Sec.6-A of the Delhi Police Establishment Act violative of Article 14 of the CONSTITUTION

                                                                  REPORTABLE

 

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 38 OF 1997

 

Dr.   Subramanian   Swamy                                ……  Petitioner

                                   Versus

Director,  Central  Bureau   of   Investigation   &   Anr.      ……Respondents

                                    WITH

                    WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 21 OF 2004

Centre for Public Interest Litigation                     ……  Petitioner

                                   Versus

Union of India                                     ……  Respondent

JUDGMENT

R.M. LODHA, CJI.

            Section 6-A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (for short, ‘the DSPE Act’), which was inserted by Act 45 of 2003, reads as under:

      “Section 6-A. Approval of Central Government  to  conduct  inquiry  or      investigation.- (1) The Delhi Special Police Establishment  shall  not conduct any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to  have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption  Act,  1988  (49 of 1988) except with the previous  approval  of  the  Central  Government where such allegation relates to-

(a) the employees of the Central  Government  of  the  Level  of Joint Secretary and above; and

(b) such officers as are appointed by the Central Government  in corporations established by or under any Central Act, Government companies, societies and local authorities owned  or  controlled by that Government.

      (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in  sub-section  (1),  no  such approval shall be necessary for cases involving arrest of a person  on the spot on the charge  of  accepting  or  attempting  to  accept  any gratification other than legal remuneration referred to in clause (c) of the Explanation to section 7 of the Prevention of  Corruption  Act, 1988 (49 of 1988).”

2.     The constitutional validity of Section 6-A is in issue in these two writ petitions, both filed under Article 32 of the Constitution.  Since Section 6-A came to be inserted by Section 26(c) of the  Central  Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 (Act 45  of  2003),  the  constitutional  validity of Section 26(c) has also been raised.  It is not necessary  to  independently refer to Section 26(c).  Our reference to Section  6-A  of  the  DSPE  Act, wherever necessary, shall be treated as reference to Section 26(c)  of  the Act 45 of 2003 as well.

Reference to the Constitution Bench

3.           On  February  4,  2005  when  these  petitions  came  up   for consideration, the Bench thought that these matters deserved to be heard by the larger Bench. The full text of the reference order is as follows:

“In these petitions challenge is to  the  constitutional  validity  of Section 6-A of   the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (for short, “the Act”).   This section  was    inserted    in the Act w.e.f. 12-9-2003.  It,   inter   alia, provides  for  obtaining the previous approval   of   the   Central Government for conduct of any  inquiry   or  investigation for any   offence  alleged  to have  been  committed under  the Prevention of  Corruption Act, 1988 where allegations relate to officers of the level  of  Joint Secretary   and   above. Before insertion of Section 6-A in  the  Act,   the  requirement  to  obtain  prior  approval  of  the Central Government was contained in  a   directive  known  as  “Single Directive” issued by  the  Government.  The  Single  Directive  was  a consolidated set of instructions  issued  to  the  Central  Bureau  of Investigation (CBI) by   various   Ministries/Departments regarding        modalities   of   initiating   an   inquiry   or registering  a  case against certain categories of civil servants. The said  directive  was stated to have  been issued to protect decision-making-level  officers from  the  threat  and    ignominy    of    malicious  and   vexatious      inquiries/investigations  and  to give protection to officers  at  the decision-making level and to relieve them of  the  anxiety  from   the likelihood  of  harassment for  taking   honest  decisions. It was said that absence of such protection to them  could  adversely  affect the efficiency and efficacy of    these  institutions because of the   tendency   of   such officers to  avoid taking   any   decisions which  could   later   lead   to harassment  by  any   malicious   and vexatious inquiries/investigations.     

2.    The   Single   Directive   was  quashed   by  this  Court  in  a judgment  delivered  on 18-12-1997  (Vineet   Narain    &   Ors.    v. Union   of  India  &  Anr.   (1998) 1 SCC  226). Within  a few  months after  Vineet Narain judgment, by  the  Central  Vigilance  Commission Ordinance, 1998   dated 25-8-1998,  Section  6-A  was   sought  to  be inserted  providing    for    the    previous    approval of the Central    Vigilance    Commission    before  investigation   of   the  officers  of  the  level  of  Joint    Secretary    and    above.   On the intervention of this Court, this provision was deleted by issue of another Ordinance promulgated on 27-10-1998.  From  the  date  of  the decision in  Vineet Narain case  and  till insertion of  Section   6-A w.e.f. 12-9-2003,  there was  no  requirement   of  seeking   previous approval  except  for a period  of two months  from 25-8-1998 to 27-10-      1998.

3.     The  validity  of  Section  6-A  has  been  questioned  on  the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution.  Learned  amicus  curiae  has   contended that the impugned  provision is  wholly  subversive  of independent  investigation  of  culpable bureaucrats  and  strikes  at the core of rule of law as explained in Vineet Narain case  and the principle of     independent, unhampered, unbiased and efficient    investigation.  The    contention    is    that    Vineet Narain  decision   frames   a structure   by   which   honest officers      could fearlessly  enforce  the  criminal  law  and  detect  corruption uninfluenced by  extraneous   political,   bureaucratic    or    other influences   and   the   result   of   the impugned   legislation   is that   the   very    group   of   persons,   namely,   high-ranking bureaucrats  whose   misdeeds   and   illegalities   may    have    to be   inquired   into,   would decide whether CBI should even start  an inquiry or investigation  against  them  or  not.  There  will  be  no confidentiality  and  insulation  of  the  investigating  agency  from political and bureaucratic control and influence because the  approval is to be taken from  the Central Government  which    would    involve leaks   and   disclosures   at   every stage. The very  nexus  of  the criminal-bureaucrat-politician which is subverting the whole    polity would    be involved in granting or refusing prior approval  before an inquiry or investigation  can take place. Pointing out that the essence   of   a   police investigation is skillful inquiry  and  collection  of material  and  evidence  in  a  manner by which    the    potential    culpable    individuals are not forewarned,   the   submission made is that the prior sanction of  the same department would result in indirectly putting to notice the  officers    to    be    investigated    before     commencement of investigation. Learned  Senior Counsel  contends  that  it  is  wholly irrational   and   arbitrary   to   protect   highly-placed     public servants   from   inquiry   or   investigation   in   the   light   of  the conditions prevailing in the country and the corruption at  high places as reflected in several   judgments  of  this  Court  including that of  Vineet  Narain.    Section  6-A  of  the  Act    is    wholly      arbitrary   and   unreasonable   and   is   liable   to   be    struck down   being violative   of   Article   14   of   the    Constitution is   the   submission   of   learned amicus curiae. 

4.    In   support   of   the   challenge   to   the    constitutional validity   of   the   impugned  provision,    besides    observations made   in   the   three-Judge   Bench   decision   in   Vineet  Narain case    reliance    has    also     been     placed     on     various decisions   including  S.G. Jaisinghani v. Union of  India  [(1967)  2 SCR 703], Shrilekha Vidyarthi  v. State of U.P. [(1991)  1  SCC  212], Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi [(1981) 1 SCC  722]  and  Mardia Chemicals Ltd.  v.  Union  of  India  [(2004)    4    SCC    311]   to       emphasize   that   the   absence   of   arbitrary   power    is    the first essential of the rule of law upon which our whole constitutional system is based.  In Mardia Chemicals case a  three-Judge  Bench  held Section 17(2) of the Securitisation and  Reconstruction  of  Financial       Assets  and  Enforcement  of  Security  Interest  Act,  2002   to   be unreasonable  and  arbitrary  and  violative  of  Article  14  of  the Constitution.  Section 17(2) provides for    condition     of   deposit   of   75%   of   the   amount   before    an  appeal    could be   entertained. The   condition has   been held to be illusory   and oppressive.   Malpe  Vishwanath  Acharya  v.  State  of Maharashtra [(1998) 2 SCC 1], again  a  decision   of  a   three-Judge Bench, setting  aside  the   decision   of  the   High  Court    which     upheld   the   provisions   of   Sections    5(10)(b),    11(1)    and 12(3)   of   the  Bombay    Rents,    Hotel    and    Lodging    House Rates   Control   Act,   1947   pertaining    to  standard   rent   in petitions  where  the  constitutional  validity  of  those  provisions was  challenged on the ground of the same being arbitrary, unreasonable   and consequently ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution, has come to the conclusion that the said  provisions  are arbitrary and unreasonable.

5.    Learned Solicitor General, on the other hand, though very fairly admitting  that  the    nexus    between    criminals     and     some elements   of    establishment    including politicians  and  various sections of bureaucracy  has  increased  and  also  that  there  is  a       disturbing   increase    in    the    level    of    corruption    and       these   problems   need   to   be addressed, infractions  of  the  law       need  to  be  investigated,  investigations  have   to  be   conducted       quickly   and   effectively   without   any   interference   and   the investigative  agencies    should    be    allowed to function without   any   interference   of   any   kind whatsoever   and   that they    have    to    be    insulated    from    any     extraneous       influences    of  any    kind,    contends    that    a    legislation       cannot   be   struck   down   on    the    ground    of  arbitrariness       or   unreasonableness   as   such   a   ground   is   available   only to   quash executive action and orders.  Further contention is  that even a delegated legislation cannot be quashed on the ground  of  mere      arbitrariness and even  for  quashing  such  a  legislation,  manifest arbitrariness is the  requirement  of law.   In support, reliance has  been  placed  on   observations   made   in   a   three-Judge   Bench       decision  in  State  of A.P.. v. McDowell & Co.  [(1996)  3  SCC  709] that no enactment can be struck down  by  just  saying  that   it   is arbitrary   or  unreasonable   and   observations   made   in   Khoday Distilleries  Ltd.     v.   State   of   Karnataka   [1996  (10)   SCC 304]  that delegated legislation can be struck down only if  there  is manifest arbitrariness.

6.    In  short,  the  moot  question  is  whether  arbitrariness  and unreasonableness or manifest   arbitrariness   and   unreasonableness,  being   facets   of    Article    14    of    the  Constitution  are  available or not as grounds to invalidate a legislation.  Both counsel have placed reliance on observations made in decisions rendered  by  a Bench of three learned Judges.

7.    Further contention of learned  Solicitor  General  is  that  the conclusion  drawn  in  Vineet  Narain  case  is  erroneous  that   the Constitution Bench  decision  in  K.  Veeraswami  v.  Union  of  India [(1991) 3 SCC 655] is not an authority for the proposition that in the case of high officials,     requirement  of prior permission/sanction    from a higher  officer  or  Head  of  the  Department is permissible, the submission is that  conclusion  reached  in   para   34   of  Vineet   Narain  decision   runs   contrary    to observations   and findings contained in para 28 of Veeraswami case.

8.    Having regard to the aforesaid, we are  of  the  view  that  the matters deserve to be   heard   by    a    larger    Bench,    subject to   the   orders   of   Hon'ble   the   Chief   Justice   of India.”  Background of Section 6-A

4.          We may first notice the background in  which  Section  6-A  was inserted in the DSPE Act. In 1993,  Vineet  Narain  approached  this  Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India complaining  inertia  by  the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in matters where the accusation  made was against high dignitaries. The necessity of monitoring the investigation by this Court is indicated in paragraph 1 of the judgment[1], which reads:

“These writ petitions under Article 32 of the  Constitution  of  India brought in public interest, to begin with, did not appear to have  the potential of escalating to the dimensions they reached or to give rise to several issues of considerable significance to  the  implementation of rule of law, which they have, during their progress. They began  as yet  another  complaint  of  inertia  by   the   Central   Bureau   of Investigation (CBI) in matters where the accusation made  was  against high dignitaries. It was not the only matter of its  kind  during  the recent past. The primary question was: Whether it is within the domain of judicial review  and  it  could  be  an  effective  instrument  for activating the investigative process which is under the control of the executive? The focus was on the question, whether any judicial  remedy is available in such a situation? However, as the case progressed,  it required innovation of a procedure within the constitutional scheme of   judicial review to permit intervention by the court to find a solution to the problem. This case has helped to develop a procedure within the discipline of law for the conduct of  such  a  proceeding  in  similar situations. It has also generated awareness of the need of probity  in public life and provided a mode of enforcement  of  accountability  in public life. Even though the  matter  was  brought  to  the  court  by certain individuals claiming to represent public interest, yet as  the case progressed, in keeping with the requirement of  public  interest, the procedure devised was to appoint the petitioners’ counsel  as  the       amicus curiae and to make such  orders  from  time  to  time  as  were consistent with public interest. Intervention in  the  proceedings  by everyone else was shut out but permission was granted to all,  who  so desired, to render such assistance as they could, and to  provide  the relevant material available with them to the amicus curiae  for  being       placed  before  the  court  for  its  consideration.  In  short,   the proceedings in this matter have had great educative value and it  does appear that it has helped in future decision-making and functioning of the public authorities.”

5.          In Vineet Narain1, Single Directive No.4.7(3), which  contained certain instructions to CBI regarding modalities of initiating  an  inquiry or registering a case against certain categories of  civil  servants,  fell for consideration. We shall refer to Single Directive No.  4.7(3)  at  some length a little later but suffice to say here that this Court  struck  down Single Directive No.4.7(3). While doing so, the  Court  also  made  certain recommendations in respect of CBI and Central Vigilance  Commission  (CVC). One of such recommendations was to confer statutory status to CVC.

