The Supreme Court has ordered the government to respond to a petition challenging two amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The amendments were the introduction of S. 17 A (1) by which prior permission for investigation of corruption offences was required from the government and the removal of S. 13 (1) (d) (ii) (criminal misconduct) from the Act. The latter provision had earlier made it an offence for a public servant to abuse his position to give pecuniary or other advantage to a third party.
A Bench led by Chief Justice (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi asked the government to file a response in six weeks.
“We think you are entitled to a hearing,” Chief Justice Gogoi addressed advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the petitioner NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).
‘Gives time for lobbying’
Mr. Bhushan said the removed provision of ‘criminal misconduct’ was used in most prosecutions of public servants under the Act in cases where there might not be a charge of directly accepting bribes. In this context, he referred to the prosecution of officials in the coal scam where officials gave leases to companies who they knew were not eligible. As for the new provision of Section 17(A), CPIL said that seeking sanction before commencement of investigation in a corruption case “not only takes away the element of secrecy and surprise but introduces a period of delay during which vital evidences can be manipulated or destroyed”.
“It gives time to the accused to lobby by employing various means for denial of permission. The seeking of permission in itself becomes a cause for corruption as it introduces yet another discretion, at the crucial stage of commencement of investigation,” the petition said.