CBI, CVC pressured FM to sanction Batra prosecution, HC told

Addl I-T commissioner says Chidambaram order in alleged disproportionate assets case arbitrary.

Senior counsel Amit Desai claimed in Bombay High Court (HC) Wednesday CBI, CVC and the department of personnel and training (DoPT) pressured the finance ministry to review refusal of sanction for proseuction of additional income-tax commissioner Vivek Batra in an alleged disproportionate assets case.

Batra, a 1992-batch IRS officer, has challenged a decision of finance minister (FM) P Chidambaram allowing his prosecution.

He said the order of FM dated October 9, 2012, was arbitrary as sanction for his prosecution was refused thrice by former FM Pranab Mukherjee.

CBI booked Batra under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for allegedly amassing property worth Rs 1.27 crore, disproportionate to his known sources of income, between January 4, 1993, and March 31, 2004. It claimed the additional I-T commissioner accumulated wealth in the name of his wife and son and that he had links with two benami companies.

Desai argued many allegations could be made against public servants, but the authority granting sanction for prosecutions must apply its mind to the case at hand.

In his petition filed through lawyer Prakash Naik, Batra has said between October and November 2010, CBI sought sanction to prosecute him. "The competent authority cannot be a post office. It (issue of sanction) is not just an empty formality," Desai said.

Through an RTI application, Batra obtained the note sheet and documents seeking his prosecution. An order of July 7, 2012, under RTI revealed then finance minister Mukherjee refused sanction for his prosecution in January 2011, February and April 2012, saying "prima facie no case made out for major penalty and prosecution. The matter may be closed only on administrative warning".

On May 28, 2012, DoPT, however, expressed an "illogical" view that the sufficiency of evidence can be tested in court.

... contd.

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