The Supreme Court has ruled that there is no need for sanction to prosecute public servants who are accused of indulging in corruption. They cannot be said to have committed corrupt actions during the discharge of their official functions.
On Wednesday, a bench of justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia said, “Where a criminal act is performed under the colour of authority, but which in reality is for the public servant’s own pleasure or benefit, then such acts shall not be protected under the doctrine of state immunity.”
The bench dismissed the petitions of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi, Akali Dal chief Prakash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir Badal and five other Akali leaders who had sought the quashing of corruption cases against them on the grounds that the sanction to prosecute them was not proper.
But in the case of former Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran -- taking into account allegations of mala fide and the change in the stand of the state government -- the bench sent the case back to the high court to consider the allegations.
There are two laws relating to the question of sanction to prosecute civil servants: Section 19(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
The court said the two operated in conceptually different fields. “In cases covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, in respect of public servants, the sanction is of automatic nature and thus factual aspects are of little or no consequence,” it said.
“Conversely, in cases relatable to Section 197 of the Code, the substratum and basic features have to be considered to find out whether the alleged act has any nexus to the discharge of duties. The position is not so in the case of Section 19 of the Act.”