6.          Initially, the Government decided to put the  proposed  law  in place through an Ordinance so as to comply  with  the  directions  of  this Court in Vineet Narain1. Later on the Government introduced the  CVC  Bill, 1998 in the Lok Sabha on 7.12.1998. The CVC Bill, 1998 was referred to  the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee  on  Home  Affairs  for examination and report, which presented its report  to  the  Parliament  on 25.2.1999 and made certain recommendations on the CVC Bill, 1998.  The  Lok Sabha passed the CVC Bill, 1998 as the CVC Bill, 1999  on  15.3.1999  after adopting the official amendments moved in this regard. However, before  the Bill could be considered and passed by the Rajya Sabha, the 12th Lok  Sabha was dissolved on 26.4.1999 and, consequently, the CVC  Bill,  1999  lapsed. The CVC Bill was  re-introduced  with  the  title  “The  Central  Vigilance Commission Bill,  2003”.  The  Bill  was  passed  by  both  the  Houses  of Parliament and received the assent of the President on 11.9.2003.  This  is how the Central Vigilance Commission Act,  2003  (for  short,  ‘Act  45  of 2003’) came to be enacted.

7.          Act 45 of 2003 provides  for  the  constitution  of  a  Central Vigilance  commission to inquire or cause inquiries  to  be  conducted  into offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of  Corruption Act, 1988 (for short, ‘PC Act,  1988’)  by  certain  categories  of  public servants of the Central Government, corporations established  by  or  under any Central Act, government  companies,  societies  and  local  authorities owned or controlled by the Central Government  and  for  matters  connected therewith or incidental thereto. Section 26 of the Act 45 of 2003  provides for amendment of DSPE Act and clause (c) thereof enacts that after  Section 6, Section 6-A shall be inserted in the DSPE Act.

8.          Section 6-A(1) of the DSPE Act requires approval of the Central Government to conduct inquiry or investigation  where  the  allegations  of commission of an offence under the PC Act, 1988 relate to the employees  of the Central Government of the level of Joint Secretary and above. Genesis of Challenge to Section 6-A

9.          On 24.2.1997, the Writ Petition (Civil) No.38/1997 came up  for admission before a three-Judge Bench. On hearing the petitioner,  the  writ petition was entertained but it was confined to relief in  paragraph  12(a) only.  The notice was directed to be issued to respondent  No.1  (Director, CBI) and respondent No.5 (Union of India  through  Cabinet  Secretary)  and other respondents were deleted from the array of parties. The Court on that date requested Shri Anil B. Divan, learned  senior  counsel  to  appear  as amicus curiae in the case. It is not necessary to narrate  the  proceedings which took place on various dates. It may, however, be  mentioned  that  on 5.4.2002 when the matter was mentioned before  the  Bench,  learned  amicus curiae expressed his concern regarding the attempt to  restore  the  Single Directive, which was  struck  down  in  Vineet  Narain1,  in  the  proposed legislation.  Thereupon, the matter was adjourned and Court  requested  the presence of learned Attorney General on 19.4.2002. On 19.4.2002, the matter was ordered to be listed in September, 2002. As noted above, on  11.9.2003, Act 45 of 2003 received Presidential assent and Section 6-A was inserted in the DSPE Act.

10.         On 19.1.2004, Writ Petition (C) No.21/2004 was  ordered  to  be listed along with Writ Petition (C) No.38/1997. On  23.1.2004,  notice was issued in Writ Petition (C)  No. 21/2004.   In  this  writ  petition,  the counter was filed by the Union on  7.4.2004  and  rejoinder affidavit  was filed by the petitioner.

11.         We have heard Mr. Anil B. Divan,  learned  senior  counsel  and amicus curiae in Writ Petition (C) No.38/1997  and  Mr.  Prashant  Bhushan, learned counsel for the petitioner in Writ Petition (C) No.21/2004. In  one matter, Mr. L. Nageswara Rao, learned Additional Solicitor General appeared for Union of India while  in  the  other,  Mr.  K.V.  Viswanathan,  learned Additional Solicitor General appeared on behalf of Union of India. We  have heard both of them on behalf of the Union of India. We have also heard  Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, learned counsel for the intervenor.

Submissions of Mr. Anil B. Divan

12.         Mr. Anil B. Divan, learned amicus curiae argues that Section 6-A is  an impediment to the rule of law and violative of Article  14,  which is part of  the  rule  of  law;  that  the  impugned  provision  creates  a privileged class and thereby subverts the normal investigative process  and violates the fundamental right(s) under Article 14  of  every  citizen.  He submits that if the impugned provision is replicated at the State level and provision  of  ‘previous  approval’  by  respective  State  Governments  is required, then the rule of law would completely collapse in  the  whole  of India and no high level corruption would be investigated  or  punished.  He relies upon decision of this Court in Vineet Narain1.  He also relies  upon the decision in I.R. Coelho[2] in support of the proposition  that  Article 14 is a part of the rule of law and it is the  duty  of  the  judiciary  to enforce the rule of law.

13.    According to learned  amicus curiae, Section 6-A directly presents an illegal impediment to the insulation of CBI and undermines  the independence of CBI to hold a preliminary enquiry (PE)  or  investigation. Citing the judgments of this Court in Centre for Public Interest Litigation (2G pectrum case)[3] and Manohar Lal Sharma[4] following  Vineet  Narain1, learned amicus curiae submits that trend of these judgments is to  preserve the rule of law by insulating the CBI from executive influence which  could derail and result in inaction in enforcing the criminal  law  against  high level corruption. Learned amicus  curiae  highlighted  that  there  was  no requiremen of previous approval as contained in  the  impugned  provisions between 18.12.1997 (the date of Vineet Narain1 judgment striking  down  the Single Directive) and 11.9.2003 (when CVC Act came into force)  except  the period between 25.8.1998 and 27.10.1998 when the CVC Ordinance, 1998 was in force and till the deletions by CVC Amendment Ordinance, 1998. He  referred to N.N. Vohra Committee  report  which  paints  a  frightening  picture  of criminal-bureaucratic-political nexus – a network of high level  corruption – and submitted that the impugned provision puts this nexus in  a  position to block inquiry and investigation  by  CBI  by  conferring  the  power  of previous approval on the Central Government.

14.         Mr. Anil B. Divan, learned  amicus  curiae  wants  us  to  take judicial notice of the fact that high level  bureaucratic  corruption  goes hand in hand, on many occasions, with political corruption at  the  highest level. This very group of high ranking bureaucrats, whose misconduct  and criminality, if any, requires to be  first  inquired into and thereafter investigated, can thwart, defeat and impair this  exercise.  In  substance, the potential accused would decide whether or not their conduct  should  be inquired into. He argues that the essence of skillful and effective  police investigation is by collection of evidence and material  secretly,  without leakage so  that  the  potential  accused  is  not  forewarned  leading  to destruction or tempering of evidence and witnesses. Such  investigation  is compromised by the impugned provision, viz., Section 6-A of the  DSPE  Act. The requirement of previous approval in the impugned provision  would  mean leakages  as  well  as  breach  of  confidentiality  and  would  be  wholly destructive of an efficient investigation. The provision, such as Section 6-A, offers an impregnable shield (except when there  is  a  court  monitored investigation) to the criminal-bureaucratic-political nexus. If the CBI  is not even allowed to verify complaints by preliminary enquiry, how  can  the case move forward? In such a situation, the very commencement of enquiry/investigation is thwarted and delayed. Moreover, a preliminary  enquiry  is intended to ascertain whether a prima facie case for investigation is  made

out or not. If CBI is prevented from holding a preliminary enquiry, it will not be able to even gather relevant material for the purpose  of  obtaining previous approval.

15.         Learned amicus curiae submits that for judging the validity  of classification or reasonableness or  arbitrariness  of  State  action,  the Court is entitled to take notice of  conditions  prevailing  from  time  to time.  He referred to certain portions of the N.N. Vohra Committee  report, 2G Spectrum case3 and the facts of a case before Delhi High Court  entitled

‘Telecom Watchdog’[5] and the  case  of  M.  Gopalakrishnan,  Chairman  and Managing Director (CMD of Indian Bank). Learned amicus curiae  also  relied upon decisions of this Court in V.G. Row[6] and D.S. Nakara[7].

16.         It is submitted by the learned  amicus  curiae  that  pervasive corruption adversely affects welfare and other activities and  expenditures of the state. Consequently, the rights of Indian citizens  not only under Article 14 but also under Article 21 are violated. In this regard, he has relied upon the observations made by this  Court  in  Vineet  Narain1,  Ram Singh[8],  Subramanian  Swamy[9],  R.A.  Mehta[10],  Balakrishna  Dattatrya Kumbhar[11] and In re. Special Courts Bill, 1978[12].  

17.         Learned amicus curiae submits that Section 6-A confers  on  the Central  Government  unguided,  unfettered  and  unbridled  power  and  the provision  is  manifestly  arbitrary,  entirely   perverse   and   patently unreasonable.  He relies upon the decisions of  this  Court  in  Travancore Chemicals and Manufacturing Co.[13], Krishna  Mohan  (P)  Ltd.[14],  Canara Bank[15] and Nergesh Meerza[16].

18.         It is vehemently contended by the learned  amicus  curiae  that the classification as contained in Section 6-A creating a privileged  class of the government officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above  level and certain officials in  public  sector  undertakings,  etc.  is  directly destructive and runs counter to the whole object and reason of the PC  Act, 1988 read with the DSPE Act and undermines  the  object  of  detecting  and punishing high level corruption.  In this  regard,  learned  amicus  curiae referred to protection given to Government officials under Section  197  of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) and under Section  19  of  the  PC Act,  1988.  He  argues  that  the  well-settled  two   tests:   (i)   that classification must be founded on intelligible differentia  and  (ii)  that differentia must have a rational relation with  the  object  sought  to  be achieved  by  the  legislation,  are  not  satisfied  by  Section  6-A.   privileged class of Central Government employees has been created  inasmuch as the protection offered to the category of the government officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above regarding  previous  approval  does  not extend to: (a) official / employees who are not employees  of  the  Central Government, (b) employees of the Central Government below  Joint  Secretary level, (c) employees of Joint Secretary level and above in the states,  (d) enquiry and investigation of offences which are not covered by the PC  Act, 1988, and  (e)  other  individuals  including  ministers,  legislators  and private sector employees. Learned amicus curiae relies upon the decision of this Court in Vithal Rao[17]. Submissions  of  Mr.  Prashant  Bhushan  for  Centre  for  Public  Interest Litigation (CPIL-petitioner)

19.         Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel for the petitioner in the connected writ petition filed by  Centre  for  Public  Interest  Litigation (CPIL) has adopted the arguments of the learned amicus curiae.  He  submits that  Section 6-A makes criminal investigation against a certain  class  of public servants unworkable and it completely militates against the rule  of law. He referred to the United Nations document  entitled  “United  Nations Convention Against Corruption” and submitted that Section 6-A of  the  DSPE Act interdicts enquiry or investigation in  respect  of  certain  class  of officers and puts direct hindrance in combating corruption and,  therefore, the provision is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.  

Submissions of Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan (intervenor)  

20.         Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing on behalf  of  intervenor submits that Section 6-A of the DSPE Act breaches the basic feature of rule of law. He argues that the basic structure  test  can  be  applied  to  the statutes as well. By enactment of Section 6-A, the rule of law has suffered a two-fold violation: (i) resurrection of the single directive in the  form of legislation without in any way removing the basis of the Vineet  Narain1 judgment, and (ii) impediment of the due process  (criminal  investigation) by imposing a condition at the threshold.  In this regard,  he  has  relied upon decisions  of  this  Court  in  State  of  Karnataka[18],  L.  Chandra Kumar[19], Kuldip Nayar[20], Madras Bar  Association[21],  K.T.  Plantation (P) Ltd.[22], G.C. Kanungo[23], Indra Sawhney (2)[24], and I.R. Coelho2.

21.         Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, learned counsel for the intervenor, also submits that there is an unreasonable classification  among  policemen and among the accused and, in any case, the classification  even  if  valid has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved by Section 6-A, which is apparently to protect the officers concerned. According to learned counsel, Section 6-A is also inconsistent with the Cr.P.C. In this regard, he refers to CBI Manual, Sections 19 and 22 of the PC Act, 1988 and  Section  197  of Cr.P.C. 

Submissions of Mr. L. Nageswara Rao, ASG. 

22.         Mr. L. Nageswara  Rao,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General stoutly defends Section 6-A. He submits that the rationale behind Section 6-A of the DSPE Act can be seen in the reply to the debate in  Parliament  on the Central Vigilance Commission Bill by the then Union Minister of Law and Justice, Mr. Arun Jaitley. The provision is defended  on  the  ground  that those who are in decision making positions,  those  who  have  to  exercise discretion and those who have to take vital decisions could  become  target of frivolous complaints and need to be protected. Therefore, some screening mechanism must be put  into  place  whereby  serious  complaints  would  be investigated and frivolous complaints can be thrown out. If such protection is not given to senior decision makers, anyone can file a complaint and the CBI or the police can raid the houses of such  senior  officers.  This  may affect governance  inasmuch  as  instead  of  tendering  honest  advice  to political executives, the senior  officers  at  the  decision-making  level would only give safe and non-committal advice. He argues that the object of Section 6-A is to provide screening mechanism to filter  out  frivolous  or motivated investigation that could be initiated against senior officers  to protect them from harassment and to enable them to  take  decision  without fear. In this regard, the legal principles enunciated in K.  Veeraswami[25] were strongly pressed into service by Mr. L. Nageswara Rao.

23.         It is argued by the learned Additional Solicitor  General  that Section  6-A  is  not  an  absolute  bar  because  it  does  not   prohibit investigation against senior government servants as such. It only  provides a filter or pre-check  so  that  the  Government  can  ensure  that  senior officers at decision-making  level  are  not  subjected to unwarranted harassment.

