31 jan 2012
Corruption cases: Court verdict on Subramanian Swamy’s plea is big setback for govt
The Prime Minister’s Office reacted with a statement that said the judges “have completely vindicated the Prime Minister whilst appreciating the onerous duties of his office.”
The court also urged Parliament to consider introducing a four-month deadline when dealing with such requests. Currently, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act state that a public servant cannot be prosecuted without a sanction from an appropriate administrative authority. This is meant to protect a public servant from malicious complaints. For a union minister, the Prime Minister has to green-light the prosecution and formally recommend it to the President of the country.
The Supreme Court pointed out that “in more than 1/3rd cases of request for prosecution in corruption cases against public servants, sanctions have not been accorded.” The judges highlighted the issue of corruption, stating “Today, corruption in our country not only poses a grave danger to the concept of constitutional governance, it also threatens the very foundation of Indian democracy and the Rule of Law.”
For the UPA, entangled in a maze of financial scams, a continuum of corruption has left it considerably weaker since its strident victory in the last general elections. The opposition used today’s verdict to underscore the point. “A slap on the government’s face,” is how the BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad summarized it.
Mr Swamy wanted Mr Raja to stand trial for his alleged role as the mastermind of the telecom or 2G scam, which saw companies getting mobile network licenses and spectrum at throwaway prices. Mr Swamy waited for nearly 16 months for a reply from the Prime Minister’s Office, which told him that the evidence against Mr Raja was being scrutinized. Mr Swamy then went to court.
The right to file a complaint against a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a constitutional right, said the Supreme Court.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy has insisted that today’s judgement is not a setback for the government. The new Lokpal Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha but got stuck in the Rajya Sabha in December last does away with the need to seek any sanction against a government servant accused of corruption, he pointed out. The Lokpal Bill seeks to create a new ombudsman agency to investigate corruption charges against government servants.
The minister also said that, “As far as a time frame is concerned, we will formulate guidelines accordingly after studying the judgement.”
Anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “Supreme Court has vindicated one of our key demands of Jan Lokpal movement. Time bound disposal of corruption cases. (sic)”