether   sanction   is   necessary   or   not   may   have   to   be  determined from stage to stage. Further, in cases where  offences   under   the   Act   are   concerned,   the   effect   of  Section 197, dealing with the question of prejudice has  also to be noted."

24.    In Raj Kumar Jain's case, this Court considered the question whether   the   CBI   was   required   to   obtain   sanction   from   the prosecuting authority before approaching the Court for accepting the  report under  Section  173(2) of the  CrPC.   This question  was  considered   in   the   backdrop   of   the   fact   that   the   CBI,   which   had  investigated   the   case   registered   against   the   respondent   under Section  5(2) read with  Section  5(1)(e) of  the  1947 Act found that the   allegation   made   against   the   respondent   could   not   be substantiated.     The   Special   Judge   declined   to   accept   the   report  submitted   under   Section   173(2)   CrPC   by   observing   that   the   CBI was   required   to   place   materials   collected   during   investigation before   the   sanctioning   authority   and   it   was   for   the   concerned authority  to grant or  refuse sanction.    The Special Judge opined that only after the decision of the sanctioning authority, the CBI could   submit   the   report   under   Section   173(2).     The   High   Court dismissed the petition filed by the CBI and confirmed the order of  the Special Judge.  This Court referred to Section 6(1) of the 1947 Act and observed:

      "From   a   plain   reading   of   the   above   section   it   is  evidently   clear   that   a   court   cannot   take   cognizance   of  the offences mentioned therein without sanction of the appropriate   authority.   In   enacting   the   above   section,  the   legislature   thought   of   providing   a   reasonable  protection   to   public   servants   in   the   discharge   of   their  official functions so that they may perform  their  duties  and   obligations   undeterred   by   vexatious   and       unnecessary   prosecutions.   Viewed  in   that   context,   the  CBI   was   under   no   obligation   to   place   the   materials collected   during   investigation   before   the   sanctioning authority, when they found that no case was made out  against the respondent. To put it differently, if the CBI  had found on investigation that a prima facie case was  made out against the respondent to place him on trial       and   accordingly   prepared   a   charge-sheet   (challan)  against   him,   then   only   the   question   of   obtaining  sanction of the authority under Section 6(1) of the Act   would have arisen for without that the Court would not  be competent to take cognizance of the charge-sheet. It  must,  therefore,   be   said   that   both   the   Special   Judge  and   the   High   Court   were   patently   wrong   in  observing

 that  the CBI was required to obtain  sanction  from  the  prosecuting authority before approaching the Court for accepting the report under Section 173(2) CrPC."

25.    In   our   view,   the   decisions   relied   upon   by   the   learned Attorney   General   do   not   have   any   bearing   on   the   moot   question whether   respondent   No.1,   being   the   Competent   Authority   to sanction   prosecution   of   respondent   No.2,   was   required   to   take appropriate   decision   in   the   light   of   the   direction   contained   in Vineet Narain's case.

26.    Before  proceeding  further,  we  would  like  to  add  that  at   the time of taking cognizance of the offence, the Court is required to consider the averments made in the complaint or the charge sheet filed  under   Section  173.    It   is  not   open  for   the  Court   to   analyse the  evidence  produced  at  that   stage  and  come  to  the  conclusion that no prima facie case is made out for proceeding further in the matter. However,  before  issuing the  process, it that   it is open to

the   Court   to   record   the   evidence   and   on   consideration of the averments made in the complaint and the evidence thus adduced, find out whether  an offence has been made out. On finding that  such an offence has been made out the Court may direct the issue of process to the respondent and take further steps in the matter. If   it   is   a   charge-sheet   filed   under   Section   173   CrPC,   the   facts  stated by the prosecution in the charge-sheet, on the basis of the 

evidence collected during investigation, would disclose the offence for which cognizance would be taken by the Court. Thus, it is not the  province   of   the   Court   at   that   stage   to  embark   upon   and   sift the evidence to come to the conclusion whether or not an offence has been made out.

27.    We may also observe that grant or refusal of sanction is not a quasi judicial function and the person for whose prosecution the  sanction is sought is not required to be heard by the Competent Authority   before   it   takes   a   decision   in   the   matter.       What   is  required   to   be   seen   by   the   Competent   Authority   is   whether   the facts   placed   before   it   which,   in   a   given   case,   may   include   the  material collected by the complainant or the investigating agency prima facie disclose commission of an offence by a public servant.  If   the   Competent   Authority   is   satisfied   that   the   material   placed before it is sufficient for prosecution of the public servant, then it is required to grant sanction. If the satisfaction of the Competent Authority is otherwise, then it can refuse sanction. In either case, the decision taken on the complaint made by a citizen is required to   be   communicated   to   him   and   if   he   feels   aggrieved   by   such  decision, then he can avail appropriate legal remedy.

