No immunity to corrupt public servants in pre-2014 cases: Supreme Court

No immunity to corrupt public servants in pre-2014 cases: Supreme Court

Recently, a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court said on September 11, 2023 that its judgment given in Dr. Subramanian Swamy case in 2014 will be applicable with retrospective effect (even in pre-2014 cases). That means its decision will also apply to corruption cases before 2014.

Background:

  • It may be noted that in the year 2014, the Constitution Bench had declared the provision of Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE) invalid.
  • Under this, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was required to obtain approval from the Central Government before investigating corruption cases against officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above. This also exempted such officers from facing preliminary inquiry.
  • In the Subramanian Swamy vs. Union of India case (2014), the Supreme Court had declared this provision unconstitutional. The top court believed that this provision violates the ‘right to equality’ of Article 14.
  • Now the Supreme Court said that the decision invalidating Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act will come into force from the day this provision was added (September 11, 2003).
  • Section 6A violates fundamental rights, and once a law is declared unconstitutional as violating Part-III (Fundamental Rights) of the Constitution, such law will be void ab initio.
  • The new order of the Supreme Court means that senior government officials involved in corruption cases even before the date of the Supreme Court judgment invalidating the requirement of prior clearance will no longer be able to avail of the exemption from the above provision.

Key points of the Supreme Court’s decision:

  • Declaring Section 6A of the DSPE Act as unconstitutional does not affect Article 20(1). This is because Article 20(1) does not prohibit the retrospective application of procedural changes in criminal prosecution.
  • According to Article 20(1) no person shall be convicted of any offense unless at the time of the commission of such act he is alleged to have contravened any law in force.

DPSE Act 1946

  • It has been implemented to investigate cases of bribery and corruption against central government employees.
  • CBI gets the power to investigate any case from this Act.

Source – The Hindu

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