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No repeat of 2G: Decide sanction requests from citizens within 3 months

Over four years after the UPA was left embarrassed as the Supreme Court pulled up Manmohan Singh’s PMO for sitting for over a year on Subramaniam Swamy’s plea to prosecute then telecom minister A. Raja in the 2G Telecom scam, the Narendra Modi Government is now proposing guidelines that such complaints from private citizens must be decided upon within three months.

The Centre has proposed that the concerned officer be given a chance to give his version or defence in case a prima-facie case is found by the state government or the Centre, depending on where the officer is posted. The complaint once received will be routed to the respective state or central ministry where the officer is posted and a detailed report will be sought by the DoPT. The complaint will be disposed of by the Centre within three months of getting that report. A set of guidelines laying down the said procedure have been circulated to all states and central ministries on Thursday for their comments as the Centre says it has been receiving requests from private citizens seeking sanction for prosecution in respect of IAS officers but they are “without any proper proposal and supporting documents.”

The SC judgement in 2012 in the case filed by Swamy against Manmohan Singh was critical of the then PMO for not acting on Swamy’s plea for over a year. Swamy had written to Singh on November 29, 2008 seeking sanction for him to prosecute then telecom minister A. Raja in the 2G scam and followed up his request with five more letters till March 13, 2010. On March 19, 2010, the government finally responded to Swamy saying CBI had lodged a case in the 2G scam against unknown persons on October 21, 2009 and hence the question of sanction would only arise after CBI completes its investigation. The SC upheld the right of a private citizen to seek prosecution sanction against an officer in a corruption case and criticized the PMO for failing to properly advice Singh of the seriousness of the allegations.

The procedure cited by the Modi Government, of sending the complaint of a private citizen to the state or the relevant ministry, was incidentally also followed by the UPA’s PMO with Swamy’s complaint being referred to the Telecom Department which was incidentally headed by Raja, the alleged accused, himself. “It was natural for Raja to have seized this opportunity, and he promptly sent letter dated 18.6.2009 to Swamy justifying the grant of licences. The concerned officer in the PMO then referred the matter to the Ministry of Law and Justice for advice,” the SC judgement had noted. The Modi Government’s proposed procedure does include a provision that in case a prima facie case against an officer is found, the state or central ministry can “consider obtaining version of the concerned officer.”

The Centre says that requests received for sanction from citizens are more in nature of complaints sans any supporting details and evidence and at best merit an inquiry of substantial facts. “A proposal from an individual seeking sanction for prosecution of an IAS officer serving in the state may be routed through the concerned state government as such state government is best placed to provide basic inputs as regards the alleged misconduct of the concerned public servant working under its administrative control. In case a proposal is received directly by DoPT from such individuals, it will be forwarded to the states for preliminary examination by such state government vis-a-vis relevant records,” the proposed guidelines say, with the same process for ministries for officers posted at Centre.

The guidelines also say that in case the state government or the central ministry finds no prima facie case is made out of any alleged misconduct which may constitute an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, that state or ministry will inform the person who has made the request for sanction of prosecution and endorse a copy of the same to the DoPT.

July 22, 2016

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