28.    In   Vineet   Narain's   case,   the   Court   entertained   the   writ  petitions   filed   in   public   interest   for   ensuring   investigation   into  what   came   to   be   known   as   `Hawala   case'.     The   writ   petition remained   pending   for   almost   four   years.     During   that   period, several   interim   orders  were   passed  which  are  reported   as  Vineet Narain v. Union of India 1996 (1) SCALE (SP) 42, Vineet Narain v. Union of India (1996) 2 SCC 199, Vineet Narain v. Union of India  (1997)   4   SCC   778   and   Vineet   Narain v. Union   of   India   (1997)   5

SCALE 254.  The final order was passed in Vineet Narain v. Union of   India   (1998)   1   SCC   226.     In   (1996)   2   SCC   199,   the   Court referred   to   the   allegations   made   in   the   writ   petition   that Government   agencies   like   the   CBI   and   the   revenue   authorities have failed to perform their duties and legal obligations inasmuch as they did not investigate into the matters arising out of seizure of   the   so-called   "Jain   Diaries"   in   certain   raids   conducted   by   the

CBI. The Court took note of the allegation that the arrest of some  terrorists  led   to   the   discovery   of   financial   support   to   them   by clandestine   and   illegal   means   and   a   nexus   between   several important   politicians,   bureaucrats   and   criminals,   who   were recipients   of   money   from   unlawful   sources,   and   proceeded   to observe:

       "The   facts   and   circumstances   of   the   present   case   do  indicate that it is of utmost public importance that this  matter is examined thoroughly by this Court to ensure that   all   government   agencies,   entrusted   with   the   duty        to   discharge   their   functions   and   obligations   in  accordance with law, do so, bearing in mind constantly the   concept   of   equality   enshrined   in   the   Constitution  and the basic tenet of rule of law: "Be you ever so high,  the   law   is   above   you."   Investigation   into   every  accusation   made   against   each   and   every   person   on   a reasonable basis, irrespective of the position and status  of   that   person,   must   be   conducted   and   completed expeditiously.   This   is   imperative   to   retain   public  confidence  in the  impartial  working of  the  government    agencies."

29.    After   examining   various   facets   of   the   matter   in   detail,   the  three Judge Bench in its final order reported in (1998) 1 SCC 226 observed :

       "These principles of public life are of general application  in every democracy and one is expected to bear them in  mind while scrutinising the conduct of every holder of a public office. It is trite that the holders of public offices   are  entrusted   with   certain   powers   to   be   exercised   in  public interest alone and, therefore, the office is held by  them   in   trust   for   the   people.   Any   deviation   from   the  path of rectitude by any of them amounts to a breach of trust and must be severely dealt with instead of being  pushed under the carpet. If the conduct amounts to an  offence, it must   be  promptly   investigated and  the   offender against whom  a prima facie case is made out  should be prosecuted expeditiously so that the majesty  of law is upheld and the rule of law vindicated. It is the   duty   of   the   judiciary   to   enforce   the   rule   of   law   and,  therefore, to guard against erosion of the rule of law. The   adverse   impact   of   lack   of   probity   in   public   life  leading   to   a   high   degree   of   corruption   is   manifold.   It  also   has   adverse   effect   on   foreign   investment   and  funding from the ternational Monetary Fund and the  World   Bank   who   have   warned   that   future   aid   to        underdeveloped   countries   may   be   subject to the requisite stepsbeing   taken   to   eradicate   corruption, which   prevents   international   aid   from   reaching   those  for whom it is meant. Increasing corruption has led to investigative  journalism   which   is   of   value   to   a   free  society.   The   need   to   highlight   corruption   in   public   life   through   the   medium   of   public   interest  litigation        invoking judicial review may be frequent in India but is not unknown in other countries: R. v. Secy. of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs."

       In   paragraph   58   of   the   judgment,   the   Court   gave   several directions   in   relation   to   the   CBI,   the   CVC   and   the   Enforcement Directorate.     In   para   58   (I)(15),   the   Court   gave   the   following direction:

       "Time-limit   of   three   months   for   grant   of   sanction   for  prosecution   must   be   strictly   adhered   to.   However,  additional   time   of   one   month   may   be   allowed   where  consultation is required with the Attorney General (AG)  or any other law officer in the AG's office."

30.    The   CVC,   after   taking   note   of   the   judgment   of   the   Punjab

and Haryana High Court in Jagjit Singh v. State of Punjab (1996) Crl. Law Journal 2962, State of Bihar v. P. P. Sharma 1991 Supp. 1 SCC 222, Superintendent of Police (CBI) v. Deepak Chowdhary, (1995)   6   SC   225,   framed   guidelines   which   were   circulated   vide  office order No.31/5/05 dated 12.5.2005.  The relevant clauses of  the guidelines are extracted below:

      "2(i) Grant   of   sanction   is   an   administrative   act.  The   purpose   is   to   protect   the   public   servant   from  harassment   by   frivolous   or   vexatious   prosecution   and  not   to   shield   the   corrupt.     The   question   of   giving       opportunity to the public servant at that stage does not  arise. The   sanctioning  authority   has   only   to   see  whether   the   facts   would   prima-facie constitutes   the  offence.

