Lokayukta and other anti-corruption agencies proceed unhindered against small fries like a patwari, revenue inspector, clerk or a teacher, but when it comes to action against All-India Services officials, they are seldom allowed to proceed to the prosecution stage.
Consider this: Of the eight Madhya Pradesh IAS officers against whom Lokayukta and Economic Offences Wing (EOW) sought prosecution permission from the state government, sanction was given only against one officer.
Since 2002, Lokayukta has sought prosecution sanction from the government against Ramesh Thete, Raghav Chandra, Ajita Bajpai Pandey, Laxmikant Dwivedi, CB Singh, Arvind Joshi and Tinoo Joshi, while EOW has sought prosecution sanction against SR Mohanty. Among them, Lokayukta could go ahead and prosecute only Laximkant Dwivedi. In all the other cases, prosecution sanction was not obtained and the matter is held up either at the level of the state government or the department of personnel and training (DoPT) at the Centre.
When HT asked the Lokayukta, Justice PP Naolekar, about resistance on the part of the government to let the anti-graft body proceed against officers of the All India Services, he said, "We can't do anything if they don't give prosecution sanction against their officials. It's the exclusive jurisdiction of the Central government to allow or turn down prosecution sanctions against officials of All-India Services. That is the legal position."
The Lokayukta, however, added- "The Prevention of Corruption Act will have to be amended to take away that right or impose a time frame for giving such sanctions - as the Supreme Court had suggested - following which sanction should be deemed obtained."
Retired bureaucrat MN Buch said, "Prosecution sanction is given by the appointing authority, which is the Union government in the case of IAS officers. But I don’t know why the state government lingers over such matters rather than forwarding these to DoPT straightaway.”
Former director-general of police (Lokayukta) Arun Gurtu said he had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the High Court in this connection. “Despite a landmark judgement in the case, if sanction was being delayed still then peer interests must be at play,” he said.
In response to Gurtu’s PIL, the high court had laid down two broad principles for prosecution sanction in matters pertaining to All-India Services officials: First, the state government should forward the matter to the Centre within one month of receipt of application for prosecution sanction. Second, the state government has no authority to comment on the merit of the case or the investigation.
“If prosecution sanction is being withheld despite such categorical guidelines of the high court, I can only say that politicians and bureaucrats have formed a formidable lobby and they are looking after each other’s interests,” said Gurtu.
Despite repeated attempts chief secretary R Parasuram or principal secretary, general administration department, Ashwini Rai could not be contacted for their comments.
With inputs from Shruti Tomar