24.         Emphasizing that the Central Government is committed to weeding out vice of corruption, learned Additional Solicitor General  submits  that requests for approval under Section 6-A are processed  expeditiously  after the Government of India had constituted a Group of  Ministers  to  consider certain measures that could be taken by Government to tackle corruption and the Group of Ministers suggested the measures to ensure that  the  requests received from CBI under Section 6-A  are  examined  on  priority  and  with objectivity.

25.         Mr. L. Nageswara  Rao,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General submits that arbitrariness and unreasonableness cannot by themselves  be  a ground to strike down legislation. With reference to the decision  of  this Court in E.P. Royappa[26] he argues that while proposing a new dimension of arbitrariness as an anti-thesis to equality in Article 14, the  Court  used arbitrariness to strike down administrative action and not as a  ground  to test legislations. He submits that in Maneka Gandhi[27] the Court  has  not held  that  arbitrariness  by  itself  is  a  ground  for   striking   down legislations under Article 14. Ajay Hasia[28], learned Additional Solicitor General contends, also does not make arbitrariness a ground to strike  down legislation. Distinguishing Malpe Vishwanath Acharya[29], he  submits  that this Court used the classification test to hold legislation to be arbitrary and the provision of standard rent in Bombay Rent Control  Act  was  struck down as  having  become  unreasonable  due  to  passage  of  time.  Learned Additional Solicitor General also distinguished Mardia  Chemicals  Ltd[30]. He vehemently contends that Courts  cannot  strike  down  legislations  for being arbitrary and unreasonable so as to substitute their own  wisdom  for that of the legislature.

26.         Mr. L. Nageswara Rao submits that wisdom of legislature  cannot be gone into  for  testing  validity  of  a  legislation  and,  apart  from constitutional limitations, no law can be struck down on the ground that it is unreasonable or unjust. In  this  regard,  he  relies  upon  Kesavananda Bharati[31]. He also referred to In re. Special Courts Bill, 197812,  which explained the principles enshrined in Article 14. In support  of  principle that legislations can be declared invalid or unconstitutional only  on  two grounds: (a) lack of legislative  competence, and (b) violation  of  any fundamental rights or any provision of the Constitution, learned Additional Solicitor General relies upon Kuldip Nayar20. He also  relies  upon  Ashoka Kumar Thakur[32] in support of the proposition that legislation  cannot  be challenged simply on the ground of unreasonableness as that by itself  does not constitute a ground. He submits  that  a  Constitution  Bench  in  K.T. Plantation  (P)  Ltd.22   has   held   that   plea   of   unreasonableness, arbitrariness,  proportionality,  etc.,  always  raises   an   element   of subjectivity on which Court cannot strike down a  statute  or  a  statutory provision. Unless a constitutional infirmity is pointed out, a  legislation cannot be struck down by just using the word ‘arbitrary’. In  this  regard, he heavily relies upon the decisions  of  this  Court  in  In  re.  Natural Resources Allocation[33], McDowell[34] and Rakesh Kohli[35].  The  decision of the US Supreme  Court  in  Heller[36]  is  also  cited  by  the  learned Additional Solicitor General in  support  of  the  proposition  that  Court should not sit as super legislature over  the  wisdom  or  desirability  of legislative policy.

27.         Mr.  L. Nageswara  Rao,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General argues that rule of law cannot be a  ground  for  invalidating  legislations without reference to the Constitution.  He submits that rule of law  is  not a concept above the Constitution.  Relying  upon  Indira  Nehru  Gandhi[37], learned Additional Solicitor General argues  that  meaning  and  constituent elements of rule of law must be gathered from  the  enacting  provisions  of the Constitution; vesting discretionary powers  in  the  Government  is  not contrary to the rule of law.  Moreover, he submits that  exceptions  to  the procedure in Cr.P.C. cannot be violative of Articles  14  and  21  and  such exceptions cannot be termed as violating the rule of law.  In  this  regard, learned Additional Solicitor General refers to Section 197  of  Cr.P.C.  and relies upon Matajog Dobey[38],  wherein  this  Court  upheld  constitutional validity of Section 197 and held that the said provision was  not  violative of Article 14.  He also referred to Section 187 of  Cr.P.C.,  Section  6  of the Armed Forces (Special Provisions) Act, 1958 and  Section  187-A  of  the Sea Customs Act and submitted that these provisions have  been  held  to  be constitutionally valid by this  Court.   Naga  People’s  Movement  of  Human Rights[39]  was  cited  by  learned  Additional   Solicitor  General  wherein Section 6 of the Armed  Forces  (Special  Provisions)  Act,  1958  was  held constitutional and Manhar Lal Bhogilal[40] was cited wherein  Section  187-A of the Sea  Customs  Act  was  held  valid.   Learned  Additional  Solicitor General has also referred to Section 42 of the  Food  Safety  and  Standards Act, 2006, Section 50 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002,  Section  12 of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety  Of  Maritime  Navigation And Fixed Platforms On Continental  Shelf  Act,  2002,  Section  23  of  the Maharashtra Control  of  Organised  Crime  Act,  1999,  Section  45  of  the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, Section 20-A  of  the  Terrorist and Disruptive  Activities  (Prevention)  Act,  1987,  Section  137  of  the Customs Act, 1962, Section 11 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, Section  7 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, Section 20 of the Prevention of  Food Adulteration Act, 1954, Section 23  of  Lokpal  and  Lokayuktas  Act,  2013, Section 11 of Cotton Ginning and Pressing Factories Act,  1925,  Section  12 of Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing  (Prohibition)  Act,  1982,  Section  16  of Gujarat Electricity Supply Undertakings (Acquisition) Act, 1969, Section  24 of Karnataka Control of Organized Crimes Act, 2000 and Section  9  of  Bihar Non-Government  Educational  Institution  (Taking   Over)   Act,   1988   to demonstrate that there are large number of provisions  where  permission  of the Government is required before taking cognizance or  for  institution  of an offence.

28.         Learned Additional Solicitor General submits that  Section  6-A satisfies the test of reasonable classification.  The  public  servants  of the  level  of  Joint  Secretary  and  above  take  policy  decisions  and, therefore, there is  an  intelligible  differentia.  As  they  take  policy decisions, there is a need to protect them  from  frivolous  inquiries  and investigation so that policy  making  does  not  suffer.   Thus,  there  is rational nexus with the object sought to  be  achieved.   In  this  regard, learned Additional Solicitor General has relied upon the decisions of  this Court in Ram Krishna Dalmia[41], Union of India[42]  and Re: Special Courts Bill,  197812.    He  also  referred  to  the  proceedings  of  the   Joint Parliamentary Committee, Law Minister’s Speech,  the  Government  of  India (Transaction of Business) Rules  and  the  Central  Secretariat  Manual  of Procedure.

29.         Mr. L. Nageswara Rao submits that conferment of unbridled / un-canalized power on the executive cannot  be  a  ground  for  striking  down legislation as being violative of Article 14.  Mere possibility of abuse of power cannot invalidate a law.  He cited the judgments of this Court in  Re Special Courts Bill, 197812, N.B. Khare[43],  Mafatlal  Industries[44]  and Sushil Kumar Sharma[45].

30.         Learned Additional Solicitor General submits that conferment of power on high authority reduces the possibility of its  abuse  to  minimum. In support of this submission, learned Additional Solicitor General  relies upon the decision of this Court in Maneka Gandhi27, Matajog  Dubey38, V.C. Shukla[46]  and V.C.Shukla (IInd)[47].  He also  submits  that  absence  of guidelines can only make the exercise of power susceptible to challenge and not the legislation.   In  this  regard,  Pannalal  Binjraj[48]  and  Jyoti Pershad[49] are cited by him. Submissions of Mr. K.V. Viswanathan, ASG

31.         Mr. K.V.  Viswanathan,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General submits that there is presumption of constitutionality and  mutual  respect inherent in doctrine  of  separation  of  powers.   He  relies  upon  Bihar Distillery Ltd.[50].

32.          Mr. K.V. Viswanathan,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General referred to Sections 7, 11 and 13 of the PC Act, 1988 in order to show that all these provisions  relate  to  discharge  of  official  functions.   The officers above the Joint Secretary level are bestowed with crucial decision making responsibilities.  Citing Kripalu Shankar[51]  and the speech of the then Minister of Law and Justice, he submits that people in decision making process need to be given an environment to take decisions without any undue extraneous pressure. He relies upon  P.  Sirajuddin[52]  to  highlight  the observations of this  Court  that  lodging  of  FIR  against  a  government official especially, one who occupies top position in a department, even if baseless, would do incalculable harm not only to the officer in particular, but to the department he belongs to, in general. 

33.          Mr. K.V. Viswanathan has highlighted that corruption  has  two aspects: (a) aspect  related  to  decision  making  –  abuse  of  position, pecuniary loss to the Government etc. and (b) aspect of  illegal  pecuniary gain – bribery etc.  That abuse of position in order  to  come   within  the mischief of corruption must necessarily be dishonest  so  that  it  may  be proved that the officer caused deliberate loss  to  the  department.   Mere violation of codal provisions, or ordinary norms  of  procedural  behaviour does not amount to corruption.  He cites decisions of this  Court  in  S.P. Bhatnagar[53], Major S. K.  Kale[54],  C.  Chenga  Reddy[55]   and  Abdulla Mohammed Pagarkar[56].

34.         Learned Additional Solicitor General submits that the State  is the first victim of corruption and the executive is in the best position to adjudge whether it has been a victim of corruption.  Section 6-A  has  been enacted to protect the decision making process of the executive from  undue harassment and exercise of police powers by CBI.  He cites the judgment  of this Court in A.R. Antulay[57].

35.         Mr. K.V. Viswanathan has referred to other provisions under law providing for the aggrieved  authority  to  take  a  decision  whether  the offence has been made out or not.  In  this  regard,  he  has  invited  our attention to Section 195 of Cr.P.C. and the decision of this Court in Patel Laljibhai Somabhai[58].  He also referred to Section 340 of  Cr.P.C.  which allows the court to adjudge whether perjury was committed, and if  it  was, then whether it required prosecution.  He relies upon the decision of  this Court in Iqbal Singh Marwah[59].

36.          Citing  Manohar  Lal  Sharma4,  learned  Additional  Solicitor General submits that even in a court monitored investigation, the concerned officer could approach the concerned court for an opportunity to be  heard. Moreover, in Manohar  Lal  Sharma4,  this  court  has  noticed  the  office memorandum dated 26.09.2011 approving the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers which provides inter alia for the concerned authority to  give reasons for granting/rejecting sanction under Section 6-A.  He submits that when there is denial of sanction order under Section 6-A, such order of the Central Government could be challenged in a writ  petition  before  a  High Court.  He says that United Nations recognizes such a protection as Section 6-A in Article 30 of the UN  Convention against corruption. 

Principles applicable to Article 14

37.         Article 14 reads:

“14. Equality before law.—The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the  equal  protection  of  the  laws within the territory of India.” 

38.         The first part of Article 14, which was adopted from the Irish Constitution, is a declaration of equality of the civil rights of all persons within the territories of India. It enshrines a basic principle  of republicanism.  The second part, which is a corollary of the  first  and  is based on the last clause of the first section of  the  Fourteenth  Amendment of the  American  Constitution,  enjoins  that  equal  protection  shall  be secured to all such persons in the enjoyment of their rights  and  liberties without discrimination of favouritism.  It is a pledge of the protection  of equal laws, that is, laws that operate  alike  on  all  persons  under  like circumstances12.

39.         Article 14 of the Constitution incorporates concept of  equality and equal protection of laws.  The provisions of  Article  14  have  engaged the attention of this Court  from  time  to  time.  The  plethora  of  cases dealing with Article 14 has culled  out  principles  applicable  to  aspects which commonly arise under this Article.  Among  those,  may  be  mentioned, the  decisions  of  this  Court  in  Chiranjit   Lal   Chowdhuri[60],   F.N. Balsara[61],  Anwar  Ali  Sarkar[62],  Kathi  Raning  Rawat[63],  Lachmandas Kewalram Ahuja[64], Syed Qasim Razvi[65],  Habeeb  Mohamed[66],  Kedar  Nath Bajoria[67] and innovated to even associate the members  of  this  Court  to contribute their V.M. Syed Mohammad & Company[68].    The most of the  above decisions were considered  in Budhan  Choudhry[69].   This  Court  exposited the ambit and scope of Article 14 in  Budhan Choudhry69 as follows:

      “It is now  well-established  that  while  article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid  reasonable  classification  for  the purposes of legislation. In order, however, to pass  the  test  of permissible classification two conditions must be  fulfilled,  namely, (i) that the classification  must  be  founded  on  an  intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or  things  that  are  grouped together from others left out of the group, and (ii) that  differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be  achieved  by the  statute in question. The classification  may  be  founded  on different bases; namely, geographical,  or  according to objects or occupations or the like. What is necessary is that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object  of  the  Act under consideration. It is also well-established by the  decisions  of this Court that article 14 condemns discrimination not only by a substantive law but also by a law of procedure.”

