Law requiring sanction to prosecute corrupt officials challenged


New Delhi : Close on the heels of Uttar Pradesh Governor T.V. Rajeshwar refusing sanction to prosecute state Chief Minister Mayawati for alleged corruption in the Taj Corridor scam, an advocate moved the Supreme Court Friday challenging the constitutional validity of a law requiring prior sanction to prosecute public servants.

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Advocate Manjoor Ali Khan, in a Public Interest Litigation filed with the apex court registry, questioned the constitutional validity of Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which provides for prior sanction from an appropriate authority to prosecute a public servant.

Khan urged the court to abolish the statutory provision for prior sanction to prosecute public servants, including Members of Parliament, legislative assemblies, ministers and chief ministers of state, arguing that it violated the constitutional provision of equality before law and protection of life and liberty.

He said that Section 19 of the Act gave unguided and arbitrary power to the central and state governments for granting or not granting sanction to prosecute corrupt and dishonest government officials and politicians.

Due to such arbitrary powers being vested with the government, corruption cases pertaining to thousands of influential persons have been pending for several years as the required sanction was not forthcoming, Khan contended in his petition.

He said the Uttar Pradesh governor refused sanction to prosecute Mayawati in the Rs.1.75 billion Taj corridor corruption case despite the apex court's direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation to place all its evidence against her before the special judge to prosecute her.

Imputing a motive of political consideration to the governor in shielding Mayawati, Khan said that, on the contrary, in some cases some governments grant sanction to prosecute their political rivals to settle political and personal scores.

He submitted that the rationale behind imposing Section 19 was to prevent malicious prosecution of public figures and public servants, but the beneficial provision was being misused by vested interests to obtain immunity from prosecution for their "corrupt" actions.

While urging the court to declare Section 19 as unconstitutional, the petitioner urged the court to give directions to the central and state governments to complete the prosecutions within a limited timeframe and dispense with the need for obtaining prior sanction.