VIJAY RAJMOHAN VERSUS STATE REPRESENTED BY THE INSPECTOR OF POLICE, CBI, ACB, CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU

VIJAY RAJMOHAN VERSUS STATE REPRESENTED BY THE INSPECTOR OF POLICE, CBI, ACB, CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. _______OF 2022
ARISING OUT OF SLP (CRL) NO. 1568 OF 2022
VIJAY RAJMOHAN ...APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
STATE REPRESENTED BY THE INSPECTOR
OF POLICE, CBI, ACB, CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU ...RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
PAMIDIGHANTAM SRI NARASIMHA, J.J.
1. Leave Granted.
2. Two important questions of law arise for consideration in this
appeal. The first question is whether an order of the Appointing
Authority granting sanction for prosecution of a public servant
under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 19881, would
be rendered illegal on the ground of acting as per dictation if it
consults the Central Vigilance Commission for its decision. The
second question is whether the period of three months (extendable
1 hereinafter referred to as ‘the PC Act’.
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by one more month for legal consultation2) for the Appointing
Authority to decide upon a request for sanction is mandatory or
not. The further question in this context, is whether the criminal
proceedings can be quashed if the decision is not taken within the
mandatory period.
Facts leading to the filing of this Appeal
3. The Appellant challenges the order of the High Court of
Judicature at Madras3 allowing a criminal revision petition filed by
the State against an order of the Trial Court4, discharging the
Appellant on the ground that the order of sanction under Section
19 of the PC Act, is vitiated due to non-application of mind by the
sanctioning authority.
4. The Appellant is an official of the Central Secretarial Service,
Government of India. During the period between 01.01.2005 to
31.10.2012, when his official postings were in New Delhi and
Bangalore, he is alleged to have acquired assets that were
disproportionate to his known sources of income. As of 31.12.2012,
he and his relatives were found to be in possession of
disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs. 79,17,593/-. An FIR came
2 As per the 2018 Amendment through the 2nd Proviso to Section 19(1) of the PC Act.
3 Criminal Revision Petition No. 349 of 2019 dated 06.01.2022.
4 Criminal Misc. Petition No. 3908 of 2018 in C.C. No. 3 of 2018 dated 13.12.2018.
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to be registered on 20.11.2012 by the Central Bureau of
Investigation5 against the Appellant, his father, and his mother
under Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code, 18606, read with
Sections 13(1)(e) and 13(2) of the PC Act.
5. On 08.09.2015, the CBI completed investigation and sought
sanction from the appointing authority, the Department of
Personnel and Training7, for prosecuting the Appellant. As the
questions arising for consideration relate to the manner and the
time taken for granting sanction for prosecution, the relevant facts
will have to be mentioned in detail. They are as follows.
6. About two months after receiving the proposal for sanction,
on 26.11.2015, the DoPT examined the facts of the case and
sought 23 clarifications from the CBI. A month after that, i.e., on
15.12.2015, the CBI gave clarifications on the same questions.
Upon reviewing the clarifications, the DoPT believed that there
were many errors in the investigation conducted by the CBI, and
therefore sought the opinion of the Central Vigilance Commission8
on 07.01.2016.
5 hereinafter referred to as ‘the CBI’.
6 hereinafter referred to as ‘the IPC’.
7 hereinafter referred to as ‘the DoPT’.
8 hereinafter referred to as ‘the CVC’.
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7. CVC followed it up and sought clarification from CBI on
18.03.2016, i.e., two and a half months after the opinion of the
CVC. After examining the clarifications tendered by the CBI, the
CVC believed that this to be a strong case for grant of sanction
subject to the CBI conducting a re-investigation on certain aspects
of the case. This opinion was communicated to the DoPT on
01.06.2016.
8. Since the communication dated 01.06.2016 was unclear, the
DoPT vide letter dated 26.08.2016 sought to know whether the
CVC recommended the grant of sanction or whether the CVC had
advised the CBI to re-investigate. A month later, on 20.09.2016,
CVC clarified to the DoPT that the CBI should re-investigate the
matter and come up with its revised findings. Accordingly, the
DoPT informed CVC on 05.10.2016 that it will treat the proposal
for sanction for prosecution of the Appellant as closed until the reinvestigation is completed and a new proposal is received from CBI.