40.         In Ram Krishna Dalmia41, the Constitution Bench of  five  Judges further culled out the following principles enunciated in the above cases  -

“(a)     that a law may be constitutional even though it relates to  a single individual if, on account  of  some  special  circumstances  or reasons applicable to him and not applicable to  others,  that  single individual   may be treated as a class by himself;

(b)     that  there is always a presumption in favour of the constitutionality of an enactment and  the  burden  is  upon  him  who attacks it to show that there has been a clear  transgression  of  the constitutional principles;

(c)    that it must be presumed that the legislature  understands  and correctly appreciates the need of its own people, that its laws are directed  to  problems  made  manifest  by  experience  and  that  its discriminations are based on adequate grounds;

(d)    that the legislature is free to recognise degrees of  harm  and may confine its restrictions to those cases where the need is deemed to be the clearest;

(e)   that in order to sustain the  presumption  of  constitutionality the court may take into consideration  matters  of  common  knowledge, matters of common report, the history of  the  times  and  may  assume every state of facts which can be conceived existing at  the  time  of      legislation; and

(f)    that while good faith and knowledge of the existing  conditions on the part of a legislature are to be presumed, if there  is  nothing on the face of the law or the surrounding  circumstances brought to the notice of the court on which  the  classification  may  reasonably  be regarded as based, the  presumption  of  constitutionality  cannot  be carried to the extent of  always  holding  that  there  must  be  some undisclosed and unknown reasons for subjecting certain individuals  or corporations to hostile or discriminating legislation.” 

41.         In Ram Krishna  Dalmia41,  it  was  emphasized  that  the  above principles will have to be constantly borne in mind by the court when it is called upon to adjudge the constitutionality of any particular law  attacked as discriminatory and violative of the equal protection of laws.

42.         Having culled out the above principles, the  Constitution  Bench in  Ram Krishna Dalmia41, further observed that statute which  may  come  up for consideration on the question of its validity under Article  14  of  the Constitution may be placed in one or other of the following five classes:

“(i)  A statute may itself indicate the persons or things to whom  its provisions are intended to apply and the basis of  the  classification of such persons or things may appear on the face of the statute or may be gathered from the surrounding circumstances known to or brought  to the notice of the court. In determining the validity or  otherwise  of such a statute the court has to examine whether such classification is or can be reasonably regarded as based  upon  some  differentia  which distinguishes such persons or things grouped together from those  left out of the group and whether such differentia has a reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute, no matter whether the provisions of the statute are intended to apply only to a particular person or thing or only to a certain class  of  persons  or things. Where the court finds that the  classification  satisfies  the tests,  the   court   will   uphold   the   validity   of   the   law.

(ii)  A statute may  direct  its  provisions  against  one  individual person or thing or to several individual  persons  or  things  but  no reasonable basis of classification may appear on the face of it or  be deducible from the surrounding circumstances,  or  matters  of  common       knowledge. In such a case the court will strike down  the  law  as  an instance of naked  discrimination.

(iii)       A statute may not make any classification of  the  persons or things for the purpose of applying its provisions but may leave  it to the discretion of the Government to select and classify persons  or things to whom  its  provisions  are  to  apply.  In  determining  the question of the validity or otherwise of such a statute the court will not strike down the law out of hand  only  because  no  classification appears on its face or because a discretion is given to the Government to make the selection or classification but will go on to examine  and ascertain if the statute has laid down any principle or policy for the guidance of the exercise of discretion by the Government in the matter of the selection or classification. After such scrutiny the court will strike down the statute if it does  not  lay  down  any  principle  or policy for guiding the exercise of discretion by the Government in the matter of selection or classification, on the ground that the  statute provides for the delegation of arbitrary and uncontrolled power to the Government so as to enable  it  to  discriminate  between  persons  or things similarly situate and that, therefore,  the  discrimination  is inherent in the statute itself. In such a case the court  will  strike down both the law as well as the executive  action  taken  under  such law.

(iv)  A statute may not make a classification of the persons or things for the purpose of applying its provisions and may  leave  it  to  the discretion of the Government to select and  classify  the  persons  or things to whom its provisions are to apply but may at  the  same  time lay down a policy or principle for the guidance  of  the  exercise  of discretion by the Government  in  the  matter  of  such  selection  or classification.

(v)   A statute may not make a classification of the persons or things to whom their provisions are intended to apply and  leave  it  to  the discretion of the Government to select  or  classify  the  persons  or things for applying those provisions according to the policy  or  the principle laid down by the statute itself for guidance of the exercise of discretion by the Government in the matter  of  such  selection  or classification.  If the Government  in  making  the selection or classification does not proceed on or follow such policy or principle, then in such a case the executive action but not the statute should be condemned as unconstitutional.”

43.         In Vithal  Rao17,  the  five-Judge  Constitution  Bench  had  an occasion to consider the test of reasonableness  under  Article  14  of  the Constitution.  It noted that the State can make a reasonable  classification for the purpose of legislation and that the classification in  order  to  be reasonable must satisfy two tests: (i) the classification  must  be  founded on intelligible differentia and (ii) the differentia must  have  a  rational relation with the object  sought  to  be  achieved  by  the  legislation  in question. The Court emphasized that in this regard object itself  should  be lawful and it cannot be discriminatory.  If the object  is  to  discriminate against one section of the minority,  the discrimination cannot be  justified on the ground that there is  a  reasonable  classification  because  it  has rational relation to the object sought to be achieved.

44.         The constitutionality of Special Courts Bill, 1978 came  up  for consideration in re. Special Courts Bill, 197812 as the President  of  India made a reference to this Court under Article 143(1) of the Constitution  for consideration of the question whether the “Special Courts Bill”  or  any  of its provisions, if enacted would be  constitutionally  invalid.   The  seven Judge Constitution  Bench  dealt  with  the  scope  of  Article  14  of  the Constitution.  Noticing the earlier  decisions  of  this  Court  in   Budhan Choudhry69, Ram  Krishna  Dalmia41,  C.I.  Emden[70],  Kangsari  Haldar[71], Jyoti Pershad49 and Ambica Mills Ltd.[72],  in  the  majority  judgment  the then Chief Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, inter  alia,  exposited  the  following propositions relating to Article 14:

      “(1)  xxx                 xxx                      xxx  

(2) The State, in the exercise  of  its  governmental  power,  has  of necessity to make laws operating differently on  different  groups  or classes of persons within its territory to attain particular  ends  in giving effect to its policies, and it must possess for that  purpose large powers of distinguishing and classifying persons or things to be subjected to such laws.

(3) The constitutional command to the State to afford equal protection of  its  laws  sets  a  goal  not  attainable  by  the  invention  and application of a precise formula. Therefore, classification  need  not be constituted by an exact or scientific  exclusion or  inclusion  of     persons or things. The courts should not insist on delusive  exactness or  apply  doctrinaire  tests  for   determining   the   validity of classification in any given case. Classification is justified if it is not palpably arbitrary.

(4) The principle underlying the guarantee of Article 14 is  not  that the same rules of law should be applicable to all persons  within  the Indian territory or that the same remedies should be made available to them irrespective of differences of circumstances. It only means  that all persons similarly circumstanced shall be  treated  alike  both  in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Equal laws would have to be applied to all in the  same  situation,  and  there  should  be  no       discrimination between one  person  and  another  if  as  regards  the subject-matter of the legislation their position is substantially  the same.

(5) By the process of classification,  the  State  has  the  power  of determining who  should  be  regarded  as  a  class  for  purposes  of legislation and in relation to a law enacted on a particular  subject. This power, no doubt,  in  some  degree  is  likely  to  produce  some inequality; but if a law deals with the liberties of a number of well-defined classes, it is not open to  the  charge  of  denial  of  equal protection on the ground that it has no application to other persons. Classification  thus  means  segregation  in  classes  which  have   a systematic  relation,  usually  found   in   common   properties   and characteristics. It postulates a rational  basis  and  does  not  mean herding together of certain persons and classes arbitrarily.

(6) The law can make and set apart the classes according to the needs and exigencies of the society and as suggested by experience.  It  can recognise even degree of evil, but the classification should never  be arbitrary, artificial or evasive.

(7) The classification must not be arbitrary  but  must  be  rational, that is to say, it must  not  only  be  based  on  some  qualities  or characteristics which are to be  found  in  all  the  persons  grouped together and not in others who are left out  but  those  qualities  or      characteristics must have a reasonable relation to the object  of  the legislation. In order  to  pass  the  test,  two  conditions  must  be fulfilled, namely, (1) that the classification must be founded  on  an intelligible differentia which distinguishes those  that  are  grouped together from others  and  (2)  that  that  differentia  must  have  a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act.

(8) The differentia which is the basis of the classification  and  the object of the Act are distinct things and what is  necessary  is  that there must be a nexus between them. In short, while Article 14 forbids class discrimination by conferring privileges or imposing  liabilities upon persons arbitrarily selected out  of  a  large  number  of  other persons similarly situated in relation to the privileges sought to  be conferred or the liabilities proposed  to  be  imposed,  it  does  not      forbid classification for the purpose of  legislation,  provided  such classification is not arbitrary in the sense above mentioned.

(9) If the  legislative  policy  is  clear  and  definite  and  as  an effective method of carrying out that policy a discretion is vested by the statute  upon  a  body  of  administrators  or  officers  to  make selective application of the law  to  certain  classes  or  groups  of       persons, the  statute  itself  cannot  be  condemned  as  a  piece  of discriminatory legislation. In such cases,  the  power  given  to  the executive body would import a duty on  it  to  classify  the  subject-matter of legislation in accordance with the  objective  indicated  in       the statute. If the administrative body proceeds to  classify  persons or things on a basis which has no rational relation to  the  objective of the Legislature, its action can be annulled  as  offending  against the equal protection clause. On the other hand, if the statute  itself does not disclose a  definite  policy  or  objective  and  it  confers authority on another to make selection at its  pleasure,  the  statute would be held on the face of it to be discriminatory, irrespective  of       the way in which it is applied.

(10)  Whether a law conferring discretionary powers   on   an administrative authority is constitutionally valid or not  should  not be determined on the assumption that such authority  will  act  in  an arbitrary manner in exercising the discretion committed to  it.  Abuse of power given by law does occur; but the validity of the  law  cannot be contested because of such an apprehension. Discretionary  power  is not necessarily a discriminatory power.

(11) Classification necessarily implies the making of a distinction or discrimination between  persons  classified  and  those  who  are  not members of that class. It is the essence of a classification that upon the class are cast duties and burdens  different  from  those  resting       upon the general public. Indeed, the very idea  of  classification  is that of inequality, so that it goes without saying that the mere  fact of inequality in no manner determines the matter of  Constitutionality.

(12) Whether an enactment providing  for  special  procedure  for  the trial of certain offences is or is not discriminatory and violative of Article 14 must be determined in each  case  as  it  arises,  for,  no general rule applicable to all  cases  can  safely  be  laid  down.  A practical assessment of the operation of the  law  in  the  particular circumstances is necessary.

(13) A rule of procedure laid down by law comes  as  much  within  the  purview of Article 14 as  any  rule  of  substantive  law  and  it  is necessary that all litigants, who are similarly situated, are able  to avail themselves of the same procedural  rights  for  relief  and  for       defence with like protection and without discrimination.”

45.         In Nergesh Meerza16, the three-Judge Bench of this  Court  while  dealing with constitutional validity of Regulation  46(i)(c)  of  Air  India Employees’ Service Regulations (referred  to  as  ‘A.I.  Regulations’)  held that certain conditions mentioned in the Regulations may  not  be  violative of Article 14 on the ground of discrimination but if it is proved  that  the conditions laid down are entirely  unreasonable  and  absolutely  arbitrary, then the provisions will have  to  be  struck  down.   With  regard  to  due process  clause  in  the  American  Constitution  and  Article  14  of   our Constitution, this Court referred to Anwar Ali Sarkar62, and  observed  that

the due process clause in the American Constitution could not apply  to  our Constitution.   The  Court  also  referred  to  A.S.   Krishna[73]   wherein Venkatarama Ayyar, J. observed: “The law would thus appear to  be  based  on the due process clause, and it is extremely doubtful  whether  it  can  have application under our Constitution.”

46.         In D.S. Nakara7, the Constitution Bench of  this  Court  had  an occasion to consider the scope, content  and  meaning  of  Article  14.  The Court referred to earlier decisions of this Court and in para 15 (pages 317- 318), the Court observed:

“Thus the fundamental principle  is  that  Article  14  forbids  class legislation but permits reasonable classification for the  purpose  of legislation which  classification  must  satisfy  the  twin  tests  of classification being founded  on  an  intelligible  differentia  which    distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together  from  those that are left out of the  group  and  that  differentia  must  have  a rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the  statute  in  question.”

47.         In E.P. Royappa26, it has been  held  by  this  Court  that  the basic principle which informs both Articles  14  and  16  are  equality  and inhibition against discrimination. This Court observed in para 85  (page  38 of the report) as under:

“….From a positivistic  point  of  view,  equality  is  antithetic  to arbitrariness. In fact equality and arbitrariness are  sworn  enemies; one belongs to the rule of law in a republic while the other, to the whim and caprice of an absolute monarch. Where an act is arbitrary, it is implicit in it that it is unequal both according to political logic and constitutional law and is therefore violative of Article 14, and if it affects any matter relating to public employment, it  is  also violative of Article 16. Articles 14 and 16 strike at arbitrariness in State action and ensure fairness and equality of treatment.”

Court’s approach

48.         Where there is challenge to the  constitutional  validity  of  a law enacted by the legislature, the Court must keep in view  that  there  is always a presumption of constitutionality  of  an  enactment,  and  a  clear transgression of constitutional principles must be  shown.  The  fundamental nature and importance of the legislative process needs to be  recognized  by the Court and due regard and deference must be accorded to  the  legislative process.  Where  the  legislation  is  sought  to  be  challenged  as  being unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, the  Court must remind itself to  the  principles  relating  to  the  applicability  of Article 14 in relation to invalidation of legislation.  The two dimensions of Article 14 in its application to legislation  and  rendering  legislation invalid are now well recognized and these are (i) discrimination, based on an impermissible or invalid classification and  (ii) excessive delegation  of powers; conferment of uncanalised and  unguided  powers  on  the  executive, whether in the form of delegated legislation or  by  way  of conferment of authority to pass administrative orders – if such conferment is without  any guidance,  control  or  checks, it is violative  of  Article 14 of  the Constitution.  The Court also needs to be mindful that a legislation does not become unconstitutional merely because there is another view or  because another method may be considered to be as good or even more effective,  like any issue of social, or even economic policy.  It is well settled  that  the courts do not substitute their views on what the policy is.

