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SUPREME COURT

No sanction needed in corruption cases

Thursday 7 December 2006, by VENKATESAN*J.

Apex court dismisses appeals by Lalu, Badal

Taking bribe will not amount to discharge of official duty Protection under Section 197 has certain limits

NEW DELHI: In a significant judgment with far-reaching consequences, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that no prior sanction from the competent authority was required to prosecute a public servant, including present and former ministers, in corruption cases.

A Bench consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia said sanction contemplated under Section 19(1) of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act and Section 197 of the Cr.PC (for offences under the Indian Penal Code) was not required in corruption cases.

For, accepting a bribe or illegal gratification would not amount to discharge of official duty.

The Bench was disposing of appeals filed by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, his wife and former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, two other former Chief Ministers Parkash Singh Badal of Punjab and K. Karunakaran of Kerala, and several other former Ministers, challenging according or not according sanction against them by the competent authority - the Governor or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Assembly.

The protection of sanction would not apply for offences under the PC Act, under Section 7 (obtaining a valuable thing without consideration); Section 8 (accepting gratification); Section 9 (gratification through inducement), Section 11 (obtaining a valuable thing without consideration) and Section 13 ( criminal misconduct) performed under the colour of authority for the public servant’s own pleasure or benefit.

"The expression `official duty’ [under Section 197 Cr.PC] implies that the act or omission must have been done by the public servant in the course of his service and that it should have been in the discharge of his duty." Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Pasayat said: "Protection [under Section 197 Cr.PC] has certain limits and is available only when the alleged act done by the public servant is reasonably connected with the discharge of his official duty and is not merely a cloak for doing the objectionable act. The act must fall within the scope and range of the official duties of the public servant concerned. It is the quality of the act which is important and the protection of this Section is available if the act falls within the scope and range of his official duty."

Wherever necessary, the competent authority to accord sanction to prosecute public servants would be the person concerned at the time of commission of an offence and not at the time of filing of the charge sheet.

The Bench dismissed the appeals filed by Mr. Prasad, Mr. Badal and others.

See online : The Hindu

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