Investigating agencies may soon be required to seek the Centre’s permission to question even senior retired officials in a corruption case, a move that is likely to pit it against the Supreme Court.
No corruption investigation or inquiry can be opened against a senior serving government official — of the rank of joint secretary and above — without the government’s nod, which often slows down the probe and also the case.
Through amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act and Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which governs the CBI, introduced in the Rajya Sabha during the recently concluded monsoon session, the government proposes to give this immunity to retired officials as well.
Supreme Court lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan termed it as a yet another attempt to weaken the CBI investigation in major scams. “At a time when the
Supreme Court is considering whittling down the section which provides protection to officials facing corruption allegations, the proposed amendment is a government ploy to thwart investigations posing a great deal of discomfort to it,” he said.
The CBI is awaiting the nod to prosecute 36 high-ranking officials named in high-profile corruption cases. With the government battling a string of corruption scandals, this requirement is being intensely debated.
The CBI says the permission to move against serving officers rarely comes and has sought the intervention of the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the coal scam investigation, to change the law. The CBI has also told the SC court that it should not be asked to seek the Centre’s permission to probe officials in the cases that the court asks it to probe. The SC has reserved its judgment on the matter.