Consideration

49.         Several objections have been raised against  this  provision  in the context of Article 14.  First, we shall consider the  challenge  against the validity of classification which Section 6-A(1) makes and  the  lack  of relationship between the basis of that classification and the  object  which it seeks to achieve.

50.         The impugned provision, viz., Section 6-A  came  to  be  enacted after the decision of this Court in Vineet  Narain1.   It  is  important  to bear in mind that the three-Judge Bench of this Court in Vineet Narain1  was directly concerned with  constitutional validity  of  the  Single  Directive No. 4.7(3), which to the extent relevant for the present purposes, reads:

“4.7(3)(i) In regard to any person who is  or  has  been  a  decision-making level officer (Joint Secretary or equivalent or  above  in  the Central Government or such officers as are or have been on  deputation to a Public Sector Undertaking; officers of the Reserve Bank of  India of the level equivalent to Joint Secretary or  above  in  the  Central Government, Executive Directors and above of the SEBI and  Chairman  & Managing Director  and  Executive  Directors  and  such  of  the  bank officers who are one level below the  Board  of  Nationalised  Banks), there  should  be   prior   sanction   of   the   Secretary   of   the Ministry/Department concerned before SPE takes up any enquiry  (PE  or RC), including ordering  search  in  respect  of  them.  Without  such sanction, no enquiry shall be initiated by the SPE.  

      (ii)       xxx               xxx             xxx

      (iii)  xxx             xxx              xxx

      (iv)  xxx              xxx              xxx.”

51.         The above provision contained in Single Directive 4.7(3)(i)  was sought to be justified by the learned Attorney General in Vineet Narain1  on the ground  that  the  officers  at  the  decision  making  level  need  the protection against malicious  or  vexatious  investigations  in  respect  of honest decisions taken by them.  Learned Attorney General in Vineet  Narain1 submitted that such a structure to regulate the grant of sanction by a  high authority together with a time-frame to avoid any delay  was  sufficient  to make the procedure reasonable and to  provide  for  an  objective  decision being taken for the grant of sanction within  the  specified  time.  It  was urged that  refusal  of  sanction  would  enable  judicial  review  of  that decision in case of any grievance.  

52.          This  Court  in  Vineet  Narain1  took  notice  of  the  report submitted by IRC, which recorded:

       “In the past several years, there has been  progressive  increase  in allegations of  corruption involving public  servants.  Understandably,  cases of this  nature  have  attracted  heightened  media  and  public  attention. A general impression appears to have gained ground that the Central investigating agencies concerned  are  subject  to  extraneous pressures and have been indulging in dilatory tactics in not  bringing the guilty to book. The decisions of higher courts to directly monitor investigations in certain cases have added to the aforesaid belief.”

53.         The Court then discussed the earlier decisions of this Court  in J.A.C. Saldanha[74] and K. Veeraswami25 and also the provisions of the  DSPE Act and held that: “Powers  of  investigation  which  are  governed  by  the statutory  provisions  and  they  cannot  be  curtailed  by  any   executive instruction.”  Having said that, this Court stated  that  the  law  did  not classify  offenders  differently   for   treatment   thereunder,   including investigation of offences and prosecution for offences, according  to  their status in life. Every person accused of committing the same  offence  is  to be dealt with in the same manner in accordance with law, which is  equal  in its application to everyone. The Single  Directive  is  applicable  only  to certain persons above the specified level who  are  described  as  decision-making officers. Negativing that any distinction can be made  for  them  for the purpose of investigation of an offence of which they are  accused,  this Court in paragraphs 45 and 46 held as under:

“45. Obviously, where the accusation of corruption is based on  direct evidence and it does not  require any inference to be  drawn  dependent on the decision-making process, there is no rational basis to classify them differently. In other words, if  the  accusation  be  of  bribery which is  supported  by  direct  evidence  of  acceptance  of  illegal gratification by them, including trap cases, it  is  obvious  that  no other factor is relevant and the level or status of  the  offender  is       irrelevant. It is for this reason  that  it  was  conceded  that  such cases, i.e., of bribery, including trap cases, are outside  the  scope of the Single Directive. After some debate at the Bar, no  serious       attempt was made by the learned Attorney General to support  inclusion within the Single Directive of cases in which the offender is  alleged to be in possession of disproportionate assets. It is clear  that  the accusation of possession of disproportionate assets  by  a  person  is also based  on  direct  evidence  and  no  factor  pertaining  to  the expertise of decision-making is involved therein.  We have,  therefore, no doubt that the Single Directive cannot  include  within  its  ambit cases of possession of disproportionate assets by  the  offender.  The question now is only with regard to cases other than those of bribery, including trap cases, and of possession of disproportionate assets being covered by the Single Directive.

      46. There may be other cases where the accusation cannot be  supported by direct evidence and is a matter of inference of corrupt motive  for the decision, with nothing to prove directly any illegal gain  to  the decision-maker. Those are cases in which the inference drawn  is  that the decision must have been made for  a  corrupt  motive  because  the decision could not have been reached otherwise by an officer  at  that level in the hierarchy. This is, therefore, an area where the  opinion of persons with requisite expertise in decision-making of that kind is relevant and, may be even decisive in reaching the conclusion  whether the allegation requires any investigation to be made. In view  of  the fact that the CBI or the police force  does  not  have  the  expertise within its fold for the formation of the  requisite  opinion  in  such cases, the need for the inclusion of such a  mechanism  comprising  of experts in the field as a part of the infrastructure  of  the  CBI  is      obvious, to decide whether the accusation made discloses grounds for a reasonable suspicion of the commission of an offence and  it  requires investigation. In  the  absence  of  any  such  mechanism  within  the infrastructure of the CBI, comprising of experts in the field who  can       evaluate the material  for  the  decision  to  be  made,  introduction therein of a body of experts having expertise of the kind of  business which requires the decision to be made, can be appreciated. But  then, the final opinion is to be of the CBI with the aid of that advice  and not that of anyone else. It would be more appropriate to have  such  a body within the infrastructure of the CBI itself.”

54.         This Court, accordingly,  declared  Single  Directive  4.7(3)(i) being invalid.

55.         Section 6-A replicates Single  Directive  4.7(3)(i),  which  was struck down by this Court.  The only change is  that  executive  instruction is replaced by the legislation.  Now, insofar as the vice that  was  pointed out by this Court that powers of investigation which  are  governed  by  the statutory provisions under the DSPE Act  and  they  cannot  be  estopped  or curtailed by any executive instruction issued under  Section  4(1)  of  that Act is concerned, it has been remedied.  But the question remains, and  that is what has been raised in these matters,  whether  Section  6-A  meets  the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution.

56.         Can classification be made creating a class  of  the  government officers of the level  of  Joint  Secretary  and  above  level  and  certain officials in public   sector undertakings   for   the    purpose    of inquiry/investigation into an offence alleged to have been  committed  under the PC Act, 1988? Or, to put it differently, can classification be  made  on the basis of the status/position of the public servant for  the  purpose  of inquiry/investigation into the allegation  of  graft  which  amounts  to  an offence under the PC Act, 1988?  Can  the  Legislature  lay  down  different principles for investigation/inquiry into the allegations of corruption  for the public servants who hold a particular position?  Is such  classification founded on sound differentia?  To answer these questions, we  should  eschew the doctrinaire approach.  Rather, we should test the validity  of  impugned classification by broad considerations  having  regard  to  the  legislative

policy relating to prevention of corruption enacted in the PC Act, 1988  and the powers of inquiry/investigation under the DSPE Act.

57.         The Constitution permits the State to determine, by the  process of classification, what should be  regarded  as  a  class  for  purposes  of legislation and in relation to law enacted on a particular  subject.   There is bound to be some degree of inequality when there is  segregation  of  one class from the other.  However, such segregation must be  rational  and  not artificial or evasive. In other words, the classification must not  only  be based on some qualities or characteristics, which are to  be  found  in  all persons grouped together and not in  others  who  are  left  out  but  those qualities or characteristics must have a reasonable relation to  the  object of the legislation.  Differentia which is the basis of  classification  must be  sound  and  must  have  reasonable  relation  to  the  object   of   the legislation.  If the object itself is discriminatory, then explanation  that classification is reasonable having rational relation to the  object  sought to be achieved is immaterial.

58.         It seems to us that classification which is made in Section  6-A on the basis of status in the Government service is  not  permissible  under Article 14 as it defeats the purpose of finding prima facie truth  into  the allegations of graft, which amount to an offence under  the  PC  Act,  1988. Can there be sound differentiation between corrupt public servants based  on their status? Surely not, because irrespective of their status or  position, corrupt public servants are corrupters of public power.  The corrupt  public servants, whether high or low, are birds of the same  feather  and  must  be confronted with the process of investigation and inquiry equally.  Based  on the position or status in  service,  no  distinction  can  be  made  between public servants against whom there are allegations amounting to  an  offence under the PC Act, 1988.

59.         Corruption is an enemy of the nation and tracking  down  corrupt public servants and punishing such persons is a necessary mandate of the  PC Act, 1988.  It is difficult to justify the  classification  which  has  been made in Section 6-A because the goal of law in the PC Act, 1988 is  to  meet corruption cases with a very strong hand and all public servants are  warned through such a legislative measure that  corrupt  public  servants  have  to face very serious consequences.  In the words of Mathew, J. in Ambica  Mills Ltd.72, “The equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the  protection  of equal laws. But laws may classify...... A reasonable classification  is  one which includes all who  are  similarly  situated  and  none  who  are  not”. Mathew, J., while explaining the meaning of the words, ‘similarly  situated’ stated that we must look beyond the classification to  the  purpose  of  the law. The purpose of a  law  may  be  either  the  elimination  of  a  public mischief  or  the  achievement   of   some   positive   public   good.   The classification made in Section 6-A neither eliminates  public  mischief  nor

achieves some positive public good. On the other hand,  it  advances  public mischief  and  protects  the   crime-doer.    The   provision   thwarts   an independent,  unhampered,  unbiased,  efficient  and  fearless   inquiry / investigation to track down the corrupt public servants.

60.         The essence of  police  investigation  is  skilful  inquiry  and collection of material and   evidence   in   a   manner   by    which    the potential   culpable individuals are not forewarned.  The previous  approval from the Government necessarily required under Section 6-A would  result  in indirectly putting to notice the officers   to   be   investigated    before  commencement   o f   investigation.  Moreover,  if  the  CBI  is  not  even allowed to verify complaints by preliminary enquiry, how can the  case  move forward?  A preliminary enquiry is intended to  ascertain  whether  a  prima facie case for investigation is made out or not. If CBI  is  prevented  from holding a preliminary enquiry, at the very threshold, a  fetter  is  put  to enable the CBI to gather relevant material.  As a matter of  fact,  the  CBI is not able to collect the material even to  move  the  Government  for  the purpose of obtaining previous approval from the Central Government.

61.         It is important to bear in mind that  as  per  the  CBI  Manual, (Paragraph 9.10) a preliminary enquiry relating to  allegations  of  bribery and  corruption  should  be  limited  to  the  scrutiny   of   records   and interrogation of  bare  minimum  persons  which  being  necessary  to  judge whether there is any substance in the allegations which are  being  enquired into and whether the case is  worth  pursuing  further  or  not.  Even  this exercise of scrutiny of records and gathering relevant information  to  find out whether the case is worth pursuing further or not is not  possible.   In the criminal justice system, the inquiry and investigation into an offence

is the domain  of  the  police.  The  very  power  of  CBI  to  enquire  and investigate into  the  allegations  of  bribery  and  corruption  against  a certain class of public servants and officials  in  public  undertakings  is subverted and impinged by Section 6-A.

62.         The justification for having  such  classification  is  founded principally on the statement made by the then Minister of Law  and  Justice that if no protection is  to  be  given  to  the  officers,  who  take  the decisions and make discretions, then anybody can file a  complaint  and  an inspector of the CBI or the police can raid their  houses  any  moment.  If this elementary protection is not given to the senior decision makers, they would not tender  honest  advice  to  political  executives.   Such  senior officers then may play safe and give   non-committal  advice  affecting  the governance. The justification for classification in Section 6-A is also put forth on the basis of the report of the Joint  Parliamentary  Committee  to which CVC Bill, 1999 was referred particularly at the question relating  to Clause 27  regarding amendment of the DSPE Act (the provision which is  now Section 6-A).  The Joint Parliamentary Committee, in this regard  noted  as follows:

           “The Committee note that many witnesses who appeared before  the Committee had expressed the need to protect the bonafide actions at the decision making level.  At present there is no  provision in the Bill for seeking prior approval of the Commission or  the head of the Department etc. for registering  a  case  against  a person of the decision making level.  As such, no protection  is            available to the persons at the decision making level.  In  this regard, the Committee note that earlier, the prior  approval  of the Government was required in the form of a ‘Single  Directive’ which was set aside by the Supreme Court.   The  Committee  feel that such a protection should be restored  in  the  same  format which was there earlier and desire  that  the  power  of  giving prior approval for taking action against a senior officer of the decision  making  level  should  be vested  with  the   Central Government by making appropriate  provision  in  the Act. The Committee, therefore, recommend  that  Clause  27  of  the  Bill accordingly amended so as to insert a new section 6A to the DSPE Act, 1946, to this effect.”

