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Monday, May 12, 2014

Section 6-A (1) of the DSPE Act - Constitutional validity was challenged - Constitution Bench Declared as unconstitutional - Held that we hold that Section 6- A(1), which requires approval of the Central Government to conduct any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed under the PC Act, 1988 where such allegation relates to (a) the employees of the Central Government of the level of Joint Secretary and above and (b) such officers as are appointed by the Central Government in corporations established by or under any Central Act, government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by the Government, is invalid and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. As a necessary corollary, the provision contained in Section 26 (c) of the Act 45 of 2003 to that extent is also declared invalid.= Dr. Subramanian Swamy …… Petitioner Versus Director, Central Bureau of Investigation & Anr. …… Respondents= 2014 ( May.Part) http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41503

 Section  6-A (1) of  the  DSPE  Act - Constitutional validity was challenged - Constitution Bench Declared as unconstitutional - Held that we  hold  that  Section  6- A(1), which requires approval of  the  Central Government  to  conduct  any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged  to  have  been  committed under the PC Act, 1988 where such allegation relates to  (a)  the  employees of the Central Government of the level of Joint Secretary and above and  (b) such officers as are appointed by the  Central  Government  in  corporations established by or under any Central  Act,  government  companies,  societies and local authorities owned or controlled by the Government, is invalid  and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. As a necessary  corollary,  the provision contained in Section 26 (c) of the Act 45 of 2003 to  that  extent
is also declared invalid.=

 Section 6-A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946
(for short, ‘the DSPE Act’), which was inserted by Act 45 of 2003, reads as
under:

      “Section 6-A. Approval of Central Government  to  conduct  inquiry  or
      investigation.- (1) The Delhi Special Police Establishment  shall  not
      conduct any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to  have
      been committed under the Prevention of Corruption  Act,  1988  (49  of
      1988) except with the previous  approval  of  the  Central  Government
      where such allegation relates to-

           (a) the employees of the Central  Government  of  the  Level  of
           Joint Secretary and above; and

           (b) such officers as are appointed by the Central Government  in
           corporations established by or under any Central Act, Government
           companies, societies and local authorities owned  or  controlled
           by that Government.

      (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in  sub-section  (1),  no  such
      approval shall be necessary for cases involving arrest of a person  on
      the spot on the charge  of  accepting  or  attempting  to  accept  any
      gratification other than legal remuneration referred to in clause  (c)
      of the Explanation to section 7 of the Prevention of  Corruption  Act,
      1988 (49 of 1988).”=

   
   In view of our foregoing discussion, we  hold  that  Section  6-
A(1), which requires approval of  the  Central  Government  to  conduct  any
inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged  to  have  been  committed
under the PC Act, 1988 where such allegation relates to  (a)  the  employees
of the Central Government of the level of Joint Secretary and above and  (b)
such officers as are appointed by the  Central  Government  in  corporations
established by or under any Central  Act,  government  companies,  societies
and local authorities owned or controlled by the Government, is invalid  and
violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. As a necessary  corollary,  the
provision contained in Section 26 (c) of the Act 45 of 2003 to  that  extent
is also declared invalid.

2014 ( May.Part) 

http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41503
R.M. LODHA, A.K. PATNAIK, SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA, DIPAK MISRA, FAKKIR MOHAMED IBRAHIM KALIFULLA
                                                              REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                         CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
                    WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 38 OF 1997

Dr.   Subramanian   Swamy                                                 ……
Petitioner

                                   Versus

Director,  Central  Bureau   of   Investigation   &   Anr.                ……
Respondents

                                    WITH

                    WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 21 OF 2004

Centre          for           Public           Interest           Litigation
……  Petitioner

                                   Versus

Union of India                                     ……  Respondent

                                  JUDGMENT

R.M. LODHA, CJI.


            Section 6-A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946
(for short, ‘the DSPE Act’), which was inserted by Act 45 of 2003, reads as
under:

      “Section 6-A. Approval of Central Government  to  conduct  inquiry  or
      investigation.- (1) The Delhi Special Police Establishment  shall  not
      conduct any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to  have
      been committed under the Prevention of Corruption  Act,  1988  (49  of
      1988) except with the previous  approval  of  the  Central  Government
      where such allegation relates to-

           (a) the employees of the Central  Government  of  the  Level  of
           Joint Secretary and above; and

           (b) such officers as are appointed by the Central Government  in
           corporations established by or under any Central Act, Government
           companies, societies and local authorities owned  or  controlled
           by that Government.

      (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in  sub-section  (1),  no  such
      approval shall be necessary for cases involving arrest of a person  on
      the spot on the charge  of  accepting  or  attempting  to  accept  any
      gratification other than legal remuneration referred to in clause  (c)
      of the Explanation to section 7 of the Prevention of  Corruption  Act,
      1988 (49 of 1988).”

2.          The constitutional validity of Section 6-A is in issue in these
two writ petitions, both filed under Article 32 of the Constitution.  Since
Section 6-A came to be inserted by Section 26(c) of the  Central  Vigilance
Commission Act, 2003 (Act 45  of  2003),  the  constitutional  validity  of
Section 26(c) has also been raised.  It is not necessary  to  independently
refer to Section 26(c).  Our reference to Section  6-A  of  the  DSPE  Act,
wherever necessary, shall be treated as reference to Section 26(c)  of  the
Act 45 of 2003 as well.





Reference to the Constitution Bench
3.           On  February  4,  2005  when  these  petitions  came  up   for
consideration, the Bench thought that these matters deserved to be heard by
the larger Bench. The full text of the reference order is as follows:

      “In these petitions challenge is to  the  constitutional  validity  of
      Section 6-A of   the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (for
      short, “the Act”).   This section  was    inserted    in    the    Act
      w.e.f.   12-9-2003.  It,   inter   alia,    provides    for  obtaining
      the    previous    approval   of   the   Central    Government     for
      conduct    of    any  inquiry   or  investigation   for  any   offence
      alleged  to have  been  committed under  the Prevention of  Corruption
      Act, 1988 where allegations relate to officers of the level  of  Joint
      Secretary   and   above.     Before   insertion   of    Section    6-A
      in  the  Act,   the  requirement  to  obtain  prior  approval  of  the
      Central Government was contained in  a   directive  known  as  “Single
      Directive” issued by  the  Government.  The  Single  Directive  was  a
      consolidated set of instructions  issued  to  the  Central  Bureau  of
      Investigation (CBI) by   various   Ministries/Departments    regarding
       modalities   of   initiating   an   inquiry   or registering  a  case
      against certain categories of civil servants. The said  directive  was
      stated to have  been issued to protect decision-making-level  officers
      from  the  threat  and    ignominy    of    malicious  and   vexatious
      inquiries/investigations  and  to give protection to officers  at  the
      decision-making level and to relieve them of  the  anxiety  from   the
      likelihood  of  harassment for  taking   honest  decisions.   It   was
      said that absence of such protection to them  could  adversely  affect
      the efficiency and efficacy of    these  institutions    because    of
      the   tendency   of   such officers to  avoid taking   any   decisions
      which  could   later   lead   to harassment  by  any   malicious   and
      vexatious inquiries/investigations.


      2.    The   Single   Directive   was  quashed   by  this  Court  in  a
      judgment  delivered  on 18-12-1997  (Vineet   Narain    &   Ors.    v.
      Union   of  India  &  Anr.   (1998) 1 SCC  226). Within  a few  months
      after  Vineet Narain judgment, by  the  Central  Vigilance  Commission
      Ordinance, 1998   dated 25-8-1998,  Section  6-A  was   sought  to  be
      inserted  providing    for    the    previous    approval    of    the
      Central    Vigilance    Commission    before  investigation   of   the
      officers  of  the  level  of  Joint    Secretary    and    above.   On
      the intervention of this Court, this provision was deleted by issue of
      another Ordinance promulgated on 27-10-1998.  From  the  date  of  the
      decision in  Vineet Narain case  and  till insertion of  Section   6-A
      w.e.f. 12-9-2003,  there was  no  requirement   of  seeking   previous
      approval  except  for a period  of two months  from 25-8-1998 to 27-10-
      1998.


      3.     The  validity  of  Section  6-A  has  been  questioned  on  the
      touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution.  Learned  amicus  curiae
      has   contended that the impugned provision is  wholly  subversive  of
      independent  investigation  of  culpable bureaucrats  and  strikes  at
      the core of rule of law as explained in Vineet Narain case  and    the
      principle     of     independent,     unhampered,     unbiased     and
      efficient    investigation.  The    contention    is    that    Vineet
      Narain  decision   frames   a structure   by   which   honest officers
      could fearlessly  enforce  the  criminal  law  and  detect  corruption
      uninfluenced by  extraneous   political,   bureaucratic    or    other
      influences   and   the   result   of   the impugned   legislation   is
         that   the   very    group   of   persons,   namely,   high-ranking
      bureaucrats  whose   misdeeds   and   illegalities   may    have    to
      be   inquired   into,   would decide whether CBI should even start  an
      inquiry or investigation  against  them  or  not.  There  will  be  no
      confidentiality  and  insulation  of  the  investigating  agency  from
      political and bureaucratic control and influence because the  approval
      is to be taken from  the Central Government  which    would    involve
      leaks   and   disclosures   at   every stage. The very  nexus  of  the
      criminal-bureaucrat-politician which is subverting the whole    polity
        would    be    involved    in    granting    or    refusing    prior
      approval  before an inquiry or investigation  can take place. Pointing
      out   that   the   essence   of   a   police investigation is  skilful
      inquiry  and  collection  of material  and  evidence  in  a  manner by
         which    the    potential    culpable    individuals    are     not
      forewarned,   the   submission made is that the prior sanction of  the
      same department would result in indirectly putting to    notice    the
      officers    to    be    investigated    before     commencement     of
      investigation. Learned  Senior Counsel  contends  that  it  is  wholly
      irrational   and   arbitrary   to   protect   highly-placed     public
      servants   from   inquiry   or   investigation   in   the   light   of
        the conditions prevailing in the country and the corruption at  high
      places as reflected in several   judgments  of  this  Court  including
      that of  Vineet  Narain.    Section  6-A  of  the  Act    is    wholly
      arbitrary   and   unreasonable   and   is   liable   to   be    struck
       down   being violative   of   Article   14   of   the    Constitution
       is   the   submission   of   learned amicus curiae.


      4.    In   support   of   the   challenge   to   the    constitutional
       validity   of   the   impugned  provision,    besides    observations
      made   in   the   three-Judge   Bench   decision   in   Vineet  Narain
      case    reliance    has    also     been     placed     on     various
      decisions   including  S.G. Jaisinghani v. Union of  India  [(1967)  2
      SCR 703], Shrilekha Vidyarthi  v. State of U.P. [(1991)  1  SCC  212],
      Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi [(1981) 1 SCC  722]  and  Mardia
      Chemicals Ltd.  v.  Union  of  India  [(2004)    4    SCC    311]   to
      emphasize   that   the   absence   of   arbitrary   power    is    the
      first essential of the rule of law upon which our whole constitutional
      system is based.  In Mardia Chemicals case a  three-Judge  Bench  held
      Section 17(2) of the Securitisation and  Reconstruction  of  Financial
      Assets  and  Enforcement  of  Security  Interest  Act,  2002   to   be
      unreasonable  and  arbitrary  and  violative  of  Article  14  of  the
      Constitution.  Section    17(2)    provides    for    condition     of
      deposit   of   75%   of   the   amount   before    an  appeal    could
      be   entertained.     The   condition   has   been    held    to    be
      illusory   and oppressive.   Malpe  Vishwanath  Acharya  v.  State  of
      Maharashtra [(1998) 2 SCC 1], again  a  decision   of  a   three-Judge
      Bench, setting  aside  the   decision   of  the   High  Court    which
      upheld   the   provisions   of   Sections    5(10)(b),    11(1)    and
      12(3)   of   the  Bombay    Rents,    Hotel    and    Lodging    House
      Rates   Control   Act,   1947   pertaining    to  standard   rent   in
      petitions  where  the  constitutional  validity  of  those  provisions
      was  challenged    on    the    ground    of    the     same     being
      arbitrary,   unreasonable   and consequently ultra vires Article 14 of
      the Constitution, has come to the conclusion that the said  provisions
      are arbitrary and unreasonable.


      5.    Learned Solicitor General, on the other hand, though very fairly
      admitting  that  the    nexus    between    criminals     and     some
      elements   of    establishment    including  politicians  and  various
      sections of bureaucracy  has  increased  and  also  that  there  is  a
      disturbing   increase    in    the    level    of    corruption    and
      these   problems   need   to   be addressed, infractions  of  the  law
      need  to  be  investigated,  investigations  have   to  be   conducted
      quickly   and   effectively   without   any   interference   and   the
        investigative  agencies    should    be    allowed    to    function
      without   any   interference   of   any   kind whatsoever   and   that
         they    have    to    be    insulated    from    any     extraneous
      influences    of  any    kind,    contends    that    a    legislation
      cannot   be   struck   down   on    the    ground    of  arbitrariness
      or   unreasonableness   as   such   a   ground   is   available   only
        to   quash executive action and orders.  Further contention is  that
      even a delegated legislation cannot be quashed on the ground  of  mere
      arbitrariness and even  for  quashing  such  a  legislation,  manifest
      arbitrariness is the  requirement  of law.   In  support, reliance has
       been  placed  on   observations   made   in   a   three-Judge   Bench
      decision  in  State  of A.P.. v. McDowell & Co.  [(1996)  3  SCC  709]
      that no enactment can be struck down  by  just  saying  that   it   is
      arbitrary   or  unreasonable   and   observations   made   in   Khoday
      Distilleries  Ltd.     v.   State   of   Karnataka   [1996  (10)   SCC
      304]  that delegated legislation can be struck down only if  there  is
      manifest arbitrariness.