By this time, thirteen months had passed since the request for
sanction was made.
9. Meanwhile, on 27.09.2016, CBI submitted a revised
explanation to the seven questions posed by the CVC. Satisfied
with the same, the CVC advised DoPT on 25.11.2016 to grant
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sanction. Responding to the proposal, DoPT, by its letter dated
16.12.2016, sought to know if the CBI had completed the reinvestigation, to which the CVC responded on 09.02.2017, stating
that it was satisfied with the proposal of the CBI. Finally, on
24.07.2017, DoPT granted sanction for prosecution. Thus, the
proposal requesting the sanction for prosecution made by the CBI
on 08.09.2015 was given by the sanctioning authority on
24.07.2017, after about one year and ten months.
Before the Trial Court:
10. The Appellant filed a discharge application under Section 227
of the Cr.P.C. before the Principal Special Judge for CBI. This
application was filed on the ground that the sanction order was
passed without application of mind. The Trial Court by its order
dated 13.12.2018, allowed the application and discharged the
Appellant. The reason for allowing the application for discharge
was that the DoPT failed to apply its mind and merely relied on the
advice tendered by the CVC.
Before the High Court:
11. Against the above-referred order of the Principal Special
Judge for CBI, the State filed a Criminal Revision Petition under
Section 397 of the Cr.P.C., which was allowed by the High Court
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of Judicature at Madras. The High Court held that under Section
8(1)(g) of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 20039, one of the
functions of the CVC is to tender advice to the Central Government
on the matter of grant of sanction. Thus, it was opined that the
advice of CVC could not be treated as irrelevant material. The High
Court also held that the DoPT, in addition to the advice of the CVC,
had taken into account all the relevant material and had
independently applied its mind before granting sanction to
prosecute the Appellant. It is this order of the High Court which is
impugned before us.
Submissions of learned counsels:
12.1 Shri Mahesh Jethmalani learned Senior Counsel, and Shri
P.V. Yogeswaran, AOR, appearing on behalf of the Appellant, made
two submissions. Firstly, Shri Jethmalani submitted that the
grant of sanction by DoPT dated 24.07.2017 is without application
of an independent mind. He argued that the sanction for
prosecution was hit by non-application of mind as DoPT had acted
on dictation by the CVC, and for this purpose, the said sanction
order must be set aside. In support of this submission, he relied
9 hereinafter referred to as ‘the CVC Act’.
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on the decision of this Court in Mansukhlal Vithaldas Chauhan v.
State of Gujarat10.
12.2 The second submission of Shri Jethmalani is about the delay
in granting the sanction for prosecution. While the CBI requested
for sanction on 18.09.2015, the order of sanction came to be
passed on 24.07.2017, after almost two years. According to Shri
Jethmalani, this delay is fatal, the consequence being that the
proceedings against the Appellant must be quashed. For this
purpose, he relied on the decision of this Court in Vineet Narain &
Ors. v. Union of India & Anr.11 followed by Subramanian Swamy v.
Manmohan Singh & Anr.12 as per which this Court has set an outer
limit of three months for granting sanction.
13.1 Shri S.V. Raju, learned Additional Solicitor General for India
would submit that the DoPT, while granting sanction for
prosecution, merely called for and considered the report of the CVC
and had, in fact applied its independent mind. He took us through
the correspondence between the CBI, CVC, and DoPT to make his
point good.
10 (1997) 7 SCC 622
11 (1998) 1 SCC 226
12 (2012) 3 SCC 64
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13.2 Replying to the second submission made by Shri Jethmalani,
the learned ASG submits that this issue was never raised at any
point. For that matter, even the Special Leave Petition does not
contain any ground to this effect. However, as the Court heard
submissions on the ground of delay, he clarified that the time
period is merely directory and not mandatory. He would further
submit that, as per the above referred decisions of this Court, the
consequence of non-grant of sanction within three months would
only be deemed sanction, rather than quashing the criminal
proceedings.