63.         As a matter of fact, the justification  for  Section  6-A  which has been put forth before us on behalf of the  Central  Government  was  the justification for Single Directive 4.7(3)(i) in  Vineet  Narain1  as  well. However, the Court was unable to persuade itself with the same.   In  Vineet Narain1 in respect of Single Directive 4.7(3)(i), the Court said that  every person accused of committing the same offence is to be  dealt  with  in  the same manner in accordance with law, which is equal  in  its  application  to everyone. We are in agreement with the above observation in Vineet  Narain1, which, in our opinion, equally applies to Section 6-A.  In  Vineet  Narain1, this Court did  not  accept  the  argument  that  the  Single  Directive  is applicable only to certain class of officers above the specified  level  who are decision making officers and a distinction can be made for them for  the purpose of investigation of an offence of which they  are  accused.  We  are also clearly of the view that no distinction can be made for  certain  class of officers specified in Section 6-A who are described  as  decision  making officers for the purpose of inquiry/investigation into an offence under  the PC Act, 1988.  There is no rational  basis  to  classify  the  two  sets  of public servants differently on the  ground  that  one  set  of  officers  is decision making officers and not the other set of officers.  If there is  an accusation of bribery, graft, illegal gratification or  criminal  misconduct against a public servant, then we fail to understand as to  how  the  status of offender is of any relevance.  Where  there  are allegations  against  a public servant which amount to an offence under the PC Act, 1988, no  factor pertaining to expertise of decision making is involved.   Yet,  Section  6-A makes a distinction. It is this vice which renders Section 6-A violative  of Article 14.  Moreover, the result of the impugned legislation  is  that  the very group of persons, namely, high ranking  bureaucrats   whose    misdeeds and   illegalities   may   have   to   be   inquired   into,   would  decide whether the CBI should even start an inquiry or investigation  against  them or  not. There will  be  no confidentiality  and   insulation   of   the investigating agency from political and bureaucratic control  and  influence because the approval is to  be  taken  from  the  Central  Government  which

would   involve   leaks   and   disclosures   at   every stage.

64.         It is true that sub-Section (2) of Section 6-A  has  taken  care of observations of this Court in Vineet Narain1 insofar as  trap  cases  are concerned.  It also takes care of the infirmity pointed out  by  this  Court that in the absence of any statutory  requirement  of  prior  permission  or sanction for investigation, it cannot be imposed as  a  condition  precedent

for initiation of investigation, but, Section 6-A continues to  suffer  from the  other  two  infirmities  which  this  Court  noted  concerning   Single Directive, viz.; (a) where inference is to be drawn that the  decision  must have been  for  corrupt  motive  and  direct  evidence  is  not  there,  the expertise to take decision whether to proceed or not in  such  cases  should

be with the CBI itself and not with the Central Government and  (b)  in  any event the final decision to commence investigation into  the  offences  must be of the CBI with the internal aid and advice  and  not  of  anybody  else. Section  6-A  also   suffers  from  the  vice   of   classifying   offenders differently for  treatment  thereunder  for  inquiry  and  investigation  of offences, according to their  status  in  life.   Every  person  accused  of committing the same offence is to be  dealt  with  in  the  same  manner  in accordance with law, which is equal in its  application to everyone.

65.          Way  back  in  1993,  the  Central  Government  constituted  a Committee under the Chairmanship of the former Home  Secretary  (Shri  N.N. Vohra) to take stock of all available information about the  activities  of the crime syndicates/mafia organizations, which had  developed  links  with and  were  being  permitted  by  Government  functionaries  and   political personalities. In para 14.3 of the report, the Committee has observed  that linkages  of  crime  syndicate  with  senior  Government  functionaries  or political leaders in the States or at the Centre could have a destabilizing effect  on  the  functioning of the Government. The report  paints a frightening picture of criminal-bureaucratic-political nexus – a network of high level corruption. The impugned provision puts this nexus in a position to block inquiry and investigation  by  CBI  by  conferring  the  power  of previous approval on the Central Government.

66.         A class of Central Government employees  has  been  created in Section 6-A inasmuch as it offers protection to a class of  the  Government officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above to whom DSPE Act applies but no such protection is available to the officers of the same level,  who

are posted in various States.  This  position  is  accepted  by  CBI.   Mr. Sidharth Luthra, learned Additional Solicitor General placed before us  the following questions and answers to clarify the legal position:

“Question No.1 :  Whether an officer of  the  public  sector  bank / public sector undertaking of

Central  Govt.  in  the rank of Joint Secretary and above  while  posting  in the State and alleged to have  committed  an  offence under P.C. Act, can be investigated by  State  Police or CBI?

 

 Answer No.1  : Yes, both State  Police  and  CBI  have  jurisdiction under P.C. Act over such

officers. The jurisdiction of CBI is, however, subject to Section 6(A)  of  DSPE Act and consent of the State Govt. u/s 6 of the  DSPE Act, 1946.

 Question No.2  : Whether an employee of All India  Service  i.e.  IPS, IAS and Indian Forest

                                Services while  posted  in  the State Govt. at the JS level and above  can claim                                     protection under 6(A)?

 Answer No.2  :   No, as the very wording of Section 6(A) mentions only the employees of the Central

                                Govt.

 Question No.3  : Whether in a Union Territory, the  State  Police  and the CBI will have

 concurrent  jurisdiction   over employees of Central Govt. for PC Act offences?

 Answer No.3 : Yes, both the  State   UT  Police  and  CBI  have jurisdiction over Central

Govt. employees under  P.C. Act.  Section 6(A) of DSPE Act is operative  for  CBI for officers of the level of JS and above.

 Question No.4 : What will be the position regarding employees of the Central Govt. in the Allied /

Central Civil  Services such as Indian Revenue Service, Postal  Service  etc. Who are working in the territory of the State but not posted in the State?

 Answer No.4  : Yes, both State  Police  and  CBI  have  jurisdiction under P.C. Act over such

officers. The jurisdiction of CBI is, however, subject to Section 6(A)  of  DSPE Act and consent of the State Govt. u/s 6 of the  DSPE Act, 1946.

67.         Can it be said that the classification is based on intelligible differentia when one set of bureaucrats of Joint Secretary level and  above who are working with the Central Government are  offered  protection  under Section 6-A while the same level of officers who are working in the  States do not get protection though both classes of these officers are accused  of an offence under PC  Act,  1988  and  inquiry  /  investigation  into  such allegations is to be carried out.  Our  answer  is  in  the  negative.  The provision in Section 6-A, thus, impedes tracking down  the  corrupt  senior bureaucrats as without previous approval of the Central Government, the CBI cannot even hold preliminary inquiry much less an  investigation  into  the allegations. The protection in Section 6-A has propensity of shielding  the corrupt.  The  object of Section 6-A, that senior public  servants  of  the level of Joint Secretary and above who take policy decision must not be put to any harassment, side-tracks the fundamental objective  of  the  PC  Act, 1988 to deal with corruption and act against senior  public  servants.  The CBI is not able to proceed even to collect the material  to  unearth  prima facie substance into the merits of allegations. Thus, the object of Section 6-A itself is discriminatory. That being the position,  the  discrimination cannot be justified on the ground that there is a reasonable classification because it has rational relation to the object sought to be achieved.

68.         The signature tune in Vineet Narain1 is, “However high you  may be, the law is above you.”  We reiterate the same. Section 6-A offends this signature tune and effectively Article 14.

69.         Undoubtedly, every differentiation is not a discrimination but at the same time, differentiation must be founded  on  pertinent  and  real differences as distinguished from irrelevant and artificial ones.  A simple physical grouping which separates one category from the other  without  any rational basis is not a sound or intelligible differentia.  The separation or segregation must have a systematic relation and rational basis  and  the object of such segregation must not be discriminatory. Every public servant against whom there is reasonable suspicion of commission of crime or  there are allegations of an offence under the PC Act,  1988 has to be treated equally and similarly under the law.  Any distinction made between them  on the basis of their status or  position  in  service  for  the  purposes  of inquiry / investigation is  nothing  but  an  artificial  one  and  offends Article 14.

70.         Office of public power cannot be the workshop of personal gain. The probity in public life is of great  importance.   How  can  two  public servants against whom there are allegations of corruption or graft or bribe-taking or criminal misconduct under the PC Act, 1988  can  be  made  to  be treated differently because one happens to be  a  junior  officer  and  the other, a senior decision maker.

71.         Corruption is an enemy of nation and tracking down corrupt public servant, howsoever high he may be, and punishing  such  person  is  a necessary mandate under the PC Act, 1988.  The status or position of public servant does not qualify such  public  servant  from  exemption  from  equal treatment.  The decision making power does not  segregate  corrupt  officers into two classes as they are common crime doers  and  have  to  be   tracked down by the same process of inquiry and investigation.

72.         It is argued on behalf of the Central  Government  that  now office memorandum (dated 26.09.2011) approving the recommendations made  by the Group of Ministers has been issued which provides inter alia for  quick consideration of the request by the CBI  for  approval  and  also  to  give reasons for granting  /  rejecting  sanction  under  Section  6-A. It  is submitted that delay in disposal of the requests by the CBI  is  now  taken care of and if there is denial of sanction order under  Section  6-A,  such order of the Central Government can be challenged in a writ petition before  the High Court.  Such protection, it is submitted, is  even  recognized  by

United Nations in Article 30 of the UN Convention against corruption.  This aspect has been considered by this Court in Manohar Lal Sharma4 to which we shall refer appropriately a little later.

73.         The PC Act, 1988 is a special statute  and  its  preamble  shows that it has been enacted to consolidate and amend the law  relating  to  the prevention of corruption and for the matters  connected  therewith.   It  is intended to make the  corruption  laws  more  effective  by  widening  their coverage and by  strengthening  the  provisions.   It  came  to  be  enacted because Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 as amended from time to time  was

inadequate to deal with the offences of corruption effectively. The new  Act now seeks to provide for speedy trial of offences punishable under  the  Act in public interest  as  the  legislature  had  become  aware  of  corruption amongst the public servants.

74.          Corruption  corrodes  the  moral  fabric  of  the  society  and corruption by public servants not only  leads  to  corrosion  of  the  moral fabric of the society but also harmful to the national economy and  national interest, as the persons occupying high posts in the Government by  misusing their power due to corruption can cause considerable damage to the  national

economy, national interest and image of the country[75].

75.         The PC Act, 1988 has also widened the scope  of  the  definition of the expression ‘public servant’ and incorporated offences under  Sections 161 to 165A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  By Lokpal and  Lokayuktas  Act, 2013 (Act 1 of  2014),  further  amendments  have  been  made  therein.  The penalties relating to the offences under Sections 7, 8, 9,  12,  13  and  14

have been enhanced by these amendments.

75.1        Section 7 makes taking gratification by a public  servant  other than legal remuneration in respect of an official  act  as  an  offence  and provides penalties for such offence.  The  expressions  ‘gratification’  and ‘legal remuneration’ have been explained in  clauses  (b)  and (c)  of  the Explanation appended to Section  7.   Taking  gratification  by  corrupt  or illegal means to influence public servant is  an  offence  under  Section  8 while under  Section  9,  taking  gratification  for  exercise  of  personal influence with a public servant is  an  offence.  Section  10  provides  for punishment for abetment by public servant of offences defined in  Section  8 or 9. Section 11 provides for an offence  where  a  public  servant  obtains valuable thing without consideration from person concerned in proceeding  or business transacted by such public servant. The punishment for  abetment  of offences defined in Section 7 or 11 is provided in Section 12.

75.2        Section 13 is a provision relating to criminal misconduct  by  a public servant. It reads as follows:

      “13.  Criminal misconduct by a public servant.- (1) A  public  servant is said to commit the offence of criminal misconduct,-            

(a) if he habitually accepts or obtains or agrees to  accept  or attempts to obtain from any person for himself or for any  other person any gratification other  than  legal  remuneration  as  a motive or reward such as is mentioned in section 7; or            

(b) if he habitually accepts or obtains or agrees to  accept  or attempts to obtain for himself or  for  any  other  person,  any  valuable thing without  consideration  or  for  a  consideration which he knows to be inadequate from any person whom he knows to have been, or to be, or to be likely  to  be  concerned  in  any  proceeding or business transacted or about to be  transacted  by him, or having any connection with  the  official  functions  of himself or of any public servant to whom he is  subordinate,  or from any person whom he knows to be interested in or related  to the person so concerned; or

(c)  if  he  dishonestly  or  fraudulently  misappropriates   or otherwise converts for his own use any property entrusted to him or under his control as a public servant  or  allows  any  other person so to do; or

      (d) if he,-

(i) by corrupt or illegal means, obtains for himself or for any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage;

                                                                or

(ii) by abusing his position as a public  servant,  obtains for himself or for any other person any valuable  thing  or pecuniary advantage; or

(iii) while holding office as a public servant, obtains for any  person  any  valuable  thing  or  pecuniary  advantage without any public interest; or

(e) if he or any person on his behalf, is in possession or  has, at any time during the period of his office, been in  possession for which the public servant cannot satisfactorily  account,  of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income.

 

Explanation.-For the purposes of this section, "known  sources  of income" means income received from any lawful source and such  receipt has been intimated in accordance with the provisions of any law, rules or orders for the time being applicable to a public servant.

(2) Any public  servant  who  commits  criminal  misconduct shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not  less  than  four years but which may extend to ten years and shall also be  liable  to fine.”

75.3        Section 17 authorizes only certain level of police  officers  to investigate the offences under the PC Act, 1988. An investigation into  such offences by any other police officer can be carried out  only  after  having proper authorization from the competent  court  or  competent  authority  as provided therein.