      (ii)     The competent authority cannot embark upon an  inquiry to judge the truth of the allegations on the basis   of   representation   which   may   be   filed   by   the   accused  person before the Sanctioning Authority, by asking the  I.O. to offer his comments or to further investigate the  matter   in   the   light   of   representation   made   by   the  accused   person   or   by   otherwise   holding   a   parallel  investigation/enquiry by calling for the record/report of   his department.

      (vii)    However, if in any case, the Sanctioning Authority  after consideration of the  entire material placed before  it,   entertains   any   doubt   on   any   point   the   competent  authority   may   specify   the  doubt  with  sufficient   particulars   and   may   request   the   Authority   who   has   sought sanction to clear the doubt.   But that would be  only to clear the doubt in order that the authority may       apply   its   mind   proper,   and   not   for   the   purpose   of  considering   the   representations   of   the   accused   which  may be filed while the matter is pending sanction.

       (viii) If   the   Sanctioning   Authority   seeks   the   comments  of   the   IO   while   the   matter   is   pending   before   it  for  sanction,   it   will   almost   be   impossible   for   the  Sanctioning   Authority   to   adhere   to   the   time   limit        allowed by the Supreme Court in Vineet Narain's case."

31.    The aforementioned guidelines are in conformity with the law laid down by this Court that while considering the issue regarding grant or refusal of sanction, the only thing which the Competent Authority is required to see is whether the material placed by the  complainant   or   the   investigating   agency  prima   facie  discloses commission   of   an   offence.     The   Competent   Authority   cannot

undertake   a   detailed   inquiry   to   decide   whether   or   not   the allegations made against the public servant are true.

32.    In  the   light   of   the   above   discussion,   we   shall   now consider whether the High Court was justified in refusing to entertain the writ petition filed by the appellant.   In this context, it is apposite  to   observe   that   the   High   Court   had   proceeded   under   a   wholly erroneous   assumption   that   respondent   No.1   had   directed investigation by the CBI into the allegations of grave irregularities in   the   grant   of   licences.     As   a   matter   of   fact,   on   receipt   of  representation   dated   4.5.2009   that   the   grant of  licences   by respondent   No.2   had   resulted   in   huge   loss   to   the   Public  Exchequer, the CVC got conducted an inquiry under Section 8(d) of   the   Central   Vigilance   Commission   Act,   2003   and   forwarded   a copy of the report to the Director, CBI for making an investigation  into   the   matter   to   establish   the   criminal   conspiracy   in   the  allocation of 2G spectrum under the UASL policy of the DoT and to bring to book all the wrongdoers. Thereupon, the CBI registered FIR   No.RC-DI-2009-A-0045   dated   21.10.2009   against   unknown officials   of   the   DoT,   unknown   private   persons/companies   and others   for   offences   under   Section   120-B   IPC   read   with   Sections 13(2) and 13(1)(d) of the 1988 Act.   For the next about one year, the matter remained dormant and the CBI took steps for vigorous

investigation only when this Court intervened in the matter.   The material   placed   on   record   does   not   show   that   the   CBI   had registered   a   case   or   started   investigation   at   the   instance   of respondent No.1. 

33.    On  his part,   the appellant had submitted representation  to respondent No. 1 almost one year prior to the registration of the first  information   report   by   the   CBI   and   highlighted   the   grave irregularities   committed   in   the   grant   of   licences   resulting   in   the loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the Public Exchequer.  He continuously pursued the matter by sending letters to respondent

No.1 at regular intervals.  The affidavit filed by Shri V. Vidyawati,  Director   in   the   PMO   shows   that   the   matter   was   placed   before respondent No.1 on 1.12.2008, who directed the concerned officer to   examine   and   apprise   him   with   the   facts   of   the   case. Surprisingly,   instead   of   complying   with   the   direction   given   by respondent   No.1   the   concerned   officer   sent   the   appellant's representation to the DoT which was headed by none other than

respondent   No.2   against   whom   the   appellant had made serious allegations of irregularities in the grant of licences.  It was natural  for   respondent   No.2   to   have   seized   this   opportunity,   and   he promptly   sent   letter   dated   18.6.2009   to   the   appellant   justifying  the   grant   of   licences.   The   concerned   officer   in   the   PMO   then referred the matter to the Ministry of Law and Justice for advice. It   is   not   possible   to   appreciate   that   even   though   the   appellant  repeatedly   wrote   letters   to   respondent   No.1   highlighting   the seriousness of the allegations made in his first representation and the   fact   that   he   had   already   supplied   the   facts   and   documents