14. Having heard the parties in detail, we formulate two issues
for our consideration. While the first issue pertains to whether the
order of sanction is illegal due to non-application of mind by the
DoPT for acting as per dictation of CVC, the second issue pertains
to whether the criminal proceedings could be quashed for the delay
of about two years in the issuance of the sanction order. We will
answer both issues.
Re: Issue No. 1 - Whether the order of sanction is illegal due
to non-application of mind and acting as per dictation if the
appointing authority, the DoPT refers and considers the
opinion and advise of the CVC?
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15. At the outset, we will take note of the ratio in Mansukhlal
(supra) relied on by Shri Jethmalani. Relevant portion of the
judgment holding that “if the sanctioning authority is under an
obligation or compulsion to grant sanction, the order will be bad for
the reason that the discretion is taken away”, is extracted
hereinunder:
“18. The validity of the sanction would,
therefore, depend upon the material placed
before the sanctioning authority and the fact that
all the relevant facts, material and evidence have
been considered by the sanctioning authority.
Consideration implies application of mind. The
order of sanction must ex facie disclose that the
sanctioning authority had considered the
evidence and other material placed before it. This
fact can also be established by extrinsic evidence
by placing the relevant files before the Court to
show that all relevant facts were considered by
the sanctioning authority.
19. Since the validity of “sanction” depends on
the applicability of mind by the sanctioning
authority to the facts of the case as also the
material and evidence collected during
investigation, it necessarily follows that the
sanctioning authority has to apply its own
independent mind for the generation of genuine
satisfaction whether prosecution has to be
sanctioned or not. The mind of the sanctioning
authority should not be under pressure from any
quarter nor should any external force be acting
upon it to take a decision one way or the other.
Since the discretion to grant or not to grant
sanction vests absolutely in the sanctioning
authority, its discretion should be shown to have
not been affected by any extraneous
consideration. If it is shown that the sanctioning
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authority was unable to apply its independent
mind for any reason whatsoever or was under
an obligation or compulsion or constraint to grant
the sanction, the order will be bad for the reason
that the discretion of the authority “not to
sanction” was taken away and it was compelled
to act mechanically to sanction the prosecution.”
16. The decision in Mansukhlal (supra) was rendered in the year
1997, when the legislative changes to the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 197313, were not made. Further, the decision was prior
to the enactment of the CVC Act and also the amendments to the
PC Act. The submission of Shri Jethmalani therefore overlooks the
march of law, which we have endeavoured to explain hereinunder.
17. Sanction for prosecution of an employee of the Union under
the PC Act would involve invocation of specific provisions of the
Cr.P.C., the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 194614, the PC
Act, and the CVC Act, all of which constitute a unified scheme. The
legal regime that encompasses the above-referred statutes for
matters concerning preliminary inquiry, investigation, sanction,
and prosecution are well integrated and can be recounted as
under:
I. Section 197 of the Cr.P.C. provides a mandatory
requirement of sanction for the prosecution of judges,
13 hereinafter referred to as ‘the Cr.P.C.’.
14 hereinafter referred to as ‘the DSPE Act’.
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magistrates, and public servants. While interpreting this
provision, this Court has identified two principles, which are
that, (a) there must be relevant material placed before the
sanctioning authority before it takes a decision; and (b) the
decision of the sanctioning authority must itself indicate that
it had applied its mind before granting sanction15. It is in this
context that the judgment of this Court in Mansukhlal (supra)
must be understood [Section 197, Cr.P.C.].
II. Section 19 of the PC Act also provides for a requirement
of sanction before prosecution. The requirement of law for
having relevant material placed before the sanctioning
authority, as well as the independent application of mind by
the said authority, applies with equal vigour to sanction
under the PC Act16 [Section 19, PC Act].
III. For the purpose of assisting the sanctioning authority
in arriving at a decision, the Government, through a 1997
resolution, constituted a body under the Ministry of Home
Affairs referred to as the CVC. An Independent Review
Committee (IRC), constituted by the Government of India,
also suggested conferring statutory status to the CVC. This
recommendation became compelling after the decision of this
15 State of Punjab & Anr. v. Mohd. Iqbal Bhatti, (2009) 17 SCC 92; Romesh Lal
Jain v. Naginder Singh Rana & Ors, (2006) 1 SCC 294.