      6.    In  short,  the  moot  question  is  whether  arbitrariness  and
      unreasonableness or manifest   arbitrariness   and   unreasonableness,
        being   facets   of    Article    14    of    the  Constitution  are
      available or not as grounds to invalidate a legislation.  Both counsel
      have placed reliance on observations made in decisions rendered  by  a
      Bench of three learned Judges.


      7.    Further contention of learned  Solicitor  General  is  that  the
      conclusion  drawn  in  Vineet  Narain  case  is  erroneous  that   the
      Constitution Bench  decision  in  K.  Veeraswami  v.  Union  of  India
      [(1991) 3 SCC 655] is not an authority for the proposition that in the
         case    of     high     officials,     requirement     of     prior
      permission/sanction    from    a    higher  officer  or  Head  of  the
      Department is permissible, the submission is that  conclusion  reached
      in   para   34   of  Vineet   Narain  decision   runs   contrary    to
       observations   and findings contained in para 28 of Veeraswami case.


      8.    Having regard to the aforesaid, we are  of  the  view  that  the
      matters deserve to be   heard   by    a    larger    Bench,    subject
      to   the   orders   of   Hon'ble   the   Chief   Justice   of India.”

Background of Section 6-A
4.          We may first notice the background in  which  Section  6-A  was
inserted in the DSPE Act. In 1993,  Vineet  Narain  approached  this  Court
under Article 32 of the Constitution of India complaining  inertia  by  the
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in matters where the accusation  made
was against high dignitaries. The necessity of monitoring the investigation
by this Court is indicated in paragraph 1 of the judgment[1], which reads:

      “These writ petitions under Article 32 of the  Constitution  of  India
      brought in public interest, to begin with, did not appear to have  the
      potential of escalating to the dimensions they reached or to give rise
      to several issues of considerable significance to  the  implementation
      of rule of law, which they have, during their progress. They began  as
      yet  another  complaint  of  inertia  by   the   Central   Bureau   of
      Investigation (CBI) in matters where the accusation made  was  against
      high dignitaries. It was not the only matter of its  kind  during  the
      recent past. The primary question was: Whether it is within the domain
      of judicial review  and  it  could  be  an  effective  instrument  for
      activating the investigative process which is under the control of the
      executive? The focus was on the question, whether any judicial  remedy
      is available in such a situation? However, as the case progressed,  it
      required innovation of a procedure within the constitutional scheme of
      judicial review to permit intervention by the court to find a solution
      to the problem. This case has helped to develop a procedure within the
      discipline of law for the conduct of  such  a  proceeding  in  similar
      situations. It has also generated awareness of the need of probity  in
      public life and provided a mode of enforcement  of  accountability  in
      public life. Even though the  matter  was  brought  to  the  court  by
      certain individuals claiming to represent public interest, yet as  the
      case progressed, in keeping with the requirement of  public  interest,
      the procedure devised was to appoint the petitioners’ counsel  as  the
      amicus curiae and to make such  orders  from  time  to  time  as  were
      consistent with public interest. Intervention in  the  proceedings  by
      everyone else was shut out but permission was granted to all,  who  so
      desired, to render such assistance as they could, and to  provide  the
      relevant material available with them to the amicus curiae  for  being
      placed  before  the  court  for  its  consideration.  In  short,   the
      proceedings in this matter have had great educative value and it  does
      appear that it has helped in future decision-making and functioning of
      the public authorities.”



5.          In Vineet Narain1, Single Directive No.4.7(3), which  contained
certain instructions to CBI regarding modalities of initiating  an  inquiry
or registering a case against certain categories of  civil  servants,  fell
for consideration. We shall refer to Single Directive No.  4.7(3)  at  some
length a little later but suffice to say here that this Court  struck  down
Single Directive No.4.7(3). While doing so, the  Court  also  made  certain
recommendations in respect of CBI and Central Vigilance  Commission  (CVC).
One of such recommendations was to confer statutory status to CVC.

6.          Initially, the Government decided to put the  proposed  law  in
place through an Ordinance so as to comply  with  the  directions  of  this
Court in Vineet Narain1. Later on the Government introduced the  CVC  Bill,
1998 in the Lok Sabha on 7.12.1998. The CVC Bill, 1998 was referred to  the
Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee  on  Home  Affairs  for
examination and report, which presented its report  to  the  Parliament  on
25.2.1999 and made certain recommendations on the CVC Bill, 1998.  The  Lok
Sabha passed the CVC Bill, 1998 as the CVC Bill, 1999  on  15.3.1999  after
adopting the official amendments moved in this regard. However, before  the
Bill could be considered and passed by the Rajya Sabha, the 12th Lok  Sabha
was dissolved on 26.4.1999 and, consequently, the CVC  Bill,  1999  lapsed.
The CVC Bill was  re-introduced  with  the  title  “The  Central  Vigilance
Commission Bill,  2003”.  The  Bill  was  passed  by  both  the  Houses  of
Parliament and received the assent of the President on 11.9.2003.  This  is
how the Central Vigilance Commission Act,  2003  (for  short,  ‘Act  45  of
2003’) came to be enacted.

7.          Act 45 of 2003 provides  for  the  constitution  of  a  Central
Vigilance Commission to inquire or cause inquiries  to  be  conducted  into
offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of  Corruption
Act, 1988 (for short, ‘PC Act,  1988’)  by  certain  categories  of  public
servants of the Central Government, corporations established  by  or  under
any Central Act, government  companies,  societies  and  local  authorities
owned or controlled by the Central Government  and  for  matters  connected
therewith or incidental thereto. Section 26 of the Act 45 of 2003  provides
for amendment of DSPE Act and clause (c) thereof enacts that after  Section
6, Section 6-A shall be inserted in the DSPE Act.

8.          Section 6-A(1) of the DSPE Act requires approval of the Central
Government to conduct inquiry or investigation  where  the  allegations  of
commission of an offence under the PC Act, 1988 relate to the employees  of
the Central Government of the level of Joint Secretary and above.

Genesis of Challenge to Section 6-A
9.          On 24.2.1997, the Writ Petition (Civil) No.38/1997 came up  for
admission before a three-Judge Bench. On hearing the petitioner,  the  writ
petition was entertained but it was confined to relief in  paragraph  12(a)
only.  The notice was directed to be issued to respondent  No.1  (Director,
CBI) and respondent No.5 (Union of India  through  Cabinet  Secretary)  and
other respondents were deleted from the array of parties. The Court on that
date requested Shri Anil B. Divan, learned  senior  counsel  to  appear  as
amicus curiae in the case. It is not necessary to narrate  the  proceedings
which took place on various dates. It may, however, be  mentioned  that  on
5.4.2002 when the matter was mentioned before  the  Bench,  learned  amicus
curiae expressed his concern regarding the attempt to  restore  the  Single
Directive, which was  struck  down  in  Vineet  Narain1,  in  the  proposed
legislation.  Thereupon, the matter was adjourned and Court  requested  the
presence of learned Attorney General on 19.4.2002. On 19.4.2002, the matter
was ordered to be listed in September, 2002. As noted above, on  11.9.2003,
Act 45 of 2003 received Presidential assent and Section 6-A was inserted in
the DSPE Act.

10.         On 19.1.2004, Writ Petition (C) No.21/2004 was  ordered  to  be
listed along with Writ Petition (C) No.38/1997. On  23.1.2004,  notice  was
issued in Writ Petition (C)  No.  21/2004.   In  this  writ  petition,  the
counter was filed by the Union on  7.4.2004  and  rejoinder  affidavit  was
filed by the petitioner.

11.         We have heard Mr. Anil B. Divan,  learned  senior  counsel  and
amicus curiae in Writ Petition (C) No.38/1997  and  Mr.  Prashant  Bhushan,
learned counsel for the petitioner in Writ Petition (C) No.21/2004. In  one
matter, Mr. L. Nageswara Rao, learned Additional Solicitor General appeared
for Union of India while  in  the  other,  Mr.  K.V.  Viswanathan,  learned
Additional Solicitor General appeared on behalf of Union of India. We  have
heard both of them on behalf of the Union of India. We have also heard  Mr.
Gopal Sankaranarayanan, learned counsel for the intervenor.

Submissions of Mr. Anil B. Divan

12.         Mr. Anil B. Divan, learned amicus curiae argues that Section 6-
A is  an impediment to the rule of law and violative of Article  14,  which
is part of  the  rule  of  law;  that  the  impugned  provision  creates  a
privileged class and thereby subverts the normal investigative process  and
violates the fundamental right(s) under Article 14  of  every  citizen.  He
submits that if the impugned provision is replicated at the State level and
provision  of  ‘previous  approval’  by  respective  State  Governments  is
required, then the rule of law would completely collapse in  the  whole  of
India and no high level corruption would be investigated  or  punished.  He
relies upon decision of this Court in Vineet Narain1.  He also relies  upon
the decision in I.R. Coelho[2] in support of the proposition  that  Article
14 is a part of the rule of law and it is the  duty  of  the  judiciary  to
enforce the rule of law.

13.         According  to  learned  amicus  curiae,  Section  6-A  directly
presents an illegal impediment to the insulation of CBI and undermines  the
independence of CBI to hold a preliminary enquiry  (PE)  or  investigation.
Citing the judgments of this Court in Centre for Public Interest Litigation
(2G Spectrum case)[3] and Manohar Lal Sharma[4] following  Vineet  Narain1,
learned amicus curiae submits that trend of these judgments is to  preserve
the rule of law by insulating the CBI from executive influence which  could
derail and result in inaction in enforcing the criminal  law  against  high
level corruption. Learned amicus  curiae  highlighted  that  there  was  no
requirement of previous approval as contained in  the  impugned  provisions
between 18.12.1997 (the date of Vineet Narain1 judgment striking  down  the
Single Directive) and 11.9.2003 (when CVC Act came into force)  except  the
period between 25.8.1998 and 27.10.1998 when the CVC Ordinance, 1998 was in
force and till the deletions by CVC Amendment Ordinance, 1998. He  referred
to N.N. Vohra Committee  report  which  paints  a  frightening  picture  of
criminal-bureaucratic-political nexus – a network of high level  corruption
– and submitted that the impugned provision puts this nexus in  a  position
to block inquiry and investigation  by  CBI  by  conferring  the  power  of
previous approval on the Central Government.

14.         Mr. Anil B. Divan, learned  amicus  curiae  wants  us  to  take
judicial notice of the fact that high level  bureaucratic  corruption  goes
hand in hand, on many occasions, with political corruption at  the  highest
level. This very group of high ranking bureaucrats,  whose  misconduct  and
criminality, if any, requires to be  first  inquired  into  and  thereafter
investigated, can thwart, defeat and impair this  exercise.  In  substance,
the potential accused would decide whether or not their conduct  should  be
inquired into. He argues that the essence of skillful and effective  police
investigation is by collection of evidence and material  secretly,  without
leakage so  that  the  potential  accused  is  not  forewarned  leading  to
destruction or tempering of evidence and witnesses. Such  investigation  is
compromised by the impugned provision, viz., Section 6-A of the  DSPE  Act.
The requirement of previous approval in the impugned provision  would  mean
leakages  as  well  as  breach  of  confidentiality  and  would  be  wholly
destructive of an efficient investigation. The provision, such as Section 6-
A, offers an impregnable shield (except when there  is  a  court  monitored
investigation) to the criminal-bureaucratic-political nexus. If the CBI  is
not even allowed to verify complaints by preliminary enquiry, how  can  the
case move forward? In such a situation, the very commencement of enquiry  /
investigation is thwarted and delayed. Moreover, a preliminary  enquiry  is
intended to ascertain whether a prima facie case for investigation is  made
out or not. If CBI is prevented from holding a preliminary enquiry, it will
not be able to even gather relevant material for the purpose  of  obtaining
previous approval.

15.         Learned amicus curiae submits that for judging the validity  of
classification or reasonableness or  arbitrariness  of  State  action,  the
Court is entitled to take notice of  conditions  prevailing  from  time  to
time.  He referred to certain portions of the N.N. Vohra Committee  report,
2G Spectrum case3 and the facts of a case before Delhi High Court  entitled
‘Telecom Watchdog’[5] and the  case  of  M.  Gopalakrishnan,  Chairman  and
Managing Director (CMD of Indian Bank). Learned amicus curiae  also  relied
upon decisions of this Court in V.G. Row[6] and D.S. Nakara[7].

16.         It is submitted by the learned  amicus  curiae  that  pervasive
corruption adversely affects welfare and other activities and  expenditures
of the state. Consequently, the rights of Indian citizens  not  only  under
Article 14 but also under Article 21 are violated. In this regard,  he  has
relied upon the observations made by this  Court  in  Vineet  Narain1,  Ram
Singh[8],  Subramanian  Swamy[9],  R.A.  Mehta[10],  Balakrishna  Dattatrya
Kumbhar[11] and In re. Special Courts Bill, 1978[12].

17.         Learned amicus curiae submits that Section 6-A confers  on  the
Central  Government  unguided,  unfettered  and  unbridled  power  and  the
provision  is  manifestly  arbitrary,  entirely   perverse   and   patently
unreasonable.  He relies upon the decisions of  this  Court  in  Travancore
Chemicals and Manufacturing Co.[13], Krishna  Mohan  (P)  Ltd.[14],  Canara
Bank[15] and Nergesh Meerza[16].

18.         It is vehemently contended by the learned  amicus  curiae  that
the classification as contained in Section 6-A creating a privileged  class
of the government officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above  level
and certain officials in  public  sector  undertakings,  etc.  is  directly
destructive and runs counter to the whole object and reason of the PC  Act,
1988 read with the DSPE Act and undermines  the  object  of  detecting  and
punishing high level corruption.  In this  regard,  learned  amicus  curiae
referred to protection given to Government officials under Section  197  of
the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) and under Section  19  of  the  PC
Act,  1988.  He  argues  that  the  well-settled  two   tests:   (i)   that
classification must be founded on intelligible differentia  and  (ii)  that
differentia must have a rational relation with  the  object  sought  to  be
achieved  by  the  legislation,  are  not  satisfied  by  Section  6-A.   A
privileged class of Central Government employees has been created  inasmuch
as the protection offered to the category of the government officers of the
level of Joint Secretary and above regarding  previous  approval  does  not
extend to: (a) official / employees who are not employees  of  the  Central
Government, (b) employees of the Central Government below  Joint  Secretary
level, (c) employees of Joint Secretary level and above in the states,  (d)
enquiry and investigation of offences which are not covered by the PC  Act,
1988, and  (e)  other  individuals  including  ministers,  legislators  and
private sector employees. Learned amicus curiae relies upon the decision of
this Court in Vithal Rao[17].

