Apex court frowns on PM’s silence over Raja (Second Lead)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Tuesday took exception to the 15-month “silence” of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on former MP Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking sanction to initiate proceedings against then telecom minister A. Raja over the 2G spectrum row.

The prime minister could have said that the material on record was insufficient and declined the sanction, said the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly.

The court referred to the “inaction and silence” of the prime minister.

Swamy submitted an application to the prime minister Nov 29, 2008 seeking permission to initiate proceedings against Raja under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

It was only March 19 this year that Swamy received a reply from the prime minister stating that since the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was probing the matter, it was premature to decide on his application seeking sanction to proceed against Raja.

The court said that three months may not be sufficient to decide on such an application. But 15 months was too long a period.

Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium said that these three months commenced from the date the investigating agency completed its probe and not from the date the application was made.

The court also took exception to the language used in the prime minister’s March 19, 2010 letter to Swamy, particularly the use of the word “premature”.

It could have been said that the material made available by Swamy was not sufficient to arrive at a decision but instead it said that the application was premature, the court said

The court asked on what basis was the application found to be premature.

“His right to ask for sanction is a right under the law given to citizens in democracy. You say that his right is not mature,” the court noted.

For the prime minister to say that it is premature “is troubling us”, the judges observed. “Premature means there is a maturity level or maturity area,” the court said.

“We have to look into the constitutional validity of the reply,” the court said.

The court said that the investigation by the CBI was outside the preview of the complaint.

Subramanium told the court that after the resignation of Raja Sunday, Swamy needed no sanction to initiate any proceedings against him.

Swamy assailed the prime minister’s March 2010 reply, saying the prime minister was supposed to apply his mind “independently and impartially” on the material placed before him by the applicant in deciding the question of grant of sanction either way.

He said the prime minister could not have ordered a probe by the CBI to get the matter further investigated before deciding on the application for sanction.

When the court asked what would happen if CBI decided not to file the case, the solicitor general said even then the sanctioning authority will have to apply its mind on Swamy’s application.

Referring to the section of the Swamy’s application dealing with companies not eligible for the grant of 2G spectrum licence, the court said the application “was not a vague assertion about the alleged wrong done by the respondent (Raja)”.

The next hearing is scheduled for Nov 18.

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