75.4        Section 19 mandates that 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 as  provided in that section. Section 19 does not permit any court to take cognizance  of an offence punishable under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15  of  the  PC  Act,

1988 without previous  sanction  from  the  competent  authority  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. Section 19, thus, provides to every public servant, irrespective of his position in service, protection from frivolous  and  malicious prosecution.

76.         The menace of corruption has been noticed by this Court in  Ram Singh8.  The court has observed:

 

“Corruption, at the initial stages, was  considered  confined  to  the  bureaucracy which had the opportunities to  deal  with  a  variety  of  State largesse in the form of contracts,  licences  and  grants.  Even after the war the opportunities  for  corruption  continued  as  large amounts of government surplus stores were required to be  disposed  of  by the public servants. As a consequence of the wars the  shortage  of various goods necessitated the imposition of  controls  and  extensive schemes of post-war reconstruction involving the disbursement of  huge       sums of money which lay in the control of the public  servants  giving  them a  wide  discretion  with  the  result  of  luring  them  to  the glittering shine of wealth and property.”

77.         This Court in Shobha Suresh Jumani[76], took judicial notice  of the fact that because of  the  mad  race  of  becoming  rich  and  acquiring properties overnight or because  of  the  ostentatious  or  vulgar  show  of wealth by a few or because of  change  of  environment  in  the  society  by adoption of materialistic approach, there is cancerous growth of  corruption

which has affected the moral standards  of  the  people  and  all  forms  of governmental administration.

78.          The  PC  Act,  1988  enacts  the  legislative  policy  to  meet corruption cases with a very strong hand.  All public  servants  are  warned through such a legislative measure that  corrupt  public  servants  have  to face very serious consequences.[77]

79.         The two-Judge Bench of this Court observed in  Sanjiv  Kumar[78] that the case before them had brought to the fore the rampant corruption  in the corridors of politics and bureaucracy.

80.         In a comparatively recent decision of this Court in  Subramanian Swamy9, this court was concerned with the question whether a  complaint  can be filed by a citizen for prosecuting the  public  servant  for  an  offence under the PC Act, 1988 and  whether  the  authority  competent  to  sanction prosecution of a public servant for offences under that Act is  required  to

take 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  Narain1  and  the  guidelines  issued  by  the  Central  Government, Department of Personnel and Training and the Central  Vigilance  Commission. In the supplementing judgment, A.K. Ganguly, J. while  concurring  with  the main judgment delivered by G.S. Singhvi, J. observed:

“Today, corruption in our country not only poses a grave danger to the concept of constitutional  governance,  it  also  threatens  the  very foundation of the 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……….” Dealing with Section 19 of the PC Act, 1988 which bars a court  from  taking cognizance of the  cases  of  corruption  against  a  public  servant  under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 of the PC Act, 1988,  unless  the  Central  or the State Government, as the case may be,  has  accorded  sanction  observed that this provision virtually imposes fetters on private citizens and also on prosecutors from  approaching  court  against  corrupt  public  servants.  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  but  the   protection  against malicious prosecution which is extended in public interest cannot  become  a shield to protect corrupt officials.

81.         In Balakrishna Dattatrya Kumbhar11,  this  Court  observed  that corruption was not only a punishable offence but also, “undermines human rights, indirectly violating them, and systematic  corruption,  is  a  human rights’ violation in itself, as it leads to systematic economic crimes”.

82.         In R.A. Mehta10, the two-Judge Bench  of  this  Court  made  the following observations about corruption in the society:

“Corruption in a society is required to be detected and eradicated  at the earliest as it shakes “the socio-economic-political system  in  an otherwise healthy, wealthy, effective and vibrating society”.  Liberty cannot last long unless the State is able to eradicate corruption from public life. Corruption is a bigger threat than external threat to the civil society as it corrodes the vitals of  our  polity  and  society. Corruption  is  instrumental in not proper implementation and enforcement of policies adopted by the Government.  Thus,  it  is  not merely a fringe issue  but  a  subject-matter  of  grave  concern  and requires to be decisively dealt with.” 

83.         Now we turn to the recent decision of this Court in Manohar  Lal Sharma4.  A three-Judge Bench  of  this  Court  in  that  case  leaving  the question of constitutional validity of Section 6-A  untouched  and  touching upon the  question  whether  the  approval  of  the  Central  Government  is necessary under Section 6-A in  a  matter  where  the  inquiry/investigation into the crime under the PC Act, 1988  is  being  monitored  by  the  Court,

speaking through one of us (R.M. Lodha, J., as he then was) on  the  inquiryinto allegations of corruption observed that for successful working  of  the democracy it was essential that  public  revenues   are  not  defrauded  and public servants do not indulge in bribery and corruption  and  if  they  do, the allegations of corruption are to be inquired into fairly,  properly  and promptly and those who are guilty are brought to book. It was observed:

“Abuse of public office for private gain has grown in scope and  scale and hit the nation badly.  Corruption reduces revenue; it  slows  down economic activity and holds back economic  growth.  The  biggest  loss that may occur to the nation due to corruption is loss  of  confidence in the democracy and weakening of the rule of law.”

83.1        Madan B. Lokur, J. in  his  supplementing  judgment  dealt  with Office  Memorandum dated 26th September, 2011.  The relevant extract  of  the Office Memorandum has been quoted in paragraph 74  of  the  judgment,  which reads:

“The undersigned is directed  to   state   that   the   provision   of section 6-A of  the  DSPE  Act,   1946   provides   for   safeguarding senior  public  officials  against  undue and  vexatious   harassment by  the    investigating  agency.   It  had  been  observed that  the requests being  made  by  the  investigating  agency  under  the  said provision were not being accorded due priority and the examination  of  such proposals at  times lacked  objectivity.  The  matter  was  under consideration of  the  Group  of  Ministers  constituted  to  consider measures that can be taken by the Government to tackle Corruption.

The Government has accepted the following recommendation of  the Group  of Ministers, as  reflected in para 25 of the First Report of the Group of Ministers, as reflected in para 25 of the first report of the Group of Ministers:-

(a).  The competent authority shall decide  the   matter within  three months  of  receipt   of   requests    accompanied with   relevant documents.

(b).  The  competent  authority  will  give  a  speaking order,  giving reasons for its decision.

(c)  In  the  event  a  decision  is  taken  to  refuse permission,  the reasons thereof shall be put  up  to  the  next higher  authority  for information within one week  of taking the decision.

(d) Since Section 6-A specifically covers  officers of the Central  Government, above  the  rank  of  Joint  Secretary, the  competent authority in these cases will be  the   Minister  in  charge   in   the  Government  of  India.   In  such  cases, intimation of refusal to grant  permission  along  with  reasons thereof, will have to be  put  up  to the Prime Minister.

The above decision of the Government  is  brought  to the notice of all  Ministries/Departments for due  adherence  and strict compliance.”

83.2         The  above  office  memorandum  has  not  been  found   to   be efficacious in Manohar Lal  Sharma4  as  it  does  not  effectively  prevent  possible misuse of law.  There  is  no  guarantee  that  the  time  schedule prescribed in the office memorandum shall  be  strictly  followed.   In  any case, what  can  CBI  do  if  the  time  schedule  provided  in  the  office memorandum is not maintained.  Even otherwise, office memorandum is  not  of much help in adjudging the constitutional validity of Section 6-A.

84.         Learned amicus curiae highlighted that there was no  requirement of previous approval  as  contained  in  the  impugned  provisions  between 18.12.1997 (the date of Vineet Narain1 judgment  striking  down  the  Single Directive) and 11.9.2003 (when Act 45 of 2003 came into  force)  except  the period between 25.8.1998 and 27.10.1998 when the CVC Ordinance, 1998 was  in force and till the deletions by the CVC Amendment  Ordinance,  1998.  It  is not the stand of the Central  Government  before  us  nor  any  material  is placed on record by it to suggest even remotely that during the period  when the Single Directive was not in operation or until Section 6-A  was  brought on  the  statute  book,  CBI  harassed  any  senior  government  officer  or

investigated frivolous and vexatious complaints. The  high-pitched  argument in justification of Section 6-A  that  senior  government  officers  may  be unduly and unnecessarily harassed on  frivolous  and  vexatious  complaints, therefore, does not hold water.

85.         Criminal justice system mandates  that  any  investigation  into the crime should be fair, in accordance with law and should not be  tainted.  It is equally important that interested  or  influential  persons  are  not able to misdirect or highjack the investigation so as  to  throttle  a  fair investigation resulting in the offenders escaping  the  punitive  course  of law.  These are important facets of rule of law.  Breach of rule of law,  in our opinion, amounts to negation of equality under Article 14.  Section  6-A fails in the context of these facets of Article 14.  The argument of Mr.  L. Nageswara Rao that rule of law is not above law and cannot be a  ground  for invalidating legislations overlooks the well settled position that  rule  of law is a facet of equality under Article  14  and  breach  of  rule  of  law amounts to breach of equality under Article 14  and,  therefore,  breach  of rule of law may be a  ground  for  invalidating  the  legislation  being  in negation of Article 14.

86.         Section 156 of the Cr.P.C. enables any officer in  charge  of  a police  station  to  investigate  a  cognizable  offence.  Insofar  as  non-cognizable offence is concerned, a police officer by virtue of  Section  155 of Cr.P.C. can investigate it after obtaining  appropriate  order  from  the Magistrate having power to try such  case  or  commit  the  case  for  trial regardless of the status of the officer concerned.  The  scheme  of  Section 155 and Section 156 Cr.P.C. indicates that the local police may  investigate a senior  Government  officer  without  previous  approval  of  the  Central Government.  However, CBI cannot  do  so  in  view  of  Section  6-A.   This anomaly in fact occurred in Centre for PIL[79].  That was a matter in  which investigations were conducted by the  local  police  in  respect  of  senior Government official without any previous approval and  a  challan  filed  in the court of Special Judge dealing with offences under  the  PC  Act,  1988. Dealing with such anomaly in  Centre  for  PIL79,  Madan  B.  Lokur,  J.  in Manohar Lal Sharma4 observed, “It  is  difficult  to  understand  the  logic behind  such  a  dichotomy  unless  it  is  assumed   that   frivolous   and vexatious complaints are  made  only  when  the  CBI  is  the  investigating agency  and  that  it  is  only  CBI  that  is  capable  of  harassing    or victimizing  a senior Government official while the  local  police  of   the State  Government does not entertain frivolous and vexatious complaints  and is not capable  of harassing or victimizing a  senior  government  official. No such assumption  can  be  made.”     The  above  clearly  indicates  that Section 6-A has brought an anomalous situation and the very  object  of  the provision to give  protection  to  certain  officers  (Joint  Secretary  and above) in the  Central  Government  has  been  rendered  discriminatory  and violative of Article 14.

87.         It is pertinent to notice that in Subramanian Swamy9 this  Court noted that as per supplementary written submissions tendered by the  learned Attorney General, 126 cases were awaiting sanction for prosecution from  the Central Government  for  periods  ranging  from  one  year  to  few  months. Moreover, in more than one-third of the cases of  requests  for  Prosecution in corruption  cases  against  public  servants,  sanctions  have  not  been accorded.  Whether an  enactment  providing  for  special  procedure  for  a certain class of persons is  or  is  not  discriminatory  and  violative  of Article 14 must be determined in its own context. A practical assessment  of the operation of the law in particular circumstances is  necessary  and  the court can take judicial notice of existing conditions  from  time  to  time. The scenario noted in Subramanian Swamy9 and the facts in Telecom  Watchdog5 - to illustrate the few – show that differentia in Section 6-A  is  directly destructive and runs counter to the object and reason of the PC  Act,  1988. It also  undermines  the  object  of  detecting  and  punishing  high  level corruption.

 88.         Mr. K.V. Viswanathan, learned Additional Solicitor  General  has strongly relied upon the observations made by this Court in P.  Sirajuddin52 that if baseless allegations are made against senior  Government  officials, it would cause  incalculable  harm  not only to the  officer  in  particular but  to  the   department   that   he   belonged   to,   in   general.   He, particularly, referred to the  following  observations  in  P.  Sirajuddin52 (para 17, page 601 of the report):

“………..Before a public servant, whatever be  his  status,  is  publicly charged  with  acts  of dishonesty   which   amount    to    serious misdemeanour  or misconduct of the type alleged in  this  case  and  a first information is lodged against him, there must be some suitable       preliminary  enquiry into the allegations by  a  responsible  officer. The lodging of  such  a  report against a person,  specially  one  who like the appellant occupied the  top   position   in   a   department,  even  if  baseless,  would  do  incalculable  harm  not  only  to  the       officer in  particular  but  to  the department  he  belonged  to,  in general.”

89.         In our opinion, P. Sirajuddin52 also emphasizes equality  before law.  This decision, in our opinion, cannot  be  read  as  laying  down  the proposition that the distinction can be made for the purposes of  inquiry  /investigation of an offence of which public servants are  accused  based  on their status.

90.         It is pertinent to notice  that  in  Manohar  Lal  Sharma4,  the learned Attorney General made a concession to the effect that in  the  event of CBI conducting an inquiry,  as  opposed  to  an  investigation  into  the conduct of a senior government officer, no previous approval of the  Central Government is required since the inquiry does  not  have  the  same  adverse connotation that an investigation has.  To that extent, Section 6-A,  as  it is,  does  not  survive.   Insofar  as  investigation   is   concerned,   an investigation into a crime may have some adverse impact but where there  are allegations of an offence under the PC Act, 1988 against a  public  servant, whether  high  or  low,  whether  decision-maker  or  not,  an independent

investigation into such allegations is of utmost importance  and  unearthing  the truth is the goal.  The aim and object of  investigation  is  ultimately to search for truth and any law that impedes that object may not  stand  the test of Article 14.

