Government nod not required to probe senior officers in court-monitored cases: SC

SCAttorney General G E Vahanvati had also disputed the courtís power to render a law redundant by creating an exception for court-monitored investigation. PTI

Asserting its supremacy over the executive, the Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that the Centre's approval was not required to investigate officers of Joint Secretary level and above when a constitutional court monitors the probe.

In what it described as "substitution of a forum ó from a minister to a constitutional court," a Bench led by Justice R M Lodha said the necessity of prior sanction under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act had to be done away with for an inquiry or investigation being monitored by a high court or the Supreme Court.

"We hold that the approval of the Central government is not necessary under Section 6A of the DSPE Act in a matter where inquiry/investigation into the crime under the Prevention of Corruption Act is being monitored by this court. This position holds good in cases which are directed by the court to be registered and the inquiry/investigation thereon is actually being monitored by this court," held the Bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph.

The ruling dilutes the government's authority to decide on investigation against its top officers, who it had claimed must be protected from unfair probe and harassment by the CBI. Attorney General G E Vahanvati had also disputed the court's power to render a law redundant by creating an exception for court-monitored investigation.

The Bench, however, snubbed the government, saying a constitutional court's power was very wide and the procedure contemplated under Section 6A could not interdict any order passed in larger public interest.

On the question of possible harassment of officers, the Bench said its monitoring was an adequate check to weed out any foul play and the officers could always raise complaints.

"It is only the substitution of a forum ó from a minister to a constitutional court, which will consider the officer's request and a fair hearing given by a constitutional court certainly cannot be said to be detrimental to his or her interest. On the contrary, the protection given by a constitutional court will be more real," the Bench said.

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