PM not obliged to sanction Raja prosecution: Attorney General (Night Lead)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NEW DELHI - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not obliged under the law to give sanction for prosecution of former telecom minister A. Raja in the scandal involving spectrum allocation to mobile companies merely on the basis of a letter, the government told the Supreme Court Tuesday.

Referring to former MP Subramanian Swamy’s letter to prime minister seeking sanction for launching a prosecution against Raja, Attorney General G. Vahanvati said: “What Dr. Swamy was asking for was totally inconceivable under the law.”

Vahanvati told the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly that Swamy sought “sanction for prosecution even without filing a complaint before the competent court”.

“There is no question of consideration of sanction for cognizance when no complaint at all was filed. It is a settled law that there is no question of sanction merely on the institution of complaint,” Vahanvati told the court.

The court was told Swamy’s Nov 29, 2008 letter invoking Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) for seeking permission was erroneous. The relevant provision was Section 19 of the PCA. Section 13 of the law deals with the criminal misconduct of a public servant, he said.

He said that under Section 19 it was incumbent upon Swamy to first file a complaint before the competent court to initiate proceedings. Section 19 of the PCA says that sanction from the sanctioning authority was necessary for prosecution of a public servant.

If this (competent) court after application of judicial mind comes to the conclusion that the prima facie the complaint was a fit case for initiating the criminal proceedings, then the complainant will have to seek sanction from the sanctioning authority.

In the course of the application of judicial mind, the court could even order inquiry into the complaint.

Replying to Swamy’s contention that he could change the course of the laid down procedure and obtain sanction prior to filing the complaint before the competent court, Vahanvati said: “If the rule of law was important then it was equally important to follow the law as enacted.”

He said that there was no way a private complainant could escape the provisions of Section 19 of the PCA.

Vahanvati said that “there is no question of taking cognizance unless there is a complaint before the court and unless the court has applied its judicial mind. On both these grounds the petitioner’s application was misconceived”.

During the hearing, Swamy told the court that the prime minister had no malafide intention in blocking his letter seeking sanction to prosecute Raja.

“The prime minister had no evil or bad intention to delay decision on my letter,” he said.

The case is related to the issuance of second-generation (2G) spectrum licences to telecom operators in 2008. Critics say it had resulted in a notional loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the exchequer.

The hearings will continue Wednesday.

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