which   could   be   made   basis   for   grant   of   sanction   to   prosecute  respondent No.2 and also pointed out that as per the judgments of   this   Court,   detailed   inquiry   was   not   required   to   be   made   into the allegations, the concerned officers in the PMO kept the matter pending   and   then   took   the   shelter   of   the   fact   that   the   CBI   had  registered   the   case   and   the   investigation   was   pending.     In   our  view, the officers in the PMO and the Ministry of Law and Justice, were duty bound to apprise respondent No.1 about seriousness of allegations made by the appellant and the judgments of this Court

including   the   directions   contained   in   paragraph   58(I)   of   the judgment in Vineet Narain's case as also the guidelines framed by the  CVC  so  as to  enable  him  to  take  appropriate  decision  in the matter. By the very nature of the office held by him, respondent No. 1 is not expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case placed before him and has to depend on his  advisers   and   other   officers.   Unfortunately,   those   who   were expected to give proper advice to respondent No. 1 and place full facts   and   legal   position   before   him   failed   to   do   so.   We   have   no  doubt   that   if   respondent   No.1   had   been   apprised   of   the   true  factual   and   legal   position   regarding   the   representation   made   by the   appellant,   he   would   have   surely   taken   appropriate   decisionand   would   not   have   allowed   the   matter   to   linger   for   a   period   of  more than one year.

34.    In the result, the appeal is allowed.   The impugned order is  set aside.   It is declared that the appellant had the right to file a  complaint for prosecuting respondent No.2.   However, keeping in view   the   fact   that   the   Court   of   Special   Judge,   CBI   has   already taken   cognizance   of  the    offences    allegedly   committed   by  respondent   No.2   under   the   1988   Act,   we   do   not   consider   it necessary to give any other direction in the matter.   At the same

time, we deem it proper to observe that in future every Competent Authority   shall   take   appropriate   action   on   the   representation made   by   a   citizen   for   sanction   of   the   prosecution   of   a   public  servant   strictly   in   accordance   with   the   direction   contained   in Vineet   Narain   v.   Union   of   India   (1998)   1   SCC   226   and   the guidelines framed by the CVC.

                                               ..........................................J.

                                                                        [G.S. Singhvi] 

                                                  ...........................................J.

                                                            [Asok Kumar Ganguly]

 

 

New Delhi,

January 31, 2012.

 

 

 

                IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 

                 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 

 

 

                 CIVIL APPEAL NO.1193 OF 2012

 

           (Arising out of SLP (C) No.27535/2010)

 

 

 

Dr. Subramanian Swamy                            ....Appellant(s)

 

 

 

 

 

                            - Versus -

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Manmohan Singh & another                     ....Respondent(s)

 

 

 

 

 

J U D G M E N T

 

GANGULY, J.

 

1.    After   going   through   the   judgment   rendered   by   my       learned   brother   G.S.   Singhvi,   J.,   I   am   in   agreement   with   the   various   conclusions   reached   by   His   Lordship.   However,   I   have   added   my   own   views  on certain important facts of the questions raised   in this case.

2.    Brother   Singhvi,   J.,   has   come   to   a   finding   that   having   regard   to   the   very   nature   of   the   office   held by respondent No.1, it may not be expected of  respondent No.1 to personally look into the minute  details   of   each   and   every   matter   and   the   respondent   No.1,   having   regard   to   the   burden   of  his   very   onerous   office,   has   to   depend   on   the  officers   advising   him.   At   the   same   time   it   may   be  noted   that   in   the   course   of   submission,   the  appellant,   who   argued   in   person,   did   not   ever      allege   any   malafide   or   lack   of   good   faith   against   the   respondent   No.1.   The   delay   which   had   taken  place   in   the   office   of   the   respondent   No.1   is  unfortunate   but   it   has   not   even   been   alleged   by  the appellant that there was any deliberate action  on   the   part   of   the   respondent   No.1   in   causing   the  delay.   The   position   of   respondent   No.1   in   our   democratic   polity   seems   to   have   been   summed   up   in  the   words   of   Shakespeare   "Uneasy   lies   the   head  that wears a crown" (Henry, The Fourth, Part 2 Act  3, scene 1).

