Without any doubt, the abuse of public office for personal gain erodes people’s trust in government and institutions, and makes public policies less effective and fair. The corrupt people siphons taxpayers’ money and they actually corrode the government’s ability to help grow the economy in a way that benefits all people.
Undeniably, corruption eats into the innards of a nation and is a debilitating social cancer which spares no one.
In this context, the Supreme Court on Monday last ruled that its 2014 verdict, removing the immunity to central government employees at the joint secretary level and above from probe in corruption cases, “will apply retrospectively” and that no such employee can demand a protection from coercive measures for the period between September 2003 – when the impugned law was framed, and May 2014 – when it was struck down.
The central question before the bench related to the applicability of Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which required an investigating agency to go to the government to seek approval for the probe against public servants.
Section 6A of the DSPE Act mandated the government’s prior sanction to proceed in corruption cases against officers of the rank of joint secretary and above. However, an exception provided in Section 6A(2) states that no approval is necessary for cases involving arrest of a person on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept a bribe.
In 2014, a five-judge constitution bench struck down Section 6A of the DSPE Act, ruling that “status or position” cannot shield an officer of the level of joint secretary and above from unconstrained probe by the CBI in cases of corruption. This bench termed Section 6A a “discriminatory” provision that “impedes tracking down the corrupt senior bureaucrats”.
There are numerous reasons, some of them well documented, as to why corruption flourishes. However, failure by some key institutions particularly the police and judiciary to bring to a close case plays an important part.
There are timelines provided in law for the presentation of the charge sheet. Any delay by the Investigating Agency in not completing investigation of the cases registered is seriously impacting the justice delivery system as the guilty are not being brought to court for trial even after decades of registration of cases against them, thus observed by J&K’s top court.
The Apex Court decision marks an important step in the fight against corruption. The top court has addressed a longstanding issue that has hindered the timely prosecution of corrupt officials.