Submissions  of  Mr.  Prashant  Bhushan  for  Centre  for  Public  Interest
Litigation (CPIL-petitioner)


19.         Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel for the petitioner in the
connected writ petition filed by  Centre  for  Public  Interest  Litigation
(CPIL) has adopted the arguments of the learned amicus curiae.  He  submits
that  Section 6-A makes criminal investigation against a certain  class  of
public servants unworkable and it completely militates against the rule  of
law. He referred to the United Nations document  entitled  “United  Nations
Convention Against Corruption” and submitted that Section 6-A of  the  DSPE
Act interdicts enquiry or investigation in  respect  of  certain  class  of
officers and puts direct hindrance in combating corruption and,  therefore,
the provision is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Submissions of Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan (intervenor)

20.         Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing on behalf  of  intervenor
submits that Section 6-A of the DSPE Act breaches the basic feature of rule
of law. He argues that the basic structure  test  can  be  applied  to  the
statutes as well. By enactment of Section 6-A, the rule of law has suffered
a two-fold violation: (i) resurrection of the single directive in the  form
of legislation without in any way removing the basis of the Vineet  Narain1
judgment, and (ii) impediment of the due process  (criminal  investigation)
by imposing a condition at the threshold.  In this regard,  he  has  relied
upon decisions  of  this  Court  in  State  of  Karnataka[18],  L.  Chandra
Kumar[19], Kuldip Nayar[20], Madras Bar  Association[21],  K.T.  Plantation
(P) Ltd.[22], G.C. Kanungo[23], Indra Sawhney (2)[24], and I.R. Coelho2.

21.         Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, learned counsel for the intervenor,
also submits that there is an unreasonable classification  among  policemen
and among the accused and, in any case, the classification  even  if  valid
has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved by Section 6-A, which is
apparently to protect the officers concerned. According to learned counsel,
Section 6-A is also inconsistent with the Cr.P.C. In this regard, he refers
to CBI Manual, Sections 19 and 22 of the PC Act, 1988 and  Section  197  of
Cr.P.C.

Submissions of Mr. L. Nageswara Rao, ASG.
22.         Mr. L. Nageswara  Rao,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General
stoutly defends Section 6-A. He submits that the rationale behind Section 6-
A of the DSPE Act can be seen in the reply to the debate in  Parliament  on
the Central Vigilance Commission Bill by the then Union Minister of Law and
Justice, Mr. Arun Jaitley. The provision is defended  on  the  ground  that
those who are in decision making positions,  those  who  have  to  exercise
discretion and those who have to take vital decisions could  become  target
of frivolous complaints and need to be protected. Therefore, some screening
mechanism must be put  into  place  whereby  serious  complaints  would  be
investigated and frivolous complaints can be thrown out. If such protection
is not given to senior decision makers, anyone can file a complaint and the
CBI or the police can raid the houses of such  senior  officers.  This  may
affect governance  inasmuch  as  instead  of  tendering  honest  advice  to
political executives, the senior  officers  at  the  decision-making  level
would only give safe and non-committal advice. He argues that the object of
Section 6-A is to provide screening mechanism to filter  out  frivolous  or
motivated investigation that could be initiated against senior officers  to
protect them from harassment and to enable them to  take  decision  without
fear. In this regard, the legal principles enunciated in K.  Veeraswami[25]
were strongly pressed into service by Mr. L. Nageswara Rao.

23.         It is argued by the learned Additional Solicitor  General  that
Section  6-A  is  not  an  absolute  bar  because  it  does  not   prohibit
investigation against senior government servants as such. It only  provides
a filter or pre-check  so  that  the  Government  can  ensure  that  senior
officers  at  decision-making  level  are  not  subjected  to   unwarranted
harassment.

24.         Emphasizing that the Central Government is committed to weeding
out vice of corruption, learned Additional Solicitor General  submits  that
requests for approval under Section 6-A are processed  expeditiously  after
the Government of India had constituted a Group of  Ministers  to  consider
certain measures that could be taken by Government to tackle corruption and
the Group of Ministers suggested the measures to ensure that  the  requests
received from CBI under Section 6-A  are  examined  on  priority  and  with
objectivity.

25.         Mr. L. Nageswara  Rao,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General
submits that arbitrariness and unreasonableness cannot by themselves  be  a
ground to strike down legislation. With reference to the decision  of  this
Court in E.P. Royappa[26] he argues that while proposing a new dimension of
arbitrariness as an anti-thesis to equality in Article 14, the  Court  used
arbitrariness to strike down administrative action and not as a  ground  to
test legislations. He submits that in Maneka Gandhi[27] the Court  has  not
held  that  arbitrariness  by  itself  is  a  ground  for   striking   down
legislations under Article 14. Ajay Hasia[28], learned Additional Solicitor
General contends, also does not make arbitrariness a ground to strike  down
legislation. Distinguishing Malpe Vishwanath Acharya[29], he  submits  that
this Court used the classification test to hold legislation to be arbitrary
and the provision of standard rent in Bombay Rent Control  Act  was  struck
down as  having  become  unreasonable  due  to  passage  of  time.  Learned
Additional Solicitor General also distinguished Mardia  Chemicals  Ltd[30].
He vehemently contends that Courts  cannot  strike  down  legislations  for
being arbitrary and unreasonable so as to substitute their own  wisdom  for
that of the legislature.

26.         Mr. L. Nageswara Rao submits that wisdom of legislature  cannot
be gone into  for  testing  validity  of  a  legislation  and,  apart  from
constitutional limitations, no law can be struck down on the ground that it
is unreasonable or unjust. In  this  regard,  he  relies  upon  Kesavananda
Bharati[31]. He also referred to In re. Special Courts Bill, 197812,  which
explained the principles enshrined in Article 14. In support  of  principle
that legislations can be declared invalid or unconstitutional only  on  two
grounds: (a) lack of legislative  competence,  and  (b)  violation  of  any
fundamental rights or any provision of the Constitution, learned Additional
Solicitor General relies upon Kuldip Nayar20. He also  relies  upon  Ashoka
Kumar Thakur[32] in support of the proposition that legislation  cannot  be
challenged simply on the ground of unreasonableness as that by itself  does
not constitute a ground. He submits  that  a  Constitution  Bench  in  K.T.
Plantation  (P)  Ltd.22   has   held   that   plea   of   unreasonableness,
arbitrariness,  proportionality,  etc.,  always  raises   an   element   of
subjectivity on which Court cannot strike down a  statute  or  a  statutory
provision. Unless a constitutional infirmity is pointed out, a  legislation
cannot be struck down by just using the word ‘arbitrary’. In  this  regard,
he heavily relies upon the decisions  of  this  Court  in  In  re.  Natural
Resources Allocation[33], McDowell[34] and Rakesh Kohli[35].  The  decision
of the US Supreme  Court  in  Heller[36]  is  also  cited  by  the  learned
Additional Solicitor General in  support  of  the  proposition  that  Court
should not sit as super legislature over  the  wisdom  or  desirability  of
legislative policy.

27.         Mr.  L. Nageswara  Rao,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General
argues that rule of law cannot be a  ground  for  invalidating  legislations
without reference to the Constitution.  He submits that rule of law  is  not
a concept above the Constitution.  Relying  upon  Indira  Nehru  Gandhi[37],
learned Additional Solicitor General argues  that  meaning  and  constituent
elements of rule of law must be gathered from  the  enacting  provisions  of
the Constitution; vesting discretionary powers  in  the  Government  is  not
contrary to the rule of law.  Moreover, he submits that  exceptions  to  the
procedure in Cr.P.C. cannot be violative of Articles  14  and  21  and  such
exceptions cannot be termed as violating the rule of law.  In  this  regard,
learned Additional Solicitor General refers to Section 197  of  Cr.P.C.  and
relies upon Matajog Dobey[38],  wherein  this  Court  upheld  constitutional
validity of Section 197 and held that the said provision was  not  violative
of Article 14.  He also referred to Section 187 of  Cr.P.C.,  Section  6  of
the Armed Forces (Special Provisions) Act, 1958 and  Section  187-A  of  the
Sea Customs Act and submitted that these provisions have  been  held  to  be
constitutionally valid by this  Court.   Naga  People’s  Movement  of  Human
Rights[39]  was  cited  by  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General  wherein
Section 6 of the Armed  Forces  (Special  Provisions)  Act,  1958  was  held
constitutional and Manhar Lal Bhogilal[40] was cited wherein  Section  187-A
of the Sea  Customs  Act  was  held  valid.   Learned  Additional  Solicitor
General has also referred to Section 42 of the  Food  Safety  and  Standards
Act, 2006, Section 50 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002,  Section  12
of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety  Of  Maritime  Navigation
And Fixed Platforms On Continental  Shelf  Act,  2002,  Section  23  of  the
Maharashtra Control  of  Organised  Crime  Act,  1999,  Section  45  of  the
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, Section 20-A  of  the  Terrorist
and Disruptive  Activities  (Prevention)  Act,  1987,  Section  137  of  the
Customs Act, 1962, Section 11 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, Section  7
of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, Section 20 of the Prevention of  Food
Adulteration Act, 1954, Section 23  of  Lokpal  and  Lokayuktas  Act,  2013,
Section 11 of Cotton Ginning and Pressing Factories Act,  1925,  Section  12
of Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing  (Prohibition)  Act,  1982,  Section  16  of
Gujarat Electricity Supply Undertakings (Acquisition) Act, 1969, Section  24
of Karnataka Control of Organized Crimes Act, 2000 and Section  9  of  Bihar
Non-Government  Educational  Institution  (Taking   Over)   Act,   1988   to
demonstrate that there are large number of provisions  where  permission  of
the Government is required before taking cognizance or  for  institution  of
an offence.

28.         Learned Additional Solicitor General submits that  Section  6-A
satisfies the test of reasonable classification.  The  public  servants  of
the  level  of  Joint  Secretary  and  above  take  policy  decisions  and,
therefore, there is  an  intelligible  differentia.  As  they  take  policy
decisions, there is a need to protect them  from  frivolous  inquiries  and
investigation so that policy  making  does  not  suffer.   Thus,  there  is
rational nexus with the object sought to  be  achieved.   In  this  regard,
learned Additional Solicitor General has relied upon the decisions of  this
Court in Ram Krishna Dalmia[41], Union of India[42]  and Re: Special Courts
Bill,  197812.    He  also  referred  to  the  proceedings  of  the   Joint
Parliamentary Committee, Law Minister’s Speech,  the  Government  of  India
(Transaction of Business) Rules  and  the  Central  Secretariat  Manual  of
Procedure.

29.         Mr. L. Nageswara Rao submits that conferment of unbridled / un-
canalized power on the executive cannot  be  a  ground  for  striking  down
legislation as being violative of Article 14.  Mere possibility of abuse of
power cannot invalidate a law.  He cited the judgments of this Court in  Re
Special Courts Bill, 197812, N.B. Khare[43],  Mafatlal  Industries[44]  and
Sushil Kumar Sharma[45].

30.         Learned Additional Solicitor General submits that conferment of
power on high authority reduces the possibility of its  abuse  to  minimum.
In support of this submission, learned Additional Solicitor General  relies
upon the decision of this Court in Maneka Gandhi27, Matajog  Dubey38,  V.C.
Shukla[46]  and V.C.Shukla (IInd)[47].  He also  submits  that  absence  of
guidelines can only make the exercise of power susceptible to challenge and
not the legislation.   In  this  regard,  Pannalal  Binjraj[48]  and  Jyoti
Pershad[49] are cited by him.

Submissions of Mr. K.V. Viswanathan, ASG
31.         Mr. K.V.  Viswanathan,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General
submits that there is presumption of constitutionality and  mutual  respect
inherent in doctrine  of  separation  of  powers.   He  relies  upon  Bihar
Distillery Ltd.[50].

32.          Mr. K.V. Viswanathan,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General
referred to Sections 7, 11 and 13 of the PC Act, 1988 in order to show that
all these provisions  relate  to  discharge  of  official  functions.   The
officers above the Joint Secretary level are bestowed with crucial decision
making responsibilities.  Citing Kripalu Shankar[51]  and the speech of the
then Minister of Law and Justice, he submits that people in decision making
process need to be given an environment to take decisions without any undue
extraneous pressure. He relies upon  P.  Sirajuddin[52]  to  highlight  the
observations of this  Court  that  lodging  of  FIR  against  a  government
official especially, one who occupies top position in a department, even if
baseless, would do incalculable harm not only to the officer in particular,
but to the department he belongs to, in general.

33.          Mr. K.V. Viswanathan has highlighted that corruption  has  two
aspects: (a) aspect  related  to  decision  making  –  abuse  of  position,
pecuniary loss to the Government etc. and (b) aspect of  illegal  pecuniary
gain – bribery etc.  That abuse of position in order  to  come  within  the
mischief of corruption must necessarily be dishonest  so  that  it  may  be
proved that the officer caused deliberate loss  to  the  department.   Mere
violation of codal provisions, or ordinary norms  of  procedural  behaviour
does not amount to corruption.  He cites decisions of this  Court  in  S.P.
Bhatnagar[53], Major S. K.  Kale[54],  C.  Chenga  Reddy[55]   and  Abdulla
Mohammed Pagarkar[56].

34.         Learned Additional Solicitor General submits that the State  is
the first victim of corruption and the executive is in the best position to
adjudge whether it has been a victim of corruption.  Section 6-A  has  been
enacted to protect the decision making process of the executive from  undue
harassment and exercise of police powers by CBI.  He cites the judgment  of
this Court in A.R. Antulay[57].