16 State (Anti-Corruption Branch) v. R.C. Anand (Dr.), (2004) 4 SCC 615; C.S. Krishnamurthy
v. State of Karnataka, (2005) 4 SCC 81; State of Karnataka v. Ameerjan, (2007) 11 SCC 273;
CBI v. Ashok Kumar Aggarwal, (2014) 14 SCC 295. In fact in Vivek Batra v. Union of India
this Court has held that:-“12. ….. the opinion of the CVC, which was reaffirmed and ultimately
prevailed in according the sanction, cannot be said to be irrelevant for the reason that clause
(g) of Section 8(1) of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 provides that it is one of the
functions of the CVC to tender advice to the Central Government on such matters as may be
referred to it by the Government.”
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Court in Vineet Narain (supra). These directions resulted in
the promulgation of three ordinances for giving statutory
status to the CVC, and eventually, in 2003, the Parliament
enacted the CVC Act.
IV. The preamble to the CVC Act states that the
Commission is constituted to inquire or cause inquiries to be
conducted into offences alleged to have been committed under
the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Section 8 of the CVC
Act evidences the interplay of powers and duties of the three
agencies, being the sanctioning authority (Union
Government), the prosecuting agency (the CBI), and the
advisory body (the CVC), all subserving the same public
interest of ensuring integrity in governance. The following
provisions evidence the same.
V. The CVC shall exercise superintendence over CBI in
relation to the investigation of offences under the PC Act
[Section 8(1)(a), CVC Act.]. The CVC shall also give directions
to CBI in the discharge of its functions under Section 4(1) of
the DSPE Act [Section 8(1)(b), CVC Act].
VI. The CVC shall inquire on a reference made to it by the
Central Government (DoPT) about an alleged offence
committed by a public servant under the PC Act [Section
8(1)(c), CVC Act]. The CVC shall also inquire into any
complaint against a public servant alleged to have committed
an offence under the PC Act [Section 8(1)(d), CVC Act].
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VII. The CVC shall review the progress of the investigation
by the CBI for offences under the PC Act [Section 8(1)(e), CVC
Act].
VIII. The CVC shall tender advice to the Central Government
on such matters as may be referred to it [Section 8(1)(g), CVC
Act].
IX. The CVC shall exercise limited superintendence over
vigilance administration of various Ministries of the Central
Government [Section 8(1)(h), CVC Act].
X. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 201317, enacted to
subserve the same purpose of maintaining integrity
concerning certain public functionaries, makes further
amendments to the four statutes we have dealt with
hereinabove, further integrating them with each other. The
Lokpal Act amended Section 8 and also inserted Sections 8A
and 8B to the CVC Act [Section 8A and 8B CVC Act].
XI. After a preliminary inquiry relating to corruption of
public servants belonging to Group C or Group D, if the CVC
comes to a prima facie opinion of violation of conduct rules
relating to corruption under the PC Act, the CVC shall (a)
direct the CBI to investigate, or (b) initiate disciplinary
proceedings; or (c) close these proceedings and proceed under
the Lokpal Act [Section 8A(1), CVC Act]. If the CVC decides
to direct an agency (including the CBI) to investigate, it can
direct an expeditious investigation within a time frame, and
the CBI shall submit an investigation report to the CVC
17 hereinafter referred to as ‘the Lokpal Act’.
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within that timeframe [Sections 8B (1) and 8B (2), CVC Act].
On consideration of the report, the CVC may decide to (a) file
a chargesheet or closure report; or (b) initiate departmental
proceedings [Section 8B (3), CVC Act].
