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Govt approval not required to probe senior bureaucrats on corruption charges: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday held as invalid and unconstitutional the legal provision which makes sanction of competent authority mandatory for CBI to probe a corruption case against an officer of joint secretary-rank or above, saying it has the propensity of shielding the corrupt.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha delivered the judgement after examining Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPEA), which protects top bureaucrats from being investigated in corruption cases without prior approval.

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday held as invalid and unconstitutional the legal provision which makes sanction of competent authority mandatory for CBI to probe a corruption case against an officer of joint secretary-rank or above, saying it has the propensity of shielding the corrupt.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha delivered the judgement after examining Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPEA), which protects top bureaucrats from being investigated in corruption cases without prior approval.

"We hold Section 6A of the Act, which requires Central Government's approval for the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) to make inquiry against officer of the rank of joint secretary and above, as invalid and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution," the bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and F M I Kalifulla, said on Tuesday.

It said there cannot be any classification of officers for the purpose of inquiry of offence under the PCA.

"The corrupt public servants, higher or lower in rank, are the birds of same feather and have to be dealt with equally," the court observed.

Maintaining that corruption is an enemy of nation, the bench said that it is difficult to make classification of officers in graft cases as it is against the mandate of the PCA.

It said that the prior approval under Section 6A would result, indirectly, in halting the investigation and if the CBI is not allowed to carry on the preliminary inquiry how the investigation can proceed.

"We are of the view that there can be no distinction between certain class of officials for inquiry of the offences under the PCA.

"How can the status of officials be of any relevance in the offence under PCA and any distinction by way of Section 6A of the DSPEA makes it violative of Article 14," the bench said, adding that the protection as provided in Section 6A has the propensity of shielding the corrupt.

The court said there cannot be any exemption from equal treatment and any official facing allegations of corruption has to be treated with the same process of inquiry.

The bench had earlier said that it was mainly concerned with the constitutional validity of Section 6A and if at all the question of arbitrariness arises, it has to be determined by a larger bench of seven judges.

Additional Solicitor General K V Vishwanath had submitted that the government does not want to protect any corrupt public official and the provision is only to ensure that senior bureaucrats are not quizzed without adequate safeguards as they are involved in policy making.

The ASG had said that lodging an FIR against a top bureaucrat would harm not only his reputation but also that of the department and that is the reason why the government decided to check the nature of the complaint before permitting inquiry.

The issue of protection from inquiry against senior bureaucrats had come under the scrutiny of the apex court 17 years ago when the Centre's argument was trashed that being policy makers, they needed protection from frivolous complaints.

The first petition in this regard was filed in 1997 by Subramanian Swamy and later in 2004 by NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).

They had contended that movement of criminal law gets affected due to the presence of Section 6A in the statute.

The bench had reserved its order on 21st April on Roy's petition challenging its decision to send him to jail for not complying with its order to deposit over Rs 20,000 crore of investors' money with SEBI.

The apex court had earlier imposed a condition that Roy, who is in jail since 4th March, will be freed on bail only if he pays Rs 10,000 crore out of which Rs 5,000 crore has to be in bank guarantee and rest Rs 5,000 crore in cash.

Roy and the other two directors of the Group have been in jail for two months for not abiding by the apex court's order for depositing investors' money with SEBI.

The Group has Monday placed details of property owned by it before the court.

The Sahara Group has submitted that Roy be released forthwith to facilitate negotiations with people for the purpose of raising money to comply with the court's order.

It also pleaded that its bank accounts frozen by the court on 21st November last year be defreezed.

Roy had earlier submitted that the apex court's order detaining him for not depositing the investors' money was illegal and unconstitutional and sought its quashing. 



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Setback for Lalu, Jharkhand HC Denies Bail to Him

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Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh rejected the bail petition of Lalu Prasad, saying he was the chief minister and finance minister during the scam period.