3.    I   also   agree   with   the   conclusions   of   bother Singhvi,   J.,   that   the   appellant   has   the   locus   to file   the   complaint   for   prosecution   of   the      respondent No.2 in respect of the offences alleged  to   have   been   committed   by   him   under   the   1988   Act. Therefore,   I   agree   with   the   finding   of   brother Singhvi,   J.,   that   the   argument   of   the   learned Attorney   General   to   the   contrary   cannot   be accepted.   Apart   from   that   the   learned   Attorney General   in   the   course   of   his   submission   proceeded on   the   basis   that   the   question   of   sanction   has   to be   considered   with   reference   to   Section   19   of   the Prevention   of   Corruption   Act   (hereinafter   "the

P.C. Act") or with reference to Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter "the Code"),   and   the   scheme   of   both   the   sections   being similar   (Vide   paragraph   3   of   the   supplementary written   submission   filed   by   the   learned   Attorney General).   In   fact,   the   entire   submission   of   the learned   Attorney   General   is   structured   on   the aforesaid   assumption.   I   fail   to   appreciate   the aforesaid   argument   as   the   same   is   contrary   to   the scheme   of   Section   19   of   the   P.C.   Act   and   also Section   197   of   the   Code.   In  Kalicharan   Mahapatra vs.  State   of   Orissa  reported   in   (1998)   6   SCC   411, this   Court   compared   Section   19   of   P.C.   Act   with Section 197 of the Code. After considering several  decisions   on the point and  also considering       Section   6   of   the   old   P.C.   Act,   1947   which   is       almost   identical   with   Section   19   of   the   P.C.   Act,  1988 and also noting Law Commission's Report, this   Court   in   paragraph   13   of  Kalicharan  (supra)   came  to the following conclusions:

        "13.        The   sanction contemplated   in  Section   197   of   the   Code   concerns   a  public   servant   who   "is   accused   of   any offence   alleged   to   have   been   committed  by him while acting or purporting to act   in   the   discharge   of   his   official   duty",   whereas  the   offences  contemplated   in  the         PC Act are those which cannot be treated  as   acts  either    directly  or   even  purportedly done in the discharge of his  official   duties.   Parliament   must   have         desired   to   maintain   the   distinction   and  hence   the   wording   in   the   corresponding   provision   in   the   former   PC   Act   was  materially   imported   in   the   new   PC   Act, 1988   without   any   change   in   spite   of   the   change made in Section 197 of the Code."

4.    The   above   passage   in  Kalicharan  (supra)   has   been   quoted with approval subsequently by this Court in  Lalu   Prasad  vs.  State   of   Bihar  reported   in   2007 (1)  SCC 49  at paragraph  9, page  54.    In paragraph  10,   (page   54   of   the   report)   this   Court   held   in   Lalu   Prasad  (supra)   that   "Section   197   of   the   Code   and   Section   19   of   the   Act   operate   in   conceptually  different fields".

5.    In   view   of   such   consistent   view   by   this   Court   the   basic   submission   of   the   learned   Attorney   General  to the contrary is, with respect, untenable.

6.    I   also   entirely   agree   with   the   conclusion   of   learned   brother   Singhvi,   J.,   that   the   argument   of   the   learned   Attorney   General   that   question   for   granting   sanction   for   prosecution   of   a   public   servant   charged   with   offences   under   the   1988   Act  arises only at the stage of cognizance is also not       acceptable.

7.    In   formulating   this   submission,   the   learned  Attorney  General         substantially   advanced    two   contentions. The first contention is that an order       granting   sanction   is   not   required   to   be   filed  along   with   a   complaint   in   connection   with   a   prosecution   under   Section   19   of   the   P.C.   Act.   The       aforesaid   submission   is   contrary   to   the   settled   law   laid   down   by   this   Court   in   various   judgments.  Recently a unanimous three-judge Bench decision of   this   Court   in   the   case   of  State   of   Uttar   Pradesh  vs.  Paras Nath Singh, [(2009) 6 SCC 372], speaking  through   Justice   Pasayat   and   construing   the       requirement   of   sanction,   held   that   without   sanction:

        "......The   very   cognizance   is   barred.   That   is, the complaint cannot be taken notice  of.  According to  Black's   Law   Dictionary the word  `cognizance'                      means  `jurisdiction'   or   `the   exercise   of  jurisdiction'   or   `power   to   try   and   determine   causes'.   In   common   parlance,    it   means   taking   notice   of.    A   court,   therefore,  is    precluded   from   entertaining   a   complaint   or   taking    notice   of   it   or   exercising   jurisdiction   if   it   is   in   respect   of   a   public   servant   who   is   accused   of   an   offence   alleged   to         have   been   committed  during   discharge   of   his official duty."

