Can’t order probe into corruption charges: CJI Bench
Pioneer News Service | New Delhi
In a judgement that will come as major relief to corrupt politicians and babus, the Supreme Court has held that courts cannot order probe into corruption allegations but simply monitor investigation in the ongoing cases. The judgement passed by a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan came on a PIL filed against Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling, who was accused of amassing disproportionate assets. In the past, the Supreme Court had ordered several probes in corruption cases involving public servants. The latest being the decision to order a CBI probe against Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh and his family members on a PIL filed by one Vishwanath Chaturvedi.
Dismissing the PIL filed by a local politician Kunga Nima Lepcha, the Bench said, “This court cannot sit in judgement over whether investigations should be launched against politicians for alleged acts of corruption.”
Giving reasons for not yielding to the petitioner’s demand to order a probe into the evidence collected against Chamling, the Bench, also comprising Justices P Sathasivam and JM Panchal, said, “The Supreme Court of India functions as a Constitutional Court as well as the highest appellate court in the country. If the Supreme Court gives direction for prosecution, it would cause serious prejudice to the accused, as the direction of this court may have far-reaching persuasive effect on the court which may ultimately try the accused.”
The judgement threatens to have far-reaching consequences. On one hand, where it whittles down the power of courts under public interest litigation (PIL); on the other hand, it insulates corrupt babus and politicians from the purview of PILs.
The judges noted, “The onus of launching an investigation into such matters is clearly on the investigating agencies such as the State Police, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) among others. It is not proper for this court to give directions for initiating such an investigation under its writ jurisdiction.”
“While we can appreciate the general claim that the efforts to uncover the alleged acts of corruption may be obstructed by entrenched interests,” the Bench added, “It is only on the exhaustion of ordinary remedies that perhaps a proceeding can be brought before a writ court.”
In the past, it was interference by the Supreme Court that led to cases being filed against corrupt politicians.
Making a distinction in matters where the court could interfere under writ jurisdiction, Chief Justice Balakrishnana, writing the decision for the Bench, said, “In the past, writ jurisdiction has been used to monitor the progress of ongoing investigations or to transfer ongoing investigations from one investigating agency to another. Such directions have been given when a specific violation of Fundamental Rights is shown, which could be the consequence of apathy or partiality on part of investigating agencies among other reasons.”
In all these circumstances, the court held, “The writ court can only play a corrective role to ensure that the integrity of the investigation is not compromised.” But on the aspect of ordering an investigation, it maintained, “That function clearly lies in the domain of the executive and it is up to the investigating agencies themselves to decide whether the material produced before them provides a sufficient basis to launch an investigation.”