35.         Mr. K.V. Viswanathan has referred to other provisions under law
providing for the aggrieved  authority  to  take  a  decision  whether  the
offence has been made out or not.  In  this  regard,  he  has  invited  our
attention to Section 195 of Cr.P.C. and the decision of this Court in Patel
Laljibhai Somabhai[58].  He also referred to Section 340 of  Cr.P.C.  which
allows the court to adjudge whether perjury was committed, and if  it  was,
then whether it required prosecution.  He relies upon the decision of  this
Court in Iqbal Singh Marwah[59].

36.          Citing  Manohar  Lal  Sharma4,  learned  Additional  Solicitor
General submits that even in a court monitored investigation, the concerned
officer could approach the concerned court for an opportunity to be  heard.
Moreover, in Manohar  Lal  Sharma4,  this  court  has  noticed  the  office
memorandum dated 26.09.2011 approving the recommendations made by the Group
of Ministers which provides inter alia for the concerned authority to  give
reasons for granting/rejecting sanction under Section 6-A.  He submits that
when there is denial of sanction order under Section 6-A, such order of the
Central Government could be challenged in a writ  petition  before  a  High
Court.  He says that United Nations recognizes such a protection as Section
6-A in Article 30 of the UN Convention against corruption.

Principles applicable to Article 14
37.         Article 14 reads:
           “14. Equality before law.—The State shall not deny to any person
           equality before the law or the  equal  protection  of  the  laws
           within the territory of India.”

38.         The first part of Article 14, which was adopted from  the  Irish
Constitution, is a declaration of  equality  of  the  civil  rights  of  all
persons within the territories of India.  It enshrines a basic principle  of
republicanism.  The second part, which is a corollary of the  first  and  is
based on the last clause of the first section of  the  Fourteenth  Amendment
of the  American  Constitution,  enjoins  that  equal  protection  shall  be
secured to all such persons in the enjoyment of their rights  and  liberties
without discrimination of favouritism.  It is a pledge of the protection  of
equal laws, that is, laws that operate  alike  on  all  persons  under  like
circumstances12.

39.         Article 14 of the Constitution incorporates concept of  equality
and equal protection of laws.  The provisions of  Article  14  have  engaged
the attention of this Court  from  time  to  time.  The  plethora  of  cases
dealing with Article 14 has culled  out  principles  applicable  to  aspects
which commonly arise under this Article.  Among  those,  may  be  mentioned,
the  decisions  of  this  Court  in  Chiranjit   Lal   Chowdhuri[60],   F.N.
Balsara[61],  Anwar  Ali  Sarkar[62],  Kathi  Raning  Rawat[63],  Lachmandas
Kewalram Ahuja[64], Syed Qasim Razvi[65],  Habeeb  Mohamed[66],  Kedar  Nath
Bajoria[67] and innovated to even associate the members  of  this  Court  to
contribute their V.M. Syed Mohammad & Company[68].    The most of the  above
decisions were considered  in Budhan  Choudhry[69].   This  Court  exposited
the ambit and scope of Article 14 in  Budhan Choudhry69 as follows:

      “It is now  well-established  that  while  article  14  forbids  class
      legislation, it does not  forbid  reasonable  classification  for  the
      purposes of legislation. In  order,  however,  to  pass  the  test  of
      permissible classification two conditions must be  fulfilled,  namely,
      (i) that  the  classification  must  be  founded  on  an  intelligible
      differentia which distinguishes persons or  things  that  are  grouped
      together from others left out of the group, and (ii) that  differentia
      must have a rational relation to the object sought to be  achieved  by
      the  statute  in  question.  The  classification  may  be  founded  on
      different bases; namely, geographical,  or  according  to  objects  or
      occupations or the like. What is necessary is that  there  must  be  a
      nexus between the basis of classification and the object  of  the  Act
      under consideration. It is also well-established by the  decisions  of
      this Court that article 14  condemns  discrimination  not  only  by  a
      substantive law but also by a law of procedure.”




40.         In Ram Krishna Dalmia41, the Constitution Bench of  five  Judges
further culled out the following principles enunciated in the above cases  -

      “(a)     that a law may be constitutional even though it relates to  a
      single individual if, on account  of  some  special  circumstances  or
      reasons applicable to him and not applicable to  others,  that  single
      individual   may   be    treated    as    a    class    by    himself;


      (b)     that  there  is  always  a  presumption  in  favour   of   the
      constitutionality of an enactment and  the  burden  is  upon  him  who
      attacks it to show that there has been a clear  transgression  of  the
      constitutional principles;


      (c)    that it must be presumed that the legislature  understands  and
      correctly appreciates the need of its own people, that  its  laws  are
      directed  to  problems  made  manifest  by  experience  and  that  its
      discriminations     are      based      on      adequate      grounds;


      (d)    that the legislature is free to recognise degrees of  harm  and
      may confine its restrictions to those cases where the need  is  deemed
      to be the clearest;


      (e)   that in order to sustain the  presumption  of  constitutionality
      the court may take into consideration  matters  of  common  knowledge,
      matters of common report, the history of  the  times  and  may  assume
      every state of facts which can be conceived existing at  the  time  of
      legislation; and
      (f)    that while good faith and knowledge of the existing  conditions
      on the part of a legislature are to be presumed, if there  is  nothing
      on the face of the law or the surrounding circumstances brought to the
      notice of the court on which  the  classification  may  reasonably  be
      regarded as based, the  presumption  of  constitutionality  cannot  be
      carried to the extent of  always  holding  that  there  must  be  some
      undisclosed and unknown reasons for subjecting certain individuals  or
      corporations to hostile or discriminating legislation.”


41.         In Ram Krishna  Dalmia41,  it  was  emphasized  that  the  above
principles will have to be constantly borne in mind by the court when it  is
called upon to adjudge the constitutionality of any particular law  attacked
as discriminatory and violative of the equal protection of laws.

42.         Having culled out the above principles, the  Constitution  Bench
in  Ram Krishna Dalmia41, further observed that statute which  may  come  up
for consideration on the question of its validity under Article  14  of  the
Constitution may be placed in one or other of the following five classes:

      “(i)  A statute may itself indicate the persons or things to whom  its
      provisions are intended to apply and the basis of  the  classification
      of such persons or things may appear on the face of the statute or may
      be gathered from the surrounding circumstances known to or brought  to
      the notice of the court. In determining the validity or  otherwise  of
      such a statute the court has to examine whether such classification is
      or can be reasonably regarded as based  upon  some  differentia  which
      distinguishes such persons or things grouped together from those  left
      out of the  group  and  whether  such  differentia  has  a  reasonable
      relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute, no matter
      whether the provisions of the statute are intended to apply only to  a
      particular person or thing or only to a certain class  of  persons  or
      things. Where the court finds that the  classification  satisfies  the
      tests,  the   court   will   uphold   the   validity   of   the   law.



      (ii)  A statute may  direct  its  provisions  against  one  individual
      person or thing or to several individual  persons  or  things  but  no
      reasonable basis of classification may appear on the face of it or  be
      deducible from the surrounding circumstances,  or  matters  of  common
      knowledge. In such a case the court will strike down  the  law  as  an
      instance of naked discrimination.

      (iii)       A statute may not make any classification of  the  persons
      or things for the purpose of applying its provisions but may leave  it
      to the discretion of the Government to select and classify persons  or
      things to whom  its  provisions  are  to  apply.  In  determining  the
      question of the validity or otherwise of such a statute the court will
      not strike down the law out of hand  only  because  no  classification
      appears on its face or because a discretion is given to the Government
      to make the selection or classification but will go on to examine  and
      ascertain if the statute has laid down any principle or policy for the
      guidance of the exercise of discretion by the Government in the matter
      of the selection or classification. After such scrutiny the court will
      strike down the statute if it does  not  lay  down  any  principle  or
      policy for guiding the exercise of discretion by the Government in the
      matter of selection or classification, on the ground that the  statute
      provides for the delegation of arbitrary and uncontrolled power to the
      Government so as to enable  it  to  discriminate  between  persons  or
      things similarly situate and that, therefore,  the  discrimination  is
      inherent in the statute itself. In such a case the court  will  strike
      down both the law as well as the executive  action  taken  under  such
      law.

      (iv)  A statute may not make a classification of the persons or things
      for the purpose of applying its provisions and may  leave  it  to  the
      discretion of the Government to select and  classify  the  persons  or
      things to whom its provisions are to apply but may at  the  same  time
      lay down a policy or principle for the guidance  of  the  exercise  of
      discretion by the Government  in  the  matter  of  such  selection  or
      classification.

      (v)   A statute may not make a classification of the persons or things
      to whom their provisions are intended to apply and  leave  it  to  the
      discretion of the Government to select  or  classify  the  persons  or
      things for applying those provisions according to the  policy  or  the
      principle laid down by the statute itself for guidance of the exercise
      of discretion by the Government in the matter  of  such  selection  or
      classification.  If  the  Government  in  making  the   selection   or
      classification does not proceed on or follow such policy or principle,
      then in such a case the executive action but not the statute should be
      condemned as unconstitutional.”


43.         In Vithal  Rao17,  the  five-Judge  Constitution  Bench  had  an
occasion to consider the test of reasonableness  under  Article  14  of  the
Constitution.  It noted that the State can make a reasonable  classification
for the purpose of legislation and that the classification in  order  to  be
reasonable must satisfy two tests: (i) the classification  must  be  founded
on intelligible differentia and (ii) the differentia must  have  a  rational
relation with the object  sought  to  be  achieved  by  the  legislation  in
question. The Court emphasized that in this regard object itself  should  be
lawful and it cannot be discriminatory.  If the object  is  to  discriminate
against one section of the minority, the discrimination cannot be  justified
on the ground that there is  a  reasonable  classification  because  it  has
rational relation to the object sought to be achieved.

44.         The constitutionality of Special Courts Bill, 1978 came  up  for
consideration in re. Special Courts Bill, 197812 as the President  of  India
made a reference to this Court under Article 143(1) of the Constitution  for
consideration of the question whether the “Special Courts Bill”  or  any  of
its provisions, if enacted would be  constitutionally  invalid.   The  seven
Judge Constitution  Bench  dealt  with  the  scope  of  Article  14  of  the
Constitution.  Noticing the earlier  decisions  of  this  Court  in   Budhan
Choudhry69, Ram  Krishna  Dalmia41,  C.I.  Emden[70],  Kangsari  Haldar[71],
Jyoti Pershad49 and Ambica Mills Ltd.[72],  in  the  majority  judgment  the
then Chief Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, inter  alia,  exposited  the  following
propositions relating to Article 14:

      “(1)  xxx                 xxx                      xxx


      (2) The State, in the exercise  of  its  governmental  power,  has  of
      necessity to make laws operating differently on  different  groups  or
      classes of persons within its territory to attain particular  ends  in
      giving effect to its policies, and it must possess  for  that  purpose
      large powers of distinguishing and classifying persons or things to be
      subjected to such laws.


      (3) The constitutional command to the State to afford equal protection
      of  its  laws  sets  a  goal  not  attainable  by  the  invention  and
      application of a precise formula. Therefore, classification  need  not
      be constituted by an exact or scientific  exclusion  or  inclusion  of
      persons or things. The courts should not insist on delusive  exactness
      or  apply  doctrinaire  tests  for   determining   the   validity   of
      classification in any given case. Classification is justified if it is
      not palpably arbitrary.


      (4) The principle underlying the guarantee of Article 14 is  not  that
      the same rules of law should be applicable to all persons  within  the
      Indian territory or that the same remedies should be made available to
      them irrespective of differences of circumstances. It only means  that
      all persons similarly circumstanced shall be  treated  alike  both  in
      privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Equal laws would have to
      be applied to all in the  same  situation,  and  there  should  be  no
      discrimination between one  person  and  another  if  as  regards  the
      subject-matter of the legislation their position is substantially  the
      same.


      (5) By the process of classification,  the  State  has  the  power  of
      determining who  should  be  regarded  as  a  class  for  purposes  of
      legislation and in relation to a law enacted on a particular  subject.
      This power, no doubt,  in  some  degree  is  likely  to  produce  some
      inequality; but if a law deals with the liberties of a number of well-
      defined classes, it is not open to  the  charge  of  denial  of  equal
      protection on the ground that it has no application to other  persons.
      Classification  thus  means  segregation  in  classes  which  have   a
      systematic  relation,  usually  found   in   common   properties   and
      characteristics. It postulates a rational  basis  and  does  not  mean
      herding together of certain persons and classes arbitrarily.

      (6) The law can make and set apart the classes according to the  needs
      and exigencies of the society and as suggested by experience.  It  can
      recognise even degree of evil, but the classification should never  be
      arbitrary, artificial or evasive.

      (7) The classification must not be arbitrary  but  must  be  rational,
      that is to say, it must  not  only  be  based  on  some  qualities  or
      characteristics which are to be  found  in  all  the  persons  grouped
      together and not in others who are left out  but  those  qualities  or
      characteristics must have a reasonable relation to the object  of  the
      legislation. In order  to  pass  the  test,  two  conditions  must  be
      fulfilled, namely, (1) that the classification must be founded  on  an
      intelligible differentia which distinguishes those  that  are  grouped
      together from others  and  (2)  that  that  differentia  must  have  a
      rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act.

      (8) The differentia which is the basis of the classification  and  the
      object of the Act are distinct things and what is  necessary  is  that
      there must be a nexus between them. In short, while Article 14 forbids
      class discrimination by conferring privileges or imposing  liabilities
      upon persons arbitrarily selected out  of  a  large  number  of  other
      persons similarly situated in relation to the privileges sought to  be
      conferred or the liabilities proposed  to  be  imposed,  it  does  not
      forbid classification for the purpose of  legislation,  provided  such
      classification is not arbitrary in the sense above mentioned.