                    (Para 6, page 375 of the report)

 

8.    The   other   contention   of   the   learned   Attorney       General   is   that   in   taking   cognizance   under   the P.C.   Act   the   Court   is   guided   by   the   provisions under   Section   190   of   the   Code   and   in   support   of that   contention   the   learned   Attorney   General relied    on   several   judgments.                   However,    the aforesaid   submissions   were   made   without   noticing the   judgment   of   this   Court   in   the   case   of  Dilawar Singh  vs.  Parvinder   Singh   alias   Iqbal   Singh   and Another  (2005) 12 SCC 709. Dealing with Section 19

of   P.C.   Act   and   Section   190   of   the   Code,   this Court   held   in   paragraph   8   at   page   713   of   the report as follows:

  "......The Prevention of Corruption Act is a  special   statute   and   as   the  preamble   shows,   this   Act   has   been   enacted   to  consolidate   and   amend   the   law   relating  to   the   prevention   of   corruption   and   for  matters   connected   therewith.   Here,   the  principle    expressed  in   the  maxim   generalia   specialibus   non   derogant  would  apply   which   means   that   if   a   special  provision   has   been   made   on   a   certain   matter, that matter is excluded from the general     provisions.  (See  Godde   Venkateswara Rao  v.  Govt. of A.P.,  State   of   Bihar   v.  Dr.   Yogendra   Singh    and   Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and  Higher Secondary  Education  v.Paritosh   Bhupeshkumar                  Sheth.)   Therefore,      the   provisions of Section 19 of the Act will   have   an   overriding   effect   over   the   general   provisions   contained   in   Section          190......"

9.     Therefore,   concurring   with   brother   Singhvi,   J.,   I   am   unable   to   uphold   the   submission   of   the   learned  Attorney General.

10.    As   I   am   of   the   humble   opinion   that   the   questions  raised and argued in this case are of considerable   constitutional and legal importance, I wish to add   my own reasoning on the same. 

11.    Today,   corruption   in   our   country   not   only   poses   a   grave   danger   to   the   concept   of   constitutional  governance,   it   also   threatens   the   very   foundation  of   Indian   democracy   and   the   Rule   of   Law.   The   magnitude   of   corruption   in   our   public   life   is  incompatible   with   the   concept   of   a   socialist, secular democratic republic. It cannot be disputed that where corruption   begins  all rights  end. Corruption  devalues  human rights, chokes  development   and   undermines   justice,   liberty,  equality,   fraternity   which   are   the   core   values   in  our   preambular   vision.   Therefore,   the   duty   of   the  Court   is   that   any   anti-corruption   law   has   to   be  interpreted and worked out in such a fashion as to  strengthen   the   fight   against   corruption.     That   is  to   say   in   a   situation   where   two   constructions   are   eminently   reasonable,   the   Court   has   to   accept   the  one   that   seeks   to   eradicate   corruption   to   the   one   which seeks to perpetuate it.

12.          Time   and   again   this   Court   has   expressed   its  dismay   and   shock   at   the   ever   growing   tentacles   of  corruption in our society but even then situations  have not improved much. [See  Sanjiv Kumar v.  State  of Haryana & ors., (2005) 5 SCC 517; State of A.P.  v.  V.   Vasudeva   Rao,  (2004)   9   SCC   319;  Shobha   Suresh   Jumani   v.  Appellate Tribunal   Forfeited   Property   &   another,   (2001)   5   SCC   755;  State   of   M.P.   &   ors.  v.  Ram   Singh,   (2000)   5   SCC   88;  J. Jayalalitha  v.  Union   of   India   &   another,   (1999)   5  SCC   138;  Major   S.K.   Kale  v.  State   of   Maharashtra,  (1977) 2 SCC 394.]

13.    Learned   Attorney   General   in   the   course   of   his   submission   fairly   admitted   before   us   that   out   of   total 319 requests for sanction, in respect of 126   of   such   requests,   sanction   is   awaited.   Therefore,   in more than 1/3rd cases of request for prosecution  in   corruption   cases   against   public   servants,        sanctions   have   not   been   accorded.   The   aforesaid  scenario   raises   very   important   constitutional issues   as   well   as   some   questions   relating   to        interpretation   of   such   sanctioning   provision   and   also the role that an independent judiciary has to  play   in   maintaining   rule   of   law   and   common   man's   faith in the justice delivering system.

14.    Both   rule   of   law   and   equality   before   law   are   cardinal   questions   in   our   Constitutional   Laws   as  also   in   International   law   and   in   this   context   the  role of the judiciary is very vital. In his famous  treatise   on   Administrative   Law,   Professor   Wade  while   elaborating   the   concept   of   rule   of   law   referred   to   the   opinion   of   Lord   Griffith's   which   runs as follows:

       "the judiciary accept a responsibility for   the   maintenance   of   the   rule   of   law   that    embraces  a    willingness  to  oversee  executive         action               and   to refuse   to    countenance  behaviour   that   threatens  either   basic   human   rights   or   the   rule   of    law."   [See   R.   v.   Horseferry   Road   Magistrates'   Court ex p. Bennett {1994) 1 AC 42 at 62]

15.    I   am   in   respectful   agreement   with   the   aforesaid    principle.

16.    In   this   connection   we   might   remind   ourselves   that  courts   while   maintaining   rule   of   law   must  structure  its jurisprudence  on  the   famous        formulation   of   Lord   Coke   where   the   learned   Law        Lord   made   a   comparison   between   "the   golden   and   straight   metwand   of   law"   as   opposed   to   "the   uncertain and crooked cord of discretion".

