In a setback to Punjab IAS officer Vijay Kumar Janjua, the Punjab and Haryana high court while dismissing the petition challenging his prosecution sanction, granted by the Punjab government in 2010 under the Prevention of Corruption Act, directed him to raise the issue before the SAS Nagar trial court.
The state vigilance bureau officers had arrested Janjua while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs. 2 lakh from a Ludhiana-based industrialist on November 9, 2009, and a first-information report (FIR) was registered on the same day under the Prevention of Corruption Act against him at the vigilance bureau police station, SAS Nagar. On November 11, 2009, Janjua was removed from the office of director, industries, Punjab.
Justice Rajesh Bindal said, "The petitioner (Janjua) has an effective remedy of raising the issue before the (SAS Nagar) criminal court, where the trial is pending. In my opinion, the same is not required to be gone into in the present petition."
The court reasoned that as per Section 19 (3) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, "No finding, sentence or order passed by a special judge shall be reversed or altered by a court of appeal on the ground of absence of, or any error, omission or irregularity in the sanction required, unless in the opinion of the court, a failure of justice has occasioned." Justice Bindal further added that the issue regarding failure of justice could be determined only when the trial commences and the evidence is led.
The court also observed that the sanction for prosecution of the petitioner under challenge in the present case was not an order in isolation and it also had relation with the FIR registered against Janjua under the Act.
"There are enough provisions in the criminal law to take care of the grievance of the petitioner. A civil writ petition otherwise also would not be an appropriate remedy," remarked justice Bindal.
Janjua had sought quashing of the order dated April 27, 2010, stating that vide this order the Punjab government without jurisdiction and authority had given the prosecution sanction. Arguing his case himself in the court, Janjua had submitted that in terms of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, penalty of dismissal, removal or compulsory retirement could be imposed only by an order passed by the central government.
The petitioner had submitted that in the past, prosecution sanction against IAS officers serving in Punjab, who had been prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, was granted by the central government.
However, the Centre's senior standing counsel Sukhdeep Singh Sandhu had vehemently argued that in terms of the central government's circular dated October 27, 1999, it could only remove an IAS officer from service but was also competent to grant prosecution sanction. He had clarified that removal from office meant no longer in service.
The Punjab government's counsel Inder Pal Goyat had defended the prosecution sanction by stating that as the state was competent to remove the petitioner from the office, it was also competent even to grant sanction.
It was submitted that Janjua was in service with the state government since August 21, 1989, and he had committed the offence while serving in the state. The counsel had also submitted that the issue regarding seeking opinion of the central government would arise only in case the dispute arises.