      (9) If the  legislative  policy  is  clear  and  definite  and  as  an
      effective method of carrying out that policy a discretion is vested by
      the statute  upon  a  body  of  administrators  or  officers  to  make
      selective application of the law  to  certain  classes  or  groups  of
      persons, the  statute  itself  cannot  be  condemned  as  a  piece  of
      discriminatory legislation. In such cases,  the  power  given  to  the
      executive body would import a duty on  it  to  classify  the  subject-
      matter of legislation in accordance with the  objective  indicated  in
      the statute. If the administrative body proceeds to  classify  persons
      or things on a basis which has no rational relation to  the  objective
      of the Legislature, its action can be annulled  as  offending  against
      the equal protection clause. On the other hand, if the statute  itself
      does not disclose a  definite  policy  or  objective  and  it  confers
      authority on another to make selection at its  pleasure,  the  statute
      would be held on the face of it to be discriminatory, irrespective  of
      the way in which it is applied.

      (10)  Whether  a   law   conferring   discretionary   powers   on   an
      administrative authority is constitutionally valid or not  should  not
      be determined on the assumption that such authority  will  act  in  an
      arbitrary manner in exercising the discretion committed to  it.  Abuse
      of power given by law does occur; but the validity of the  law  cannot
      be contested because of such an apprehension. Discretionary  power  is
      not necessarily a discriminatory power.

      (11) Classification necessarily implies the making of a distinction or
      discrimination between  persons  classified  and  those  who  are  not
      members of that class. It is the essence of a classification that upon
      the class are cast duties and burdens  different  from  those  resting
      upon the general public. Indeed, the very idea  of  classification  is
      that of inequality, so that it goes without saying that the mere  fact
      of inequality in no manner determines the matter of constitutionality.

      (12) Whether an enactment providing  for  special  procedure  for  the
      trial of certain offences is or is not discriminatory and violative of
      Article 14 must be determined in each  case  as  it  arises,  for,  no
      general rule applicable to all  cases  can  safely  be  laid  down.  A
      practical assessment of the operation of the  law  in  the  particular
      circumstances is necessary.

      (13) A rule of procedure laid down by law comes  as  much  within  the
      purview of Article 14 as  any  rule  of  substantive  law  and  it  is
      necessary that all litigants, who are similarly situated, are able  to
      avail themselves of the same procedural  rights  for  relief  and  for
      defence with like protection and without discrimination.”



45.         In Nergesh Meerza16, the three-Judge Bench of this  Court  while
dealing with constitutional validity of Regulation  46(i)(c)  of  Air  India
Employees’ Service Regulations (referred  to  as  ‘A.I.  Regulations’)  held
that certain conditions mentioned in the Regulations may  not  be  violative
of Article 14 on the ground of discrimination but if it is proved  that  the
conditions laid down are entirely  unreasonable  and  absolutely  arbitrary,
then the provisions will have  to  be  struck  down.   With  regard  to  due
process  clause  in  the  American  Constitution  and  Article  14  of   our
Constitution, this Court referred to Anwar Ali Sarkar62, and  observed  that
the due process clause in the American Constitution could not apply  to  our
Constitution.   The  Court  also  referred  to  A.S.   Krishna[73]   wherein
Venkatarama Ayyar, J. observed: “The law would thus appear to  be  based  on
the due process clause, and it is extremely doubtful  whether  it  can  have
application under our Constitution.”

46.         In D.S. Nakara7, the Constitution Bench of  this  Court  had  an
occasion to consider the scope, content  and  meaning  of  Article  14.  The
Court referred to earlier decisions of this Court and in para 15 (pages 317-
318), the Court observed:

      “Thus the fundamental principle  is  that  Article  14  forbids  class
      legislation but permits reasonable classification for the  purpose  of
      legislation which  classification  must  satisfy  the  twin  tests  of
      classification being founded  on  an  intelligible  differentia  which
      distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together  from  those
      that are left out of the  group  and  that  differentia  must  have  a
      rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the  statute  in
      question.”




47.         In E.P. Royappa26, it has been  held  by  this  Court  that  the
basic principle which informs both Articles  14  and  16  are  equality  and
inhibition against discrimination. This Court observed in para 85  (page  38
of the report) as under:

      “….From a positivistic  point  of  view,  equality  is  antithetic  to
      arbitrariness. In fact equality and arbitrariness are  sworn  enemies;
      one belongs to the rule of law in a republic while the other,  to  the
      whim and caprice of an absolute monarch. Where an act is arbitrary, it
      is implicit in it that it is unequal both according to political logic
      and constitutional law and is therefore violative of Article  14,  and
      if it affects any matter relating to public  employment,  it  is  also
      violative of Article 16. Articles 14 and 16 strike at arbitrariness in
      State action and ensure fairness and equality of treatment.”



Court’s approach
48.         Where there is challenge to the  constitutional  validity  of  a
law enacted by the legislature, the Court must keep in view  that  there  is
always a presumption of constitutionality  of  an  enactment,  and  a  clear
transgression of constitutional principles must be  shown.  The  fundamental
nature and importance of the legislative process needs to be  recognized  by
the Court and due regard and deference must be accorded to  the  legislative
process.  Where  the  legislation  is  sought  to  be  challenged  as  being
unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, the  Court
must remind itself to  the  principles  relating  to  the  applicability  of
Article 14 in relation to invalidation of legislation.  The  two  dimensions
of Article 14 in its application to legislation  and  rendering  legislation
invalid are now well recognized and these are (i) discrimination,  based  on
an impermissible or invalid classification and (ii) excessive delegation  of
powers; conferment of uncanalised and  unguided  powers  on  the  executive,
whether in the form of delegated legislation or  by  way  of  conferment  of
authority to pass administrative orders – if such conferment is without  any
guidance,  control  or  checks,  it  is  violative  of  Article  14  of  the
Constitution.  The Court also needs to be mindful that  a  legislation  does
not become unconstitutional merely because there is another view or  because
another method may be considered to be as good or even more effective,  like
any issue of social, or even economic policy.  It is well settled  that  the
courts do not substitute their views on what the policy is.

Consideration
49.         Several objections have been raised against  this  provision  in
the context of Article 14.  First, we shall consider the  challenge  against
the validity of classification which Section 6-A(1) makes and  the  lack  of
relationship between the basis of that classification and the  object  which
it seeks to achieve.

50.         The impugned provision, viz., Section 6-A  came  to  be  enacted
after the decision of this Court in Vineet  Narain1.   It  is  important  to
bear in mind that the three-Judge Bench of this Court in Vineet Narain1  was
directly concerned with  constitutional validity  of  the  Single  Directive
No. 4.7(3), which to the extent relevant for the present purposes, reads:

      “4.7(3)(i) In regard to any person who is  or  has  been  a  decision-
      making level officer (Joint Secretary or equivalent or  above  in  the
      Central Government or such officers as are or have been on  deputation
      to a Public Sector Undertaking; officers of the Reserve Bank of  India
      of the level equivalent to Joint Secretary or  above  in  the  Central
      Government, Executive Directors and above of the SEBI and  Chairman  &
      Managing Director  and  Executive  Directors  and  such  of  the  bank
      officers who are one level below the  Board  of  Nationalised  Banks),
      there  should  be   prior   sanction   of   the   Secretary   of   the
      Ministry/Department concerned before SPE takes up any enquiry  (PE  or
      RC), including ordering  search  in  respect  of  them.  Without  such
      sanction, no enquiry shall be initiated by the SPE.


      (ii)       xxx               xxx             xxx
      (iii)  xxx             xxx              xxx
      (iv)  xxx              xxx              xxx.”
51.         The above provision contained in Single Directive 4.7(3)(i)  was
sought to be justified by the learned Attorney General in Vineet Narain1  on
the ground  that  the  officers  at  the  decision  making  level  need  the
protection against malicious  or  vexatious  investigations  in  respect  of
honest decisions taken by them.  Learned Attorney General in Vineet  Narain1
submitted that such a structure to regulate the grant of sanction by a  high
authority together with a time-frame to avoid any delay  was  sufficient  to
make the procedure reasonable and  to  provide  for  an  objective  decision
being taken for the grant of sanction within  the  specified  time.  It  was
urged that  refusal  of  sanction  would  enable  judicial  review  of  that
decision in case of any grievance.

52.          This  Court  in  Vineet  Narain1  took  notice  of  the  report
submitted by IRC, which recorded:

       “In the past several years, there has been  progressive  increase  in
      allegations of corruption involving public  servants.  Understandably,
      cases of this  nature  have  attracted  heightened  media  and  public
      attention. A general impression appears to have gained ground that the
      Central investigating agencies concerned  are  subject  to  extraneous
      pressures and have been indulging in dilatory tactics in not  bringing
      the guilty to book. The decisions of higher courts to directly monitor
      investigations in certain cases have added to the aforesaid belief.”



53.         The Court then discussed the earlier decisions of this Court  in
J.A.C. Saldanha[74] and K. Veeraswami25 and also the provisions of the  DSPE
Act and held that: “Powers  of  investigation  which  are  governed  by  the
statutory  provisions  and  they  cannot  be  curtailed  by  any   executive
instruction.”  Having said that, this Court stated  that  the  law  did  not
classify  offenders  differently   for   treatment   thereunder,   including
investigation of offences and prosecution for offences, according  to  their
status in life. Every person accused of committing the same  offence  is  to
be dealt with in the same manner in accordance with law, which is  equal  in
its application to everyone. The Single  Directive  is  applicable  only  to
certain persons above the specified level who  are  described  as  decision-
making officers. Negativing that any distinction can be made  for  them  for
the purpose of investigation of an offence of which they are  accused,  this
Court in paragraphs 45 and 46 held as under:

      “45. Obviously, where the accusation of corruption is based on  direct
      evidence and it does not require any inference to be  drawn  dependent
      on the decision-making process, there is no rational basis to classify
      them differently. In other words, if  the  accusation  be  of  bribery
      which is  supported  by  direct  evidence  of  acceptance  of  illegal
      gratification by them, including trap cases, it  is  obvious  that  no
      other factor is relevant and the level or status of  the  offender  is
      irrelevant. It is for this reason  that  it  was  conceded  that  such
      cases, i.e., of bribery, including trap cases, are outside  the  scope
      of the Single Directive. After some debate  at  the  Bar,  no  serious
      attempt was made by the learned Attorney General to support  inclusion
      within the Single Directive of cases in which the offender is  alleged
      to be in possession of disproportionate assets. It is clear  that  the
      accusation of possession of disproportionate assets  by  a  person  is
      also based  on  direct  evidence  and  no  factor  pertaining  to  the
      expertise of decision-making is involved therein. We have,  therefore,
      no doubt that the Single Directive cannot  include  within  its  ambit
      cases of possession of disproportionate assets by  the  offender.  The
      question now is only with regard to cases other than those of bribery,
      including trap cases, and of  possession  of  disproportionate  assets
      being covered by the Single Directive.


      46. There may be other cases where the accusation cannot be  supported
      by direct evidence and is a matter of inference of corrupt motive  for
      the decision, with nothing to prove directly any illegal gain  to  the
      decision-maker. Those are cases in which the inference drawn  is  that
      the decision must have been made for  a  corrupt  motive  because  the
      decision could not have been reached otherwise by an officer  at  that
      level in the hierarchy. This is, therefore, an area where the  opinion
      of persons with requisite expertise in decision-making of that kind is
      relevant and, may be even decisive in reaching the conclusion  whether
      the allegation requires any investigation to be made. In view  of  the
      fact that the CBI or the police force  does  not  have  the  expertise
      within its fold for the formation of the  requisite  opinion  in  such
      cases, the need for the inclusion of such a  mechanism  comprising  of
      experts in the field as a part of the infrastructure  of  the  CBI  is
      obvious, to decide whether the accusation made discloses grounds for a
      reasonable suspicion of the commission of an offence and  it  requires
      investigation. In  the  absence  of  any  such  mechanism  within  the
      infrastructure of the CBI, comprising of experts in the field who  can
      evaluate the material  for  the  decision  to  be  made,  introduction
      therein of a body of experts having expertise of the kind of  business
      which requires the decision to be made, can be appreciated. But  then,
      the final opinion is to be of the CBI with the aid of that advice  and
      not that of anyone else. It would be more appropriate to have  such  a
      body within the infrastructure of the CBI itself.”

54.         This Court, accordingly,  declared  Single  Directive  4.7(3)(i)
being invalid.

55.         Section 6-A replicates Single  Directive  4.7(3)(i),  which  was
struck down by this Court.  The only change is  that  executive  instruction
is replaced by the legislation.  Now, insofar as the vice that  was  pointed
out by this Court that powers of investigation which  are  governed  by  the
statutory provisions under the DSPE Act  and  they  cannot  be  estopped  or
curtailed by any executive instruction issued under  Section  4(1)  of  that
Act is concerned, it has been remedied.  But the question remains, and  that
is what has been raised in these matters,  whether  Section  6-A  meets  the
touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution.

56.         Can classification be made creating a class  of  the  government
officers of the level  of  Joint  Secretary  and  above  level  and  certain
officials   in   public   sector   undertakings   for   the    purpose    of
inquiry/investigation into an offence alleged to have been  committed  under
the PC Act, 1988? Or, to put it differently, can classification be  made  on
the basis of the status/position of the public servant for  the  purpose  of
inquiry/investigation into the allegation  of  graft  which  amounts  to  an
offence under the PC Act, 1988?  Can  the  Legislature  lay  down  different
principles for investigation/inquiry into the allegations of corruption  for
the public servants who hold a particular position?  Is such  classification
founded on sound differentia?  To answer these questions, we  should  eschew
the doctrinaire approach.  Rather, we should test the validity  of  impugned
classification by broad considerations  having  regard  to  the  legislative
policy relating to prevention of corruption enacted in the PC Act, 1988  and
the powers of inquiry/investigation under the DSPE Act.