17.    The   right   of   private   citizen   to   file   a   complaint   against   a   corrupt   public   servant   must   be   equated  with his right to access the Court in order to set   the   criminal   law   in   motion   against   a   corrupt   public   official.          This   right   of   access,   a   Constitutional   right   should   not   be   burdened   with   unreasonable   fetters.   When   a   private   citizen    approaches a court of law against a corrupt public   servant   who   is   highly   placed,   what   is   at   stake   is  not   only   a   vindication   of   personal   grievance   of  that   citizen   but   also   the   question   of   bringing   orderliness   in   society   and   maintaining   equal  balance  in the  rule of  law. It  was pointed  out by   the Constitution Bench of this Court in  Sheonandan   Paswan vs. State of Bihar and Others, (1987) 1 SCC       288 at page 315:

         "......It is now settled law that a criminal  proceeding   is   not   a   proceeding   for  vindication   of   a   private   grievance   but   it   is   a   proceeding   initiated   for   the  purpose of punishment to the offender in   the   interest   of   the   society.   It   is   for   maintaining stability and orderliness in  the   society   that   certain   acts   are  constituted   offences   and   the   right   is  given   to   any   citizen   to   set   the  machinery   of   the   criminal   law   in   motion for the purpose of bringing the offender  to   book.   It   is   for   this   reason   that   in          A.R.   Antulay  v.  R.S.   Nayak  this   Court  pointed   out   that   (SCC   p.   509,   para   6)  "punishment   of   the   offender   in   the   interest of the society being one of the  objects   behind   penal   statutes   enacted   for larger good of the society, right to   initiate   proceedings   cannot   be   whittled  down,  circumscribed   or   fettered   by putting   it   into   a   strait   jacket   formula of locus standi......"

18.    Keeping   those   principles   in   mind,   as   we   must,   if  we look at Section 19 of the P.C. Act which bars a  Court   from  taking  cognizance  of   cases  of        corruption against a public servant under Sections  7,   10,   11,   13   and   15   of   the   Act,   unless   the  Central   or   the   State   Government,   as   the   case   may       be,   has   accorded   sanction,   virtually   imposes  fetters   on  private   citizens   and  also   on  prosecutors from approaching Court against corrupt   public   servants.   These   protections   are   not        available   to   other   citizens.   Public   servants   are   treated as a special class of persons enjoying the said   protection   so   that   they   can   perform   their duties without fear and favour and without threats of   malicious   prosecution.  However,   the   said protection against malicious prosecution which was extended in public interest cannot become a shield to   protect   corrupt   officials.   These   provisions being   exceptions   to   the   equality   provision   of Article   14   are   analogous   to   provisions   of protective   discrimination   and   these   protections must   be   construed   very   narrowly.   These   procedural provisions   relating   to   sanction   must   be   construed in   such   a   manner   as   to   advance   the   causes   of honesty and justice and good governance as opposed to   escalation   of   corruption.   Therefore,   in   every case   where   an   application   is   made   to   an appropriate   authority   for   grant   of   prosecution   in connection   with   an   offence   under   P.C.   Act   it   is the   bounden   duty   of   such   authority   to   apply   its mind   urgently   to   the   situation   and   decide   the issue   without   being   influenced   by   any   extraneous consideration.   In   doing   so,   the   authority   must make   a   conscious   effort   to   ensure   the   rule   of   law and   cause   of   justice   is   advanced.     In   considering the   question   of   granting   or   refusing   such sanction,   the   authority   is   answerable   to   law   and law   alone.   Therefore,   the   requirement   to   take   the decision   with   a   reasonable   dispatch   is   of   the essence   in   such   a   situation.   Delay   in   granting sanction   proposal   thwarts   a   very   valid   social purpose,   namely,   the   purpose   of   a   speedy   trial with the requirement to bring the culprit to book. Therefore,   in   this   case   the   right   of   the sanctioning authority, while either sanctioning or refusing   to   grant   sanction,   is   coupled   with   a duty.   The   sanctioning   authority   must   bear   in   mind that   what   is   at   stake   is   the   public   confidence   in the   maintenance   of   rule   of   law   which   is fundamental   in   the   administration   of   justice. Delay   in   granting   such   sanction   has   spoilt   many valid   prosecution   and   is   adversely   viewed   in public   mind   that   in   the   name   of   considering   a prayer   for     sanction,   a   protection   is   given   to   a corrupt   public   official   as   a   quid   pro   quo   for services   rendered   by   the   public   official   in   the past   or   may   be   in   the   future   and   the   sanctioning