The Jharkhand High Court today rejected the bail plea of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav in connection with the second case related to the Rs 950 crore fodder scam of the 1990s. Lalu was sentenced to three and a half years in the case by a special CBI court in Ranchi on January 6. He had appealed for bail a week after his conviction.

This is one of the six cases lodged against Lalu in connection with the scam.

Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh rejected the bail petition of Lalu Prasad, saying he was the chief minister and finance minister during the scam period.

The Public Accounts Committee kept the file for years, but no action was taken.Dismissing Lalu Prasad’s defence, the judge said all the scam cases seemed to be done in his knowledge. Hence, the court is not inclined to release him on bail, the bench observed.

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Unprecedented Buzz Around Meghalaya and Nagaland Elections

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Election campaigning has reached fever pitch in Meghalaya and Nagaland ahead of assembly elections on 27th February.

The political temperatures have particularly soared in poll-bound Meghalaya and Nagaland after Thursday’s (February 22) rallies. While leaders of all parties in the fray are going all out to woo voters, people want the day to day challenges that they face to be addressed by those who come to power.

These challenges range from lack of clean drinking water to poor condition of roads and from lack of power connections to unemployment. Lack of adequate infrastructure is visible in the two states and people want the gap to be filled by the new governments.

The states may be different but issues that people face in the two states are quite similar. Meanwhile, the Congress too is reaching out to voters for support in the elections.

A look at the political scenario in Nagaland shows that out of 60 seats in the state assembly, Naga People’s Front or NPF is contesting on 59 seats.

Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) has put candidates in 40 seats, BJP is fighting in 20 constituencies and Congress on 19 seats.

In the 60 seat Meghalaya assembly, BJP is contesting on 47 seats, Congress on 59 seats and NPP on 53 seats. The two states will go to polls on 27th February and results would be announced on 3rd March.

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AAP MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal Sent to 14-day Judicial Custody

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Aam Aadmi Party MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal have been sent to judicial custody for 14 days in the matter of the alleged assault on the Delhi Chief Secretary

A Delhi Court has reserved order on the bail petition by the duo till Friday. For now, they have been sent on a 14-day judicial custody.

The two MLAs, on expiry of their one-day judicial custody, were produced before metropolitan magistrate Shefali Barnala Tandon who heard their bail applications and put up for hearing a fresh application filed by the Delhi police seeking their custodial interrogation to ascertain why the chief secretary was called at the midnight.

Metropolitan Magistrate Shefali Barnala Tandon said that orders on the bail pleas of AAP lawmakers Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal and also on their police custody will be pronounced on Friday.

On Wednesday, Ms Tandon had refused a Delhi Police plea for police custody of the MLAs and sent them to judicial custody till Thursday.

The chief secretary alleged that he was beaten up by the two MLAs in the presence of Arvind Kejriwal at the chief minister’s residence here on Monday night, where he had been called for a meeting.

Prakash’s medical report confirmed that he had been assaulted, even as the Aam Aadmi Party sought to rubbish his claims, calling them wild and ludicrous and challenging his assertion that the meeting was about the release of funds for a celebratory round of advertising by the Delhi government, saying it was about rations not reaching people because of faulty implementation of Aadhaar.

While Jarwal was arrested on Tuesday night, Khan surrendered at a police station here on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, protests continue over the issue. BJP workers staged a massive protest outside Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s residence. BJP has demanded that action must be taken against the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as well.

Congress has also targeted AAP over its alleged conduct.

On the other hand, AAP continues to call the allegations fabricated. Party members held a demonstration over the issue.

Earlier on Thursday, members of AAP protested outside Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s home after he condemned the alleged assault of the chief secretary. Workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party also protested against the AAP outside Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s house on Thursday, demanding Kejriwal’s resignation as chief minister. They claimed Kejriwal was present at the time the two AAP MLAs allegedly assaulted the Delhi chief secretary, so he must take responsibility for the incident.

After a body of Indian Administrative Services Officers protested against Prakash’s alleged assault, the home minister had said “civil servants should be allowed to work with dignity and without fear”, and that the Home Affairs Ministry had sought a report from Baijal.

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