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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No sanction needed to probe top babus in court-monitored investigation: CBI

NEW DELHI: In a forceful counter to the Centre's stand that top bureaucrats cannot be probed without its prior sanction, the CBI on Tuesday reiterated in the Supreme Court that in court-monitored investigations, the agency must be free to probe everyone without having to take any statutory sanction.

Just two days before the scheduled hearing in the 'Coalgate' case before a three-judge bench, the agency said, "There is no requirement of sanction for prosecution in cases where the court has either directed investigation or is monitoring investigation of case."

Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act provides that no officer of the rank of joint secretary and above can be investigated in a case without prior sanction from the government and the Centre had strongly defended it saying it was meant to protect bureaucrats from harassment.

The court had repeatedly asked, during the hearing on coal scam, about relevance of 'prior sanction' in court-monitored investigations.

In its affidavit settled by senior advocate Amarendra Saran, the agency said in court-monitored investigations, the court acted as guardian of the rights of the citizens and there was no room for bureaucrats under the scanner to fear harassment if they had taken honest decisions.

"Therefore, the objectives of Section 6A of DSPE Act are fully achieved when a case is monitored by the court, more specifically constitutional courts of the country," it said.

If one understood that prior sanction from the Centre was needed even in court-monitored investigations, "it would amount to suspension of the power of the constitutional courts to monitor investigation", the CBI said.

It would also be discriminatory since it could mean that the court had power to monitor investigations into cases only against officers who were below the rank of joint secretary, the agency said and feared that such an interpretation would be contrary to the legal principle that "no person is above the law".

"It is therefore necessary to read down the provisions of Section 6A of DSPE Act to mean that prior sanction under Section 6A is not necessary in cases where investigation is monitored by a constitutional court," the CBI said.

The agency also reiterated its demand, in the light of the court's attempt to insulate it from political interference and make it an independent investigation unit, seeking more powers for the CBI director.

What appeared to rile the CBI director was the Centre's refusal to grant him 'ex-officio powers of secretary to the government of India'. "It may be mentioned that already three police officers - secretary, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), secretary (internal security) in ministry of home affairs and secretary, security - are vested with powers of secretary to the GoI," the CBI said.

"Chairman of railway board and other members of railway board are also vested with the powers of secretary to the GoI," the CBI said and demanded greater financial powers to the CBI director.

While seeking a separate budget for itself, the CBI suggested that its director be independent of the ministry of department and personnel as far as investigations were concerned while remaining accountable to the minister concerned for administrative and financial matters.

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