authority   and   the   corrupt   officials   were   or   are partners in the same misdeeds. I may hasten to add that   this   may   not   be   factual   position   in   this   but the   general   demoralizing   effect   of   such   a   popular perception   is   profound   and   pernicious.   By   causing delay in considering the request for sanction, the sanctioning  authority  stultifies  judicial  scrutiny and   determination   of   the   allegations   against corrupt   official   and   thus   the   legitimacy   of   the judicial   institutions   is   eroded.   It,   thus, deprives  a         citizen  of    his  legitimate and fundamental   right   to   get   justice   by   setting   the criminal   law   in   motion   and   thereby   frustrates   his right   to   access   judicial   remedy   which   is   a constitutionally                  protected                right.          In         this connection,   if   we   look   at   Section   19   of   the   P.C. Act,   we   find   that   no   time   limit   is   mentioned therein.   This   has   virtually   armed   the   sanctioning authority   with   unbridled   power   which   has   often resulted in protecting the guilty and perpetuating criminality and injustice in society.

19.    There   are   instances   where   as   a   result   of   delayed        grant   of   sanction   prosecutions   under   the   P.C.   Act    against   a   public   servant   has   been   quashed.   See   Mahendra   Lal   Das  vs.  State   of   Bihar   and   Others,        (2002)   1   SCC   149,   wherein   this   Court   quashed   the   prosecution   as   the   sanctioning   authority   granted  sanction after 13 years. Similarly, in the case of        Santosh   De  vs.  Archna   Guha   and   Others,   (1994) Supp.3   SCC   735,   this   Court   quashed   prosecution   in  a case where grant of sanction was unduly delayed.  There   are   several   such   cases.   The   aforesaid  instances show a blatant subversion of the rule of  law.   Thus,   in   many   cases   public   servants   whose   sanction   proposals   are   pending   before   authorities    for   long   periods   of   time   are   being   allowed   to   escape criminal prosecution.

20.    Article   14   must   be   construed   as   a   guarantee    against  uncanalized         and         arbitrary         power.  Therefore,   the   absence   of   any   time   limit   in        granting sanction in Section 19 of the P.C. Act is   not   in   consonance   with   the   requirement   of   the   due  process   of   law   which   has   been   read   into   our        Constitution by the Constitution Bench decision of  this Court in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India and  Another, (1978) 1 SCC 248.

21.    I   may   not   be   understood   to   have   expressed   any   doubt about the constitutional validity of Section   19   of   the   P.C.   Act,   but   in   my   judgment   the   power  under   Section   19   of   the   P.C.   Act   must   be  reasonably         exercised.   In   my   judgment  the    Parliament   and   the   appropriate   authority   must   consider   restructuring   Section   19   of   the   P.C.   Act     in   such   a   manner   as   to   make   it   consonant   with   reason, justice and fair play. 

22.    In   my   view,   the   Parliament   should   consider   the   Constitutional imperative of Article 14 enshrining   the   rule   of   law   wherein   `due   process   of   law'   has  been   read   into   by   introducing   a   time   limit   in Section 19 of the P.C. Act 1988 for its working in a   reasonable   manner.   The   Parliament   may,   in   my opinion, consider the following guidelines:

a) All   proposals   for   sanction   placed   before   any   Sanctioning         Authority,         empowered         to         grant   sanction for the prosecution of a public servant   under section 19 of the P.C. Act must be decided   within   a   period   of   three   months   of   the   receipt   of the proposal by the concerned authority.

b) Where consultation is required with the Attorney General or the Solicitor General or the Advocate  General   of   the   State,   as   the   case   may   be,   and   the same is not possible within the three months  mentioned   in   clause   (a)   above,   an   extension   of  one month period may be allowed, but the request   for consultation is to be sent in writing within   the   three   months   mentioned   in   (a)   above.   A   copy   of   the   said   request   will   be   sent   to   the   prosecuting agency or the private complainant to   intimate   them   about   the   extension   of   the   time   limit.

       c) At the end of the extended period of time limit,  if no decision is taken, sanction will be deemed  to   have   been   granted   to   the   proposal   for          prosecution,   and   the   prosecuting   agency   or   the   private   complainant   will   proceed   to   file   the   chargesheet/complaint   in   the   court   to   commence          prosecution   within   15   days   of   the   expiry   of   the   aforementioned time limit.

23.    With   these   additional   reasons,   as   indicated,   I   agree   with   Brother   Singhvi,   J.,   and   allow   the    appeal   and   the   judgment   of   the   High   Court   is   set    aside. No costs.

                                                           .......................J.

                                             (ASOK KUMAR GANGULY)

New Delhi

January 31, 2012

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