57.         The Constitution permits the State to determine, by the  process
of classification, what should be  regarded  as  a  class  for  purposes  of
legislation and in relation to law enacted on a particular  subject.   There
is bound to be some degree of inequality when there is  segregation  of  one
class from the other.  However, such segregation must be  rational  and  not
artificial or evasive. In other words, the classification must not  only  be
based on some qualities or characteristics, which are to  be  found  in  all
persons grouped together and not in  others  who  are  left  out  but  those
qualities or characteristics must have a reasonable relation to  the  object
of the legislation.  Differentia which is the basis of  classification  must
be  sound  and  must  have  reasonable  relation  to  the  object   of   the
legislation.  If the object itself is discriminatory, then explanation  that
classification is reasonable having rational relation to the  object  sought
to be achieved is immaterial.

58.         It seems to us that classification which is made in Section  6-A
on the basis of status in the Government service is  not  permissible  under
Article 14 as it defeats the purpose of finding prima facie truth  into  the
allegations of graft, which amount to an offence under  the  PC  Act,  1988.
Can there be sound differentiation between corrupt public servants based  on
their status? Surely not, because irrespective of their status or  position,
corrupt public servants are corrupters of public power.  The corrupt  public
servants, whether high or low, are birds of the same  feather  and  must  be
confronted with the process of investigation and inquiry equally.  Based  on
the position or status in  service,  no  distinction  can  be  made  between
public servants against whom there are allegations amounting to  an  offence
under the PC Act, 1988.

59.         Corruption is an enemy of the nation and tracking  down  corrupt
public servants and punishing such persons is a necessary mandate of the  PC
Act, 1988.  It is difficult to justify the  classification  which  has  been
made in Section 6-A because the goal of law in the PC Act, 1988 is  to  meet
corruption cases with a very strong hand and all public servants are  warned
through such a legislative measure that  corrupt  public  servants  have  to
face very serious consequences.  In the words of Mathew, J. in Ambica  Mills
Ltd.72, “The equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the  protection  of
equal laws. But laws may classify...... A reasonable classification  is  one
which includes all who  are  similarly  situated  and  none  who  are  not”.
Mathew, J., while explaining the meaning of the words, ‘similarly  situated’
stated that we must look beyond the classification to  the  purpose  of  the
law. The purpose of a  law  may  be  either  the  elimination  of  a  public
mischief  or  the  achievement   of   some   positive   public   good.   The
classification made in Section 6-A neither eliminates  public  mischief  nor
achieves some positive public good. On the other hand,  it  advances  public
mischief  and  protects  the   crime-doer.    The   provision   thwarts   an
independent,  unhampered,  unbiased,  efficient  and  fearless   inquiry   /
investigation to track down the corrupt public servants.

60.         The essence of  police  investigation  is  skilful  inquiry  and
collection of material and   evidence   in   a   manner   by    which    the
potential   culpable individuals are not forewarned.  The previous  approval
from the Government necessarily required under Section 6-A would  result  in
indirectly putting to notice the officers   to   be   investigated    before
  commencement   of   investigation.  Moreover,  if  the  CBI  is  not  even
allowed to verify complaints by preliminary enquiry, how can the  case  move
forward?  A preliminary enquiry is intended to  ascertain  whether  a  prima
facie case for investigation is made out or not. If CBI  is  prevented  from
holding a preliminary enquiry, at the very threshold, a  fetter  is  put  to
enable the CBI to gather relevant material.  As a matter of  fact,  the  CBI
is not able to collect the material even to  move  the  Government  for  the
purpose of obtaining previous approval from the Central Government.

61.         It is important to bear in mind that  as  per  the  CBI  Manual,
(Paragraph 9.10) a preliminary enquiry relating to  allegations  of  bribery
and  corruption  should  be  limited  to  the  scrutiny   of   records   and
interrogation of  bare  minimum  persons  which  being  necessary  to  judge
whether there is any substance in the allegations which are  being  enquired
into and whether the case is  worth  pursuing  further  or  not.  Even  this
exercise of scrutiny of records and gathering relevant information  to  find
out whether the case is worth pursuing further or not is not  possible.   In
the criminal justice system, the inquiry and investigation into  an  offence
is the domain  of  the  police.  The  very  power  of  CBI  to  enquire  and
investigate into  the  allegations  of  bribery  and  corruption  against  a
certain class of public servants and officials  in  public  undertakings  is
subverted and impinged by Section 6-A.

62.         The justification for having  such  classification  is  founded
principally on the statement made by the then Minister of Law  and  Justice
that if no protection is  to  be  given  to  the  officers,  who  take  the
decisions and make discretions, then anybody can file a  complaint  and  an
inspector of the CBI or the police can raid their  houses  any  moment.  If
this elementary protection is not given to the senior decision makers, they
would not tender  honest  advice  to  political  executives.   Such  senior
officers then may play safe and give  non-committal  advice  affecting  the
governance. The justification for classification in Section 6-A is also put
forth on the basis of the report of the Joint  Parliamentary  Committee  to
which CVC Bill, 1999 was referred particularly at the question relating  to
Clause 27  regarding amendment of the DSPE Act (the provision which is  now
Section 6-A).  The Joint Parliamentary Committee, in this regard  noted  as
follows:

           “The Committee note that many witnesses who appeared before  the
           Committee had expressed the need to protect the bonafide actions
           at the decision making level.  At present there is no  provision
           in the Bill for seeking prior approval of the Commission or  the
           head of the Department etc. for registering  a  case  against  a
           person of the decision making level.  As such, no protection  is
           available to the persons at the decision making level.  In  this
           regard, the Committee note that earlier, the prior  approval  of
           the Government was required in the form of a ‘Single  Directive’
           which was set aside by the Supreme Court.   The  Committee  feel
           that such a protection should be restored  in  the  same  format
           which was there earlier and desire  that  the  power  of  giving
           prior approval for taking action against a senior officer of the
           decision  making  level  should  be  vested  with  the   Central
           Government by making appropriate  provision  in  the  Act.   The
           Committee, therefore, recommend  that  Clause  27  of  the  Bill
           accordingly amended so as to insert a new section 6A to the DSPE
           Act, 1946, to this effect.”



63.         As a matter of fact, the justification  for  Section  6-A  which
has been put forth before us on behalf of the  Central  Government  was  the
justification for Single Directive  4.7(3)(i) in  Vineet  Narain1  as  well.
However, the Court was unable to persuade itself with the same.   In  Vineet
Narain1 in respect of Single Directive 4.7(3)(i), the Court said that  every
person accused of committing the same offence is to be  dealt  with  in  the
same manner in accordance with law, which is equal  in  its  application  to
everyone. We are in agreement with the above observation in Vineet  Narain1,
which, in our opinion, equally applies to Section 6-A.  In  Vineet  Narain1,
this Court did  not  accept  the  argument  that  the  Single  Directive  is
applicable only to certain class of officers above the specified  level  who
are decision making officers and a distinction can be made for them for  the
purpose of investigation of an offence of which they  are  accused.  We  are
also clearly of the view that no distinction can be made for  certain  class
of officers specified in Section 6-A who are described  as  decision  making
officers for the purpose of inquiry/investigation into an offence under  the
PC Act, 1988.  There is no rational  basis  to  classify  the  two  sets  of
public servants differently on the  ground  that  one  set  of  officers  is
decision making officers and not the other set of officers.  If there is  an
accusation of bribery, graft, illegal gratification or  criminal  misconduct
against a public servant, then we fail to understand as to  how  the  status
of offender is of any relevance.  Where  there  are  allegations  against  a
public servant which amount to an offence under the PC Act, 1988, no  factor
pertaining to expertise of decision making is involved.   Yet,  Section  6-A
makes a distinction. It is this vice which renders Section 6-A violative  of
Article 14.  Moreover, the result of the impugned legislation  is  that  the
very group of persons, namely, high ranking  bureaucrats   whose    misdeeds
and   illegalities   may   have   to   be   inquired   into,   would  decide
whether the CBI should even start an inquiry or investigation  against  them
or  not.   There  will  be  no  confidentiality  and   insulation   of   the
investigating agency from political and bureaucratic control  and  influence
because the approval is to  be  taken  from  the  Central  Government  which
would   involve   leaks   and   disclosures   at   every stage.

64.         It is true that sub-Section (2) of Section 6-A  has  taken  care
of observations of this Court in Vineet Narain1 insofar as  trap  cases  are
concerned.  It also takes care of the infirmity pointed out  by  this  Court
that in the absence of any statutory  requirement  of  prior  permission  or
sanction for investigation, it cannot be imposed as  a  condition  precedent
for initiation of investigation, but, Section 6-A continues to  suffer  from
the  other  two  infirmities  which  this  Court  noted  concerning   Single
Directive, viz.; (a) where inference is to be drawn that the  decision  must
have been  for  corrupt  motive  and  direct  evidence  is  not  there,  the
expertise to take decision whether to proceed or not in  such  cases  should
be with the CBI itself and not with the Central Government and  (b)  in  any
event the final decision to commence investigation into  the  offences  must
be of the CBI with the internal aid and advice  and  not  of  anybody  else.
Section  6-A  also   suffers  from  the  vice   of   classifying   offenders
differently for  treatment  thereunder  for  inquiry  and  investigation  of
offences, according to their  status  in  life.   Every  person  accused  of
committing the same offence is to be  dealt  with  in  the  same  manner  in
accordance with law, which is equal in its application to everyone.

65.          Way  back  in  1993,  the  Central  Government  constituted  a
Committee under the Chairmanship of the former Home  Secretary  (Shri  N.N.
Vohra) to take stock of all available information about the  activities  of
the crime syndicates/mafia organizations, which had  developed  links  with
and  were  being  permitted  by  Government  functionaries  and   political
personalities. In para 14.3 of the report, the Committee has observed  that
linkages  of  crime  syndicate  with  senior  Government  functionaries  or
political leaders in the States or at the Centre could have a destabilizing
effect  on  the  functioning  of  the  Government.   The  report  paints  a
frightening picture of criminal-bureaucratic-political nexus – a network of
high level corruption. The impugned provision puts this nexus in a position
to block inquiry and investigation  by  CBI  by  conferring  the  power  of
previous approval on the Central Government.

66.         A class of Central Government employees  has  been  created  in
Section 6-A inasmuch as it offers protection to a class of  the  Government
officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above to whom DSPE Act applies
but no such protection is available to the officers of the same level,  who
are posted in various States.  This  position  is  accepted  by  CBI.   Mr.
Sidharth Luthra, learned Additional Solicitor General placed before us  the
following questions and answers to clarify the legal position:

      “Question No.1 :   Whether an officer of  the  public  sector  bank  /
                       public sector undertaking of  Central  Govt.  in  the
                       rank of Joint Secretary and above  while  posting  in
                       the State and alleged to have  committed  an  offence
                       under P.C. Act, can be investigated by  State  Police
                       or CBI?

      Answer No.1  :   Yes, both State  Police  and  CBI  have  jurisdiction
                       under P.C. Act over such officers.  The  jurisdiction
                       of CBI is, however, subject to Section 6(A)  of  DSPE
                       Act and consent of the State Govt. u/s 6 of the  DSPE
                       Act, 1946.




      Question No.2  : Whether an employee of All India  Service  i.e.  IPS,
                       IAS and Indian Forest Services while  posted  in  the
                       State Govt. at the  JS  level  and  above  can  claim
                       protection under 6(A)?

      Answer No.2  :   No, as the very wording of Section 6(A) mentions only
                       the employees of the Central Govt.

      Question No.3  : Whether in a Union Territory, the  State  Police  and
                       the  CBI  will  have  concurrent  jurisdiction   over
                       employees of Central Govt. for PC Act offences?

      Answer No.3   :    Yes,  both  the  State   UT  Police  and  CBI  have
                       jurisdiction over Central Govt. employees under  P.C.
                       Act.  Section 6(A) of DSPE Act is operative  for  CBI
                       for officers of the level of JS and above.

      Question No.4 :  What will be the position regarding employees of  the
                       Central Govt. in the Allied / Central Civil  Services
                       such as Indian Revenue Service, Postal  Service  etc.
                       Who are working in the territory of the State but not
                       posted in the State?

      Answer No.4  ;   Yes, both State  Police  and  CBI  have  jurisdiction
                       under P.C. Act over such officers.  The  jurisdiction
                       of CBI is, however, subject to Section 6(A)  of  DSPE
                       Act and consent of the State Govt. u/s 6 of the  DSPE
                       Act, 1946.”




67.         Can it be said that the classification is based on intelligible
differentia when one set of bureaucrats of Joint Secretary level and  above
who are working with the Central Government are  offered  protection  under
Section 6-A while the same level of officers who are working in the  States
do not get protection though both classes of these officers are accused  of
an offence under PC  Act,  1988  and  inquiry  /  investigation  into  such
allegations is to be carried out.  Our  answer  is  in  the  negative.  The
provision in Section 6-A, thus, impedes tracking down  the  corrupt  senior
bureaucrats as without previous approval of the Central Government, the CBI
cannot even hold preliminary inquiry much less an  investigation  into  the
allegations. The protection in Section 6-A has propensity of shielding  the
corrupt.  The  object of Section 6-A, that senior public  servants  of  the
level of Joint Secretary and above who take policy decision must not be put
to any harassment, side-tracks the fundamental objective  of  the  PC  Act,
1988 to deal with corruption and act against senior  public  servants.  The
CBI is not able to proceed even to collect the material  to  unearth  prima
facie substance into the merits of allegations. Thus, the object of Section
6-A itself is discriminatory. That being the position,  the  discrimination
cannot be justified on the ground that there is a reasonable classification
because it has rational relation to the object sought to be achieved.

68.         The signature tune in Vineet Narain1 is, “However high you  may
be, the law is above you.”  We reiterate the same. Section 6-A offends this
signature tune and effectively Article 14.

69.         Undoubtedly, every differentiation is not a discrimination  but
at the same time, differentiation must be founded  on  pertinent  and  real
differences as distinguished from irrelevant and artificial ones.  A simple
physical grouping which separates one category from the other  without  any
rational basis is not a sound or intelligible differentia.  The  separation
or segregation must have a systematic relation and rational basis  and  the
object of such segregation must not be discriminatory. Every public servant
against whom there is reasonable suspicion of commission of crime or  there
are allegations of an offence under the PC Act,  1988  has  to  be  treated
equally and similarly under the law.  Any distinction made between them  on
the basis of their status or  position  in  service  for  the  purposes  of
inquiry / investigation is  nothing  but  an  artificial  one  and  offends
Article 14.