91.         In the referral  order,  the  contention  of  learned  Solicitor General has been noted with regard to inconsistency in the two judgments  of this Court in Vineet Narain1 and K. Veeraswami25.

92.         In K. Veeraswami25, this Court in para 28 (pages 693-694 of  the report) observed:

“28. … Section 6 is primarily concerned to see  that  prosecution  for the specified offences shall not commence without the  sanction  of  a competent authority. That does not mean that the Act was  intended  to condone the offence of bribery and corruption by public  servant.  Nor       it was meant to afford protection  to  public  servant  from  criminal prosecution for such offences. It is only to protect the honest public servants from  frivolous  and  vexatious prosecution.  The  competent authority has to examine independently and impartially the material on record to  form  his  own  opinion  whether  the  offence  alleged  is frivolous or vexatious. The competent authority  may  refuse  sanction for prosecution if the offence alleged has no material to  support  or it is frivolous or intended to  harass  the  honest  officer.  But  he  cannot refuse to grant sanction if the material collected has made out the commission of the offence  alleged against  the  public  servant. Indeed he is duty-bound to grant sanction if  the  material  collected lend credence to the  complained of. There seems to be  another reason for taking away the discretion of the investigating  agency  to prosecute or not to prosecute a public servant. When a public  servant       is  prosecuted  for  an  offence  which  challenges  his  honesty  and integrity, the issue in such a case is not only between the prosecutor and the offender, but the State is also vitally concerned with  it  as it affects the morale of public servants and also  the  administrative interest of the State. The discretion to prosecute public  servant  is taken away from the prosecuting agency and is vested in the  authority which is  competent  to  remove  the  public  servant.  The  authority competent to remove the public servant would be in a  better  position than the prosecuting agency to assess  the  material  collected  in  a dispassionate and reasonable manner and determine whether sanction for prosecution of a public servant deserves to be granted or not.”

93.         In Vineet Narain1, the above  observations  in  K.  Veeraswami25 have been considered in paras 34 and 35 of the report  (pages  259-260)  and the three-Judge Bench held that the position of Judges of  High  Courts  and the Supreme Court, who are constitutional functionaries,  is  distinct,  and the  independence  of  judiciary,  keeping  it  free  from  any extraneous

influence, including that from executive, is the rationale of  the  decision in K. Veeraswami25. The Court went on  to  say:  “….  In  strict  terms  the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1946 could not  be  applied  to  the  superior Judges and, therefore, while bringing those Judges  within  the  purview  of the Act yet maintaining the independence of judiciary,  this  guideline  was issued as  a  direction  by  the  Court.  The  feature  of  independence  of judiciary  has  no  application  to  the  officers  covered  by  the  Single Directive. The  need  for  independence  of  judiciary  from  the  executive influence  does  not  arise  in  the  case  of  officers  belonging  to  the executive…..”

94.         The observations in K. Veeraswami25, as noted above, were  found to be confined to the Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme  Court,  who are constitutional functionaries, and  their  position  being  distinct  and different from the Government officers. In  our  opinion,  the  Constitution Bench decision in K. Veeraswami25 has no application to  the  senior  public

servants specified in Section 6-A. We  have,  therefore,  no  hesitation  in holding that the conclusion reached in para 34  in  Vineet  Narain1,  in  no manner, can be said to be inconsistent with the findings  recorded  in  para 28 of K. Veeraswami25.

95.         Various provisions under different statutes were referred to  by Mr. L. Nageswara Rao where permission of the government is  required  before taking cognizance or for institution of an offence. Section 197  of  Cr.P.C. was also referred to, which provides for protection  to  Judges  and  public servants  from  prosecution  except  with  the  previous  sanction  by   the

competent  authority.  It  may  be  immediately  stated  that  there  is  no similarity between the impugned provision in Section 6-A  of  the  DSPE  Act and Section 197  of  Cr.P.C.  Moreover,  where  challenge  is  laid  to  the constitutionality  of  a  legislation  on  the  bedrock  or  touchstone   of classification, it has to be determined  in  each  case  by  applying  well- settled two tests:  (i)  that  classification  is  founded  on  intelligible

differentia and (ii) that differentia  has  a  rational  relation  with  the object sought to be achieved  by  the  legislation.  Each  case  has  to  be examined independently in the context of Article 14 and not by applying  any general rule.

96.         A feeble attempt was  made  by  Mr.  K.V.  Viswanathan,  learned Additional Solicitor General that Section 6-A must at  least  be  saved  for the purposes of Section 13(1)(d)(ii) and (iii) of the PC Act, 1988.  In  our opinion, Section 6-A does not satisfy the well-settled tests in the  context of Article 14 and is not capable of severance for the purposes of Section 13(1)(d)(ii) and (iii).

97.         Having considered the impugned provision contained in Section 6-A and for the reasons indicated above, we do not think that it is  necessary to consider the other objections challenging the impugned provision  in  the context of Article 14.

98.         In view of our foregoing discussion, we  hold  that  Section  6-A(1), which requires approval of  the  Central  Government  to  conduct  any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged  to  have  been  committed under the PC Act, 1988 where such allegation relates to  (a)  the  employees of the Central Government of the level of Joint Secretary and above and  (b) such officers as are appointed by the  Central  Government  in  corporations established by or under any Central  Act,  government  companies,  societies and local authorities owned or controlled by the Government, is invalid  and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. As a necessary  corollary,  the provision contained in Section 26 (c) of the Act 45 of 2003 to  that  extent is also declared invalid.

99.         Writ petitions are allowed as above.

(R.M. Lodha) .…...………..……………………...CJI.                                  (A.K. Patnaik).…...………..……………………….J.                          (Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya) .…...….J.

                                 (Dipak Misra).…...………..……………………...J.

                                 (Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla)..…...J. 

NEW DELHI

MAY 06, 2014.

 

-----------------------

[1]    Vineet Narain & Ors. v. Union of India & Anr.; [(1998) 1 SCC 226]

[2]    I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu; [(2007) 2 SCC 1].

[3]    Centre for Public Interest Litigation & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.; [(2012) 3 SCC 1].

[4]    Manohar Lal Sharma v. Principal Secretary & Ors.; [(2014) 2 SCC 532].

[5]    Telecom Watchdog v. Union of India; (Delhi High Court W.P.(C) No. 9338/2009).

[6]    State of Madras v. V.G. Row; [1952 SCR 597].

[7]    D.S. Nakara and Ors. v. Union of India; [(1983) 1 SCC 305].

[8]    State of M.P. and Ors. v. Ram Singh; [(2000) 5 SCC 88].

[9]    Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh and Anr.; [(2012) 3 SCC 64].

[10]   State of Gujarat and Anr. v. Justice R.A. Mehta(Retd.) and Ors.; [(2013) 3 SCC 1].

[11]   State of Maharashtra v. Balakrishna Dattatrya Kumbhar; [(2012) 12 SCC 384].

[12]   Special Courts Bill, 1978, In re,; [(1979) 1 SCC 380].

[13]   State of Kerala and Ors. v. Travancore Chemicals and Manufacturing Co. and Anr.; [(1998) 8 SCC 188].

[14]   Krishna Mohan (P) Ltd. v. Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Ors.; [(2003) 7 SCC 151].

[15]   District Registrar and Collector, Hyderabad and Anr. v. Canara Bank and Ors.; [(2005) 1 SCC 496].

[16]   Air India v. Nergesh Meerza and Ors.; [(1981) 4 SCC 335].

[17]   Nagpur Improvement Trust and Anr. v. Vithal Rao and Ors.; [(1973) 1 SCC 500].

[18]   State of Karnataka v. Union of India and Anr.; [(1977) 4 SCC 608].

[19]   L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India and Ors.; [(1997) 3 SCC 261].

[20]   Kuldip Nayar and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors.; [(2006) 7 SCC 1].

[21]   Union of India v. R. Gandhi, President, Madras Bar Association; [(2010) 11 SCC 1].

[22]   K.T. Plantation (P) Ltd. & Anr. v. State of Karnataka; [(2011) 9 SCC 1].

[23]   G.C. Kanungo v. State of Orissa; [(1995) 5 SCC 96].

[24]   Indra Sawhney (2) v. Union of India and Ors.; [(2000) 1 SCC 168].

[25]   K. Veeraswami v. Union of India and Ors.; [(1991) 3 SCC 655].

[26]   E.P. Royappa v. State of T.N. and Anr.; [(1974) 4 SCC 3]

[27]   Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India and Anr.; [(1978) 1 SCC 248].

[28]   Ajay Hasia and Ors. v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi and Ors.; [(1981) 1 SCC 722].

[29]   Malpe Vishwanath Acharya and Ors. v. State of Maharashtra and Anr.; [(1998) 2 SCC 1]

[30]   Mardia Chemicals Ltd. and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors.; [(2004) 4 SCC 311].

[31]   His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru v. State of Kerala and Anr.; [(1973) 4 SCC 225].

[32]   Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India and Ors.; [(2008) 6 SCC 1].

[33]   Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012; [(2012) 10 SCC 1].

[34]   State of A.P. and Ors.  v. McDowell & Co. and Ors.; [(1996) 3 SCC 709].

[35]   State of M.P. v. Rakesh Kohli and Anr.; [(2012) 6 SCC 312].

[36]   Heller v. Doe; [509 U.S. 312 (1993)].

[37]   Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain [1975 (Suppl.) SCC 1]

[38]   Matajog Dobey v. H. C. Bhari; [(1955) 2 SCR 925]

[39]   Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India;[(1998) 2 SCC 109]

[40]   Manhar Lal Bhogilal Shah v. State of Maharashtra; [(1971) 2 SCC 119]

[41]   Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice S.R. Tendolkar & Ors.; [1959 SCR 279]

[42]   Union of India & Ors. v. No.664950 IM Havildar/ Clerk SC Bagari; [(1999) 3 SCC 709]

[43]   N.B.Khare (Dr.) v. State of Delhi;[1950 SCR 519]

[44]   Mafatlal Industries Ltd. & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.; [(1997) 5 SCC 536]

[45]   Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India  & Ors.; [(2005) 6 SCC 281]

[46]   V.C. Shukla v. State through CBI; [1980 Supp SCC 92]

[47]   V.C. Shukla v. State (Delhi Administration); [1980 Supp SCC 249]

[48]   Pannalal Binjraj & Anr. etc., etc. v. Union of India & Ors.; [1957 SCR 233]

[49]   Jyoti Pershad v. Administrator for the Union Territory of Delhi  & Ors. [(1962) 2 SCR 125]

[50]   State of Bihar & Ors. v. Bihar Distillery Ltd. & Ors.;[(1997) 2 SCC 453]

[51]   State of Bihar & Ors. v. Kripalu Shankar & Ors.; [(1987) 3 SCC 34]

[52]   P. Sirajuddin, etc. v. State of Madras, etc.; [(1970) 1 SCC 595]

[53]   S.P. Bhatnagar v. State of Maharashtra; [(1979) 1 SCC 535]

[54]   Major S. K. Kale v. State of Maharashtra; [(1977) 2 SCC 394]

[55]   C. Chenga Reddy & Ors. v. State of A.P.; [(1996) 10 SCC 193]

[56]   Abdulla Mohammed Pagarkar v. State (UT of Goa, Daman & Diu); [(1980) 3 SCC 110]

[57]   R.S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay; [(1984) 2 SCC 183]

[58]   Patel Laljibhai Somabhai v. State of Gujarat [(1971) 2 SCC 376]

[59]   Iqbal Singh Marwah & Anr. v. Meenakshi Marwah & Anr.; [(2005) 4 SCC 370]

[60]   Chiranjit Lal Chowdhuri v. Union of India & Ors.; [(1950) SCR 869]

[61]   State of Bombay & Anr. v. F. N. Balsara; [(1951) SCR 682]

[62]   State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar[(1952) SCR 284]

[63]   Kathi Raning Rawat v. State of Saurashtra [1952 SCR 435]

[64]   Lachmandas Kewalram Ahuja v. State of Bombay [1952 SCR 710]

[65]   Syed Qasim Razvi v. State of Hyderabad & Ors. [(1953) 4 SCR 589)

[66]   Habeeb Mohamed v. State of Hyderabad [1953 SCR 661]

[67]   Kedar Nath Bajoria v. State of West Bengal [(1954) SCR 30]

[68]    V.M. Syed Mohammad & Company v. State of Andhra Pradesh [(1954) SCR 1117]

[69]   Budhan Choudhry  & Ors. v. State of Bihar [(1955) 1 SCR 1045]

[70]   C.I. Emden v. State of U.P.; [(1960)  2 SCR 592]

[71]   Kangsari Haldar & Anr. v. State of West Bengal; [(1960) 2 SCR 646]

[72]   State of Gujarat & Anr. v. Shri Ambica Mills Ltd., Ahmedabad & Anr.; [(1974) 3 SCR 760]

[73]   A.S. Krishna  v. State of Madras; [1957 S.C.R. 399]

[74]   State of Bihar & Anr.  v. J.A.C. Saldanha & Ors.; [(1980) 1 SCC 554]

[75]   J. Jayalalitha v. Union of India & Anr.; [(1999) 5 SCC 138]

[76]   Shobha Suresh Jumani v. Appellate Tribunal, forfeited Property and Anr; [(2001) 5 SCC 755]

[77]   State of A.P. v. V. Vasudeva Rao [(2004) 9 SCC 319]

[78]   Sanjiv Kumar v. State of Haryana and Ors. [(2005) 5 SCC 517]

[79]    Centre for PIL and Anr. v. Union of India and Anr.; [(2011) 4 SCC 1]

 

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