Why Sanction Should Not Be Required To Prosecute a Public Servant

Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan has started a debate in the public domain when he stated that the requirement to seek sanction for prosecution (of public servant) was acting as a stumbling block that tended to weaken the natural course of certain legal probes. It also acts as a deterrent in the fight against corruption in India. This requirement for sanction is part of The Prevention of Corruption Act under Section 19(1) which provides that “no court can take cognizance of” any of the more serious offences except “with the previous sanction of the authority that is competent to remove him from his office at the time when the offence was committed.” This means that if you wish to prosecute a central minister, you need central government permission or to prosecute a Government Officer, you need the permission of the Government (because he can be removed only by the Government). And this is one of the major causes of corruption in government. We’ll see the reasons for this a little later. This is also true for a crime under the Indian Penal Code.  Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that no court can take cognizance of a case where a judge or magistrate or a public servant protected under the Indian constitution “is accused of any offence alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty.” It further says that action can be taken only with the sanction of his employer. The need for such a provision is justified by the argument that...

Cabinet Ministers Protest Against Austerity Drive

A gang of Union Cabinet ministers protested against the suggested austerity drive of the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Sep 10, 2009. Some of the reasons given by our venerable ministers were: Sharad Pawar said that ministers can work better on flights if traveling in comfort Work better? When did they start working better? What they do not do in 5 years, do they expect to do in a 2-3 hours or even a 10 -12 hour flight? He went on to add that one of the “hazards” of flying in the economy was the prospect of being intruded upon by other passengers. Wow! But aren’t they supposed to interact with people? And what better place than the economy class of the airplane? Or is it that since farmers generally do not fly, the agriculture minister with Prime Ministerial ambitions would not like to interact with the middle class? He even suggested that such a situation (read intruding passengers and space constraint) is not conducive to dealing with files. Again, do our ministers read files only on planes? No wonder not many files get cleared? And pray what kind of files? Are they supposed to be taken around in public? What happens to confidentiality, security and other such concerns? Cabinet Ministers Question Austerity Measures According to the Times of India, some other ministers – from smaller UPA constituents – questioned the utility of token or impractical austerity in the era of liberalization. If someone can afford to fly club class, why not, asked a minister. Some even called the suggestion as “stupid”....