70.         Office of public power cannot be the workshop of personal gain.
The probity in public life is of great  importance.   How  can  two  public
servants against whom there are allegations of corruption or graft or bribe-
taking or criminal misconduct under the PC Act, 1988  can  be  made  to  be
treated differently because one happens to be  a  junior  officer  and  the
other, a senior decision maker.
71.         Corruption is an enemy  of  nation  and  tracking  down  corrupt
public servant, howsoever high he may be, and punishing  such  person  is  a
necessary mandate under the PC Act, 1988.  The status or position of  public
servant does not qualify such  public  servant  from  exemption  from  equal
treatment.  The decision making power does not  segregate  corrupt  officers
into two classes as they are common crime doers  and  have  to  be   tracked
down by the same process of inquiry and investigation.

72.         It is argued on behalf  of  the  Central  Government  that  now
office memorandum (dated 26.09.2011) approving the recommendations made  by
the Group of Ministers has been issued which provides inter alia for  quick
consideration of the request by the CBI  for  approval  and  also  to  give
reasons for granting  /  rejecting  sanction  under  Section  6-A.   It  is
submitted that delay in disposal of the requests by the CBI  is  now  taken
care of and if there is denial of sanction order under  Section  6-A,  such
order of the Central Government can be challenged in a writ petition before
the High Court.  Such protection, it is submitted, is  even  recognized  by
United Nations in Article 30 of the UN Convention against corruption.  This
aspect has been considered by this Court in Manohar Lal Sharma4 to which we
shall refer appropriately a little later.

73.         The PC Act, 1988 is a special statute  and  its  preamble  shows
that it has been enacted to consolidate and amend the law  relating  to  the
prevention of corruption and for the matters  connected  therewith.   It  is
intended to make the  corruption  laws  more  effective  by  widening  their
coverage and by  strengthening  the  provisions.   It  came  to  be  enacted
because Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 as amended from time to time  was
inadequate to deal with the offences of corruption effectively. The new  Act
now seeks to provide for speedy trial of offences punishable under  the  Act
in public interest  as  the  legislature  had  become  aware  of  corruption
amongst the public servants.

74.          Corruption  corrodes  the  moral  fabric  of  the  society  and
corruption by public servants not only  leads  to  corrosion  of  the  moral
fabric of the society but also harmful to the national economy and  national
interest, as the persons occupying high posts in the Government by  misusing
their power due to corruption can cause considerable damage to the  national
economy, national interest and image of the country[75].

75.         The PC Act, 1988 has also widened the scope  of  the  definition
of the expression ‘public servant’ and incorporated offences under  Sections
161 to 165A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  By Lokpal and  Lokayuktas  Act,
2013 (Act 1 of  2014),  further  amendments  have  been  made  therein.  The
penalties relating to the offences under Sections 7, 8, 9,  12,  13  and  14
have been enhanced by these amendments.

75.1        Section 7 makes taking gratification by a public  servant  other
than legal remuneration in respect of an official  act  as  an  offence  and
provides penalties for such offence.  The  expressions  ‘gratification’  and
‘legal remuneration’ have been explained in  clauses  (b)  and  (c)  of  the
Explanation appended to Section  7.   Taking  gratification  by  corrupt  or
illegal means to influence public servant is  an  offence  under  Section  8
while under  Section  9,  taking  gratification  for  exercise  of  personal
influence with a public servant is  an  offence.  Section  10  provides  for
punishment for abetment by public servant of offences defined in  Section  8
or 9. Section 11 provides for an offence  where  a  public  servant  obtains
valuable thing without consideration from person concerned in proceeding  or
business transacted by such public servant. The punishment for  abetment  of
offences defined in Section 7 or 11 is provided in Section 12.

75.2        Section 13 is a provision relating to criminal misconduct  by  a
public servant. It reads as follows:

      “13.  Criminal misconduct by a public servant.- (1) A  public  servant
      is said to commit the offence of criminal misconduct,-

           (a) if he habitually accepts or obtains or agrees to  accept  or
           attempts to obtain from any person for himself or for any  other
           person any gratification other  than  legal  remuneration  as  a
           motive or reward such as is mentioned in section 7; or

           (b) if he habitually accepts or obtains or agrees to  accept  or
           attempts to obtain for himself or  for  any  other  person,  any
           valuable thing without  consideration  or  for  a  consideration
           which he knows to be inadequate from any person whom he knows to
           have been, or to be, or to be likely  to  be  concerned  in  any
           proceeding or business transacted or about to be  transacted  by
           him, or having any connection with  the  official  functions  of
           himself or of any public servant to whom he is  subordinate,  or
           from any person whom he knows to be interested in or related  to
           the person so concerned; or

           (c)  if  he  dishonestly  or  fraudulently  misappropriates   or
           otherwise converts for his own use any property entrusted to him
           or under his control as a public servant  or  allows  any  other
           person so to do; or

           (d) if he,-

                 (i) by corrupt or illegal means, obtains for himself or for
                 any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage;
                 or

                 (ii) by abusing his position as a public  servant,  obtains
                 for himself or for any other person any valuable  thing  or
                 pecuniary advantage; or

                 (iii) while holding office as a public servant, obtains for
                 any  person  any  valuable  thing  or  pecuniary  advantage
                 without any public interest; or

           (e) if he or any person on his behalf, is in possession or  has,
           at any time during the period of his office, been in  possession
           for which the public servant cannot satisfactorily  account,  of
           pecuniary resources or property disproportionate  to  his  known
           sources of income.

      Explanation.-For the purposes  of  this  section,  "known  sources  of
      income" means income received from any lawful source and such  receipt
      has been intimated in accordance with the provisions of any law, rules
      or orders for the time being applicable to a public servant.

      (2) Any public  servant  who  commits  criminal  misconduct  shall  be
      punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not  less  than
      four years but which may extend to ten years and shall also be  liable
      to fine.”

75.3        Section 17 authorizes only certain level of police  officers  to
investigate the offences under the PC Act, 1988. An investigation into  such
offences by any other police officer can be carried out  only  after  having
proper authorization from the competent  court  or  competent  authority  as
provided therein.

75.4        Section 19 mandates that no Court shall take  cognizance  of  an
offence punishable under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 alleged to have  been
committed by a public servant except with the previous sanction as  provided
in that section. Section 19 does not permit any court to take cognizance  of
an offence punishable under Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15  of  the  PC  Act,
1988 without previous  sanction  from  the  competent  authority  where  the
offence has been committed by a public servant who  is  holding  the  office
and by misusing or abusing the powers of the office, he  has  committed  the
offence. Section 19, thus, provides to every  public  servant,  irrespective
of  his  position  in  service,  protection  from  frivolous  and  malicious
prosecution.

76.         The menace of corruption has been noticed by this Court in  Ram
Singh8.  The court has observed:

      “Corruption, at the initial stages, was  considered  confined  to  the
      bureaucracy which had the opportunities to  deal  with  a  variety  of
      State largesse in the form of contracts,  licences  and  grants.  Even
      after the war the opportunities  for  corruption  continued  as  large
      amounts of government surplus stores were required to be  disposed  of
      by the public servants. As a consequence of the wars the  shortage  of
      various goods necessitated the imposition of  controls  and  extensive
      schemes of post-war reconstruction involving the disbursement of  huge
      sums of money which lay in the control of the public  servants  giving
      them a  wide  discretion  with  the  result  of  luring  them  to  the
      glittering shine of wealth and property.”



77.         This Court in Shobha Suresh Jumani[76], took judicial notice  of
the fact that because of  the  mad  race  of  becoming  rich  and  acquiring
properties overnight or because  of  the  ostentatious  or  vulgar  show  of
wealth by a few or because of  change  of  environment  in  the  society  by
adoption of materialistic approach, there is cancerous growth of  corruption
which has affected the moral standards  of  the  people  and  all  forms  of
governmental administration.


78.          The  PC  Act,  1988  enacts  the  legislative  policy  to  meet
corruption cases with a very strong hand.  All public  servants  are  warned
through such a legislative measure that  corrupt  public  servants  have  to
face very serious consequences.[77]

79.         The two-Judge Bench of this Court observed in  Sanjiv  Kumar[78]
that the case before them had brought to the fore the rampant corruption  in
the corridors of politics and bureaucracy.

80.         In a comparatively recent decision of this Court in  Subramanian
Swamy9, this court was concerned with the question whether a  complaint  can
be filed by a citizen for prosecuting the  public  servant  for  an  offence
under the PC Act, 1988 and  whether  the  authority  competent  to  sanction
prosecution of a public servant for offences under that Act is  required  to
take appropriate decision within the time specified  in  Clause  (I)(15)  of
the directions contained in paragraph 58 of the judgment of  this  Court  in
Vineet  Narain1  and  the  guidelines  issued  by  the  Central  Government,
Department of Personnel and Training and the Central  Vigilance  Commission.
In the supplementing judgment, A.K. Ganguly, J. while  concurring  with  the
main judgment delivered by G.S. Singhvi, J. observed:

      “Today, corruption in our country not only poses a grave danger to the
      concept of constitutional  governance,  it  also  threatens  the  very
      foundation of the Indian democracy and the Rule of Law. The  magnitude
      of corruption in our public life is incompatible with the concept of a
      socialist secular democratic republic.  It  cannot  be  disputed  that
      where corruption begins all  rights  end.  Corruption  devalues  human
      rights, chokes development and undermines justice, liberty,  equality,
      fraternity which  are  the  core  values  in  our  Preambular  vision.
      Therefore, the duty of the court is that any anti-corruption  law  has
      to be interpreted and worked out in such a fashion  as  to  strengthen
      the fight against corruption……….”



Dealing with Section 19 of the PC Act, 1988 which bars a court  from  taking
cognizance of the  cases  of  corruption  against  a  public  servant  under
Sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 of the PC Act, 1988,  unless  the  Central  or
the State Government, as the case may be,  has  accorded  sanction  observed
that this provision virtually imposes fetters on private citizens  and  also
on prosecutors from  approaching  court  against  corrupt  public  servants.
Public servants are treated as a special class of persons enjoying the  said
protection so that they can perform their duties  without  fear  and  favour
and without threats of malicious prosecution  but  the   protection  against
malicious prosecution which is extended in public interest cannot  become  a
shield to protect corrupt officials.

81.         In Balakrishna Dattatrya Kumbhar11,  this  Court  observed  that
corruption was not only a punishable offence  but  also,  “undermines  human
rights, indirectly violating them, and systematic  corruption,  is  a  human
rights’ violation in itself, as it leads to systematic economic crimes”.

82.         In R.A. Mehta10, the two-Judge Bench  of  this  Court  made  the
following observations about corruption in the society:

      “Corruption in a society is required to be detected and eradicated  at
      the earliest as it shakes “the socio-economic-political system  in  an
      otherwise healthy, wealthy, effective and vibrating society”.  Liberty
      cannot last long unless the State is able to eradicate corruption from
      public life. Corruption is a bigger threat than external threat to the
      civil society as it corrodes the vitals of  our  polity  and  society.
      Corruption  is  instrumental  in   not   proper   implementation   and
      enforcement of policies adopted by the Government.  Thus,  it  is  not
      merely a fringe issue  but  a  subject-matter  of  grave  concern  and
      requires to be decisively dealt with.”



83.         Now we turn to the recent decision of this Court in Manohar  Lal
Sharma4.  A three-Judge Bench  of  this  Court  in  that  case  leaving  the
question of constitutional validity of Section 6-A  untouched  and  touching
upon the  question  whether  the  approval  of  the  Central  Government  is
necessary under Section 6-A in  a  matter  where  the  inquiry/investigation
into the crime under the PC Act, 1988  is  being  monitored  by  the  Court,
speaking through one of us (R.M. Lodha, J., as he then was) on  the  inquiry
into allegations of corruption observed that for successful working  of  the
democracy it was essential that  public  revenues   are  not  defrauded  and
public servants do not indulge in bribery and corruption  and  if  they  do,
the allegations of corruption are to be inquired into fairly,  properly  and
promptly and those who are guilty are brought to book. It was observed:

      “Abuse of public office for private gain has grown in scope and  scale
      and hit the nation badly.  Corruption reduces revenue; it  slows  down
      economic activity and holds back economic  growth.  The  biggest  loss
      that may occur to the nation due to corruption is loss  of  confidence
      in the democracy and weakening of the rule of law.”


83.1        Madan B. Lokur, J. in  his  supplementing  judgment  dealt  with
Office Memorandum dated 26th September, 2011.  The relevant extract  of  the
Office Memorandum has been quoted in paragraph 74  of  the  judgment,  which
reads:

      “The undersigned is directed  to   state   that   the   provision   of
      section 6-A of  the  DSPE  Act,   1946   provides   for   safeguarding
      senior  public  officials  against  undue  and  vexatious   harassment
      by  the    investigating  agency.   It  had  been  observed  that  the
      requests being  made  by  the  investigating  agency  under  the  said
      provision were not being accorded due priority and the examination  of
      such proposals at  times lacked  objectivity.  The  matter  was  under
      consideration of  the  Group  of  Ministers  constituted  to  consider
      measures that can be taken by the Government to tackle Corruption.


      The Government has accepted the following recommendation of  the Group
      of Ministers, as reflected in para 25 of the First Report of the Group
      of Ministers, as reflected in para 25 of the first report of the Group
      of Ministers:-


                   (a).  The competent authority shall decide  the   matter
           within  three months  of  receipt   of   requests    accompanied
           with   relevant documents.


                   (b).  The  competent  authority  will  give  a  speaking
           order,  giving reasons for its decision.


                    (c)  In  the  event  a  decision  is  taken  to  refuse
           permission,  the reasons thereof shall be put  up  to  the  next
           higher  authority  for information within one week of taking the
           decision.


                   (d) Since Section 6-A specifically covers  officers   of
           the  Central Government, above  the  rank  of  Joint  Secretary,
            the  competent authority in these cases will be  the   Minister
           in  charge   in   the  Government  of  India.   In  such  cases,
           intimation of refusal to grant  permission  along  with  reasons
           thereof, will have to be  put  up  to the Prime Minister.


                      The above decision of the Government  is  brought  to
           the notice of all Ministries/Departments for due  adherence  and
           strict compliance.”

83.2         The  above  office  memorandum  has  not  been  found   to   be
efficacious in Manohar Lal  Sharma4  as  it  does  not  effectively  prevent
possible misuse of law.  There  is  no  guarantee  that  the  time  schedule
prescribed in the office memorandum shall  be  strictly  followed.   In  any
case, what  can  CBI  do  if  the  time  schedule  provided  in  the  office
memorandum is not maintained.  Even otherwise, office memorandum is  not  of
much help in adjudging the constitutional validity of Section 6-A.
84.         Learned amicus curiae highlighted that there was no  requirement
of previous  approval  as  contained  in  the  impugned  provisions  between
18.12.1997 (the date of Vineet Narain1 judgment  striking  down  the  Single
Directive) and 11.9.2003 (when Act 45 of 2003 came into  force)  except  the
period between 25.8.1998 and 27.10.1998 when the CVC Ordinance, 1998 was  in
force and till the deletions by the CVC Amendment  Ordinance,  1998.  It  is
not the stand of the Central  Government  before  us  nor  any  material  is
placed on record by it to suggest even remotely that during the period  when
the Single Directive was not in operation or until Section 6-A  was  brought
on  the  statute  book,  CBI  harassed  any  senior  government  officer  or
investigated frivolous and vexatious complaints. The  high-pitched  argument
in justification of Section 6-A  that  senior  government  officers  may  be
unduly and unnecessarily harassed on  frivolous  and  vexatious  complaints,
therefore, does not hold water.
85.         Criminal justice system mandates  that  any  investigation  into
the crime should be fair, in accordance with law and should not be  tainted.
 It is equally important that interested  or  influential  persons  are  not
able to misdirect or highjack the investigation so as  to  throttle  a  fair
investigation resulting in the offenders escaping  the  punitive  course  of
law.  These are important facets of rule of law.  Breach of rule of law,  in
our opinion, amounts to negation of equality under Article 14.  Section  6-A
fails in the context of these facets of Article 14.  The argument of Mr.  L.
Nageswara Rao that rule of law is not above law and cannot be a  ground  for
invalidating legislations overlooks the well settled position that  rule  of
law is a facet of equality under Article  14  and  breach  of  rule  of  law
amounts to breach of equality under Article 14  and,  therefore,  breach  of
rule of law may be a  ground  for  invalidating  the  legislation  being  in
negation of Article 14.

86.         Section 156 of the Cr.P.C. enables any officer in  charge  of  a
police  station  to  investigate  a  cognizable  offence.  Insofar  as  non-
cognizable offence is concerned, a police officer by virtue of  Section  155
of Cr.P.C. can investigate it after obtaining  appropriate  order  from  the
Magistrate having power to try such  case  or  commit  the  case  for  trial
regardless of the status of the officer concerned.  The  scheme  of  Section
155 and Section 156 Cr.P.C. indicates that the local police may  investigate
a senior  Government  officer  without  previous  approval  of  the  Central
Government.  However, CBI cannot  do  so  in  view  of  Section  6-A.   This
anomaly in fact occurred in Centre for PIL[79].  That was a matter in  which
investigations were conducted by the  local  police  in  respect  of  senior
Government official without any previous approval and  a  challan  filed  in
the court of Special Judge dealing with offences under  the  PC  Act,  1988.
Dealing with such anomaly in  Centre  for  PIL79,  Madan  B.  Lokur,  J.  in
Manohar Lal Sharma4 observed, “It  is  difficult  to  understand  the  logic
behind  such  a  dichotomy  unless  it  is  assumed   that   frivolous   and
vexatious complaints are  made  only  when  the  CBI  is  the  investigating
agency  and  that  it  is  only  CBI  that  is  capable  of  harassing    or
victimizing  a senior Government official while the  local  police  of   the
State  Government does not entertain frivolous and vexatious complaints  and
is not capable  of harassing or victimizing a  senior  government  official.
No such assumption  can  be  made.”     The  above  clearly  indicates  that
Section 6-A has brought an anomalous situation and the very  object  of  the
provision to give  protection  to  certain  officers  (Joint  Secretary  and
above) in the  Central  Government  has  been  rendered  discriminatory  and
violative of Article 14.

87.         It is pertinent to notice that in Subramanian Swamy9 this  Court
noted that as per supplementary written submissions tendered by the  learned
Attorney General, 126 cases were awaiting sanction for prosecution from  the
Central Government  for  periods  ranging  from  one  year  to  few  months.
Moreover, in more than one-third of the cases of  requests  for  prosecution
in corruption  cases  against  public  servants,  sanctions  have  not  been
accorded.  Whether an  enactment  providing  for  special  procedure  for  a
certain class of persons is  or  is  not  discriminatory  and  violative  of
Article 14 must be determined in its own context. A practical assessment  of
the operation of the law in particular circumstances is  necessary  and  the
court can take judicial notice of existing conditions  from  time  to  time.
The scenario noted in Subramanian Swamy9 and the facts in Telecom  Watchdog5
- to illustrate the few – show that differentia in Section 6-A  is  directly
destructive and runs counter to the object and reason of the PC  Act,  1988.
It also  undermines  the  object  of  detecting  and  punishing  high  level
corruption.

88.         Mr. K.V. Viswanathan, learned Additional Solicitor  General  has
strongly relied upon the observations made by this Court in P.  Sirajuddin52
that if baseless allegations are made against senior  Government  officials,
it would cause  incalculable  harm  not only to the  officer  in  particular
but  to  the   department   that   he   belonged   to,   in   general.   He,
particularly, referred to the  following  observations  in  P.  Sirajuddin52
(para 17, page 601 of the report):

      “………..Before a public servant, whatever be  his  status,  is  publicly
      charged  with  acts  of   dishonesty   which   amount    to    serious
      misdemeanour  or misconduct of the type alleged in  this  case  and  a
      first information is lodged against him, there must be some   suitable
      preliminary  enquiry into the allegations by  a  responsible  officer.
      The lodging of  such  a  report against a person,  specially  one  who
      like the appellant occupied the  top   position   in   a   department,
      even  if  baseless,  would  do  incalculable  harm  not  only  to  the
      officer in  particular  but  to  the department  he  belonged  to,  in
      general.”



89.         In our opinion, P. Sirajuddin52 also emphasizes equality  before
law.  This decision, in our opinion, cannot  be  read  as  laying  down  the
proposition that the distinction can be made for the purposes of  inquiry  /
investigation of an offence of which public servants are  accused  based  on
their status.

90.         It is pertinent to notice  that  in  Manohar  Lal  Sharma4,  the
learned Attorney General made a concession to the effect that in  the  event
of CBI conducting an inquiry,  as  opposed  to  an  investigation  into  the
conduct of a senior government officer, no previous approval of the  Central
Government is required since the inquiry does  not  have  the  same  adverse
connotation that an investigation has.  To that extent, Section 6-A,  as  it
is,  does  not  survive.   Insofar  as  investigation   is   concerned,   an
investigation into a crime may have some adverse impact but where there  are
allegations of an offence under the PC Act, 1988 against a  public  servant,
whether  high  or  low,  whether  decision-maker  or  not,  an   independent
investigation into such allegations is of utmost importance  and  unearthing
the truth is the goal.  The aim and object of  investigation  is  ultimately
to search for truth and any law that impedes that object may not  stand  the
test of Article 14.

91.         In the referral  order,  the  contention  of  learned  Solicitor
General has been noted with regard to inconsistency in the two judgments  of
this Court in Vineet Narain1 and K. Veeraswami25.

92.         In K. Veeraswami25, this Court in para 28 (pages 693-694 of  the
report) observed:

      “28. … Section 6 is primarily concerned to see  that  prosecution  for
      the specified offences shall not commence without the  sanction  of  a
      competent authority. That does not mean that the Act was  intended  to
      condone the offence of bribery and corruption by public  servant.  Nor
      it was meant to afford protection  to  public  servant  from  criminal
      prosecution for such offences. It is only to protect the honest public
      servants from  frivolous  and  vexatious  prosecution.  The  competent
      authority has to examine independently and impartially the material on
      record to  form  his  own  opinion  whether  the  offence  alleged  is
      frivolous or vexatious. The competent authority  may  refuse  sanction
      for prosecution if the offence alleged has no material to  support  or
      it is frivolous or intended to  harass  the  honest  officer.  But  he
      cannot refuse to grant sanction if the material collected has made out
      the commission of the offence  alleged  against  the  public  servant.
      Indeed he is duty-bound to grant sanction if  the  material  collected
      lend credence to the offence complained of. There seems to be  another
      reason for taking away the discretion of the investigating  agency  to
      prosecute or not to prosecute a public servant. When a public  servant
      is  prosecuted  for  an  offence  which  challenges  his  honesty  and
      integrity, the issue in such a case is not only between the prosecutor
      and the offender, but the State is also vitally concerned with  it  as
      it affects the morale of public servants and also  the  administrative
      interest of the State. The discretion to prosecute public  servant  is
      taken away from the prosecuting agency and is vested in the  authority
      which is  competent  to  remove  the  public  servant.  The  authority
      competent to remove the public servant would be in a  better  position
      than the prosecuting agency to assess  the  material  collected  in  a
      dispassionate and reasonable manner and determine whether sanction for
      prosecution of a public servant deserves to be granted or not.”



93.         In Vineet Narain1, the above  observations  in  K.  Veeraswami25
have been considered in paras 34 and 35 of the report  (pages  259-260)  and
the three-Judge Bench held that the position of Judges of  High  Courts  and
the Supreme Court, who are constitutional functionaries,  is  distinct,  and
the  independence  of  judiciary,  keeping  it  free  from  any   extraneous
influence, including that from executive, is the rationale of  the  decision
in K. Veeraswami25. The Court went on  to  say:  “….  In  strict  terms  the
Prevention of Corruption Act, 1946 could not  be  applied  to  the  superior
Judges and, therefore, while bringing those Judges  within  the  purview  of
the Act yet maintaining the independence of judiciary,  this  guideline  was
issued as  a  direction  by  the  Court.  The  feature  of  independence  of
judiciary  has  no  application  to  the  officers  covered  by  the  Single
Directive. The  need  for  independence  of  judiciary  from  the  executive
influence  does  not  arise  in  the  case  of  officers  belonging  to  the
executive…..”

94.         The observations in K. Veeraswami25, as noted above, were  found
to be confined to the Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme  Court,  who
are constitutional functionaries, and  their  position  being  distinct  and
different from the Government officers. In  our  opinion,  the  Constitution
Bench decision in K. Veeraswami25 has no application to  the  senior  public
servants specified in Section 6-A. We  have,  therefore,  no  hesitation  in
holding that the conclusion reached in para 34  in  Vineet  Narain1,  in  no
manner, can be said to be inconsistent with the findings  recorded  in  para
28 of K. Veeraswami25.





95.         Various provisions under different statutes were referred to  by
Mr. L. Nageswara Rao where permission of the government is  required  before
taking cognizance or for institution of an offence. Section 197  of  Cr.P.C.
was also referred to, which provides for protection  to  Judges  and  public
servants  from  prosecution  except  with  the  previous  sanction  by   the
competent  authority.  It  may  be  immediately  stated  that  there  is  no
similarity between the impugned provision in Section 6-A  of  the  DSPE  Act
and Section 197  of  Cr.P.C.  Moreover,  where  challenge  is  laid  to  the
constitutionality  of  a  legislation  on  the  bedrock  or  touchstone   of
classification, it has to be determined  in  each  case  by  applying  well-
settled two tests:  (i)  that  classification  is  founded  on  intelligible
differentia and (ii) that differentia  has  a  rational  relation  with  the
object sought to be achieved  by  the  legislation.  Each  case  has  to  be
examined independently in the context of Article 14 and not by applying  any
general rule.





96.         A feeble attempt was  made  by  Mr.  K.V.  Viswanathan,  learned
Additional Solicitor General that Section 6-A must at  least  be  saved  for
the purposes of Section 13(1)(d)(ii) and (iii) of the PC Act, 1988.  In  our
opinion, Section 6-A does not satisfy the well-settled tests in the  context
of Article 14 and is not capable of severance for the  purposes  of  Section
13(1)(d)(ii) and (iii).

97.         Having considered the impugned provision contained in Section 6-
A and for the reasons indicated above, we do not think that it is  necessary
to consider the other objections challenging the impugned provision  in  the
context of Article 14.

98.         In view of our foregoing discussion, we  hold  that  Section  6-
A(1), which requires approval of  the  Central  Government  to  conduct  any
inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged  to  have  been  committed
under the PC Act, 1988 where such allegation relates to  (a)  the  employees
of the Central Government of the level of Joint Secretary and above and  (b)
such officers as are appointed by the  Central  Government  in  corporations
established by or under any Central  Act,  government  companies,  societies
and local authorities owned or controlled by the Government, is invalid  and
violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. As a necessary  corollary,  the
provision contained in Section 26 (c) of the Act 45 of 2003 to  that  extent
is also declared invalid.

99.         Writ petitions are allowed as above.


                                  .…...………..……………………...CJI.
                                  (R.M. Lodha)


                                  .…...………..……………………...J.
                                  (A.K. Patnaik)



                                   .…...………..……………………...J.
                                   (Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya)


                                  .…...………..……………………...J.
                                  (Dipak Misra)


                                  .…...………..……………………...J.  (Fakkir   Mohamed
                                  Ibrahim Kalifulla)
NEW DELHI
MAY 06, 2014.

-----------------------
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1]

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