XII. In furtherance of a decision to direct prosecution, CVC
exercises its powers under Section 8 to review the progress of
applications pending with competent authorities for sanction of
prosecution under the PC Act. [Section 8(1)(f), CVC Act]
XIII. The appropriate Government or the competent authority
is obligated, under the 2018 amendment to the PC Act, to
endeavour to convey the decision on the proposal for sanction
within three months with an extended period of one more
month when legal consultation is required. For this purpose,
guidelines may be prescribed. The CVC has, in fact, issued
necessary guidelines in furtherance of this duty. [Proviso to
Section 19(1) of PC Act]
18. It is evident from the above referred formulation that the
position of law and the legal regime obtained by virtue of the five
legislations on the subject of corruption, operates as integrated
scheme. The five legislations being the Cr.P.C, DSPE Act, PC Act,
CVC Act, and Lokpal Act, must be read together to enable the
authorities to sub-serve the common purpose and objectives
underlying these legislations. The Central Vigilance Commission,
constituted under the CVC Act is specifically entrusted with the
duty and function of providing expert advice on the subject. It may
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be necessary for the appointing authority to call for and seek the
opinion of the CVC before it takes any decision on the request for
sanction for prosecution. The statutory scheme under which the
appointing authority could call for, seek and consider the advice of
the CVC can neither be termed as acting under dictation nor a
factor which could be referred to as an irrelevant consideration. The
opinion of the CVC is only advisory. It is nevertheless a valuable
input in the decision-making process of the appointing authority.
The final decision of the appointing authority must be of its own
by application of independent mind. The issue is, therefore,
answered by holding that there is no illegality in the action of the
appointing authority, the DoPT, if it calls for, refers, and considers
the opinion of the Central Vigilance Commission before it takes its
final decision on the request for sanction for prosecuting a public
servant.
19. Returning to the case facts, we have examined the
correspondence and the long-drawn communications between the
CBI, the DoPT, and the CVC. We found that the inquiry made by
the appointing authority, the DoPT, was only for soliciting further
information, and particularly the opinion given by CVC is also
advisory. The sanction order of the DoPT dated 24.07.2017 is an
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independent decision of the department that was taken based on
the material before it. Under these circumstances, we are not
inclined to accept the first submission made on behalf of the
Appellant that the order of sanction suffers from illegality due to
non-application of mind or acting under dictation.
Re: Issue No. 2: Whether the criminal proceedings could be
quashed for the delay in the issuance of the sanction order?
20. The public policy behind providing immunity from
prosecution without the sanction of the State is to insulate the
public servant against harassment and malicious prosecution. It
is for this very reason that good faith clauses18 are incorporated in
statutes extending protection to officers exercising statutory duties
in good faith. This protection is only to ensure that a public servant
18 For example, Section 74 of Indian Forest Act, 1927 or Section 88 of the Food Safety and
Standards Act, 2006 provide as under: -
Section 74. Indemnity for acts done in good faith —
(1) No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any public servant
for anything done in good faith or omitted to be done likewise, under this Act or the
rules or orders made thereunder.
(2) No Court shall take cognizance of any offence alleged to have been committed by a
forest officer while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty except
with the previous sanction of the Government of Union territory of Jammu and
Kashmir.
Section 88. Protection of action taken in good faithNo suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Central
Government, the State Government, the Food Authority and other bodies constituted
under this Act or any officer of the Central Government, the State Government or any
member, officer or other employee of such Authority and bodies or any other officer
acting under this 60 Act for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be
done under this Act or the rules or regulations made thereunder.
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serves the State with courage, confidence, and conviction. It is apt
to recall the speech of the then Home Minister, Shri Sardar
Vallabhbhai Patel, during the Constituent Assembly Debates19,
also referred to by H.M. Seervai in his commentary on the
Constitution while dealing with the Services under the State20:
“To-day, my Secretary can write a note opposed
to my views. I have given that freedom to all my
secretaries. I have told them ‘If you do not give
your honest opinion for fear that it will displease
your Minister, please then you had better go. I
will bring another Secretary.’ I will never be
displeased over a frank expression of opinion.
(C.A.D. Vol.10, P.51).”
21. Statutory provisions requiring sanction before prosecution
either under Section 197 Cr.P.C. or under Section 97 of the PC Act
also intend to serve the very same purpose of protecting a public
servant. These protections are not available to other citizens
because of the inherent vulnerabilities of a public servant and the
need to protect them. However, the said protection is neither a
shield against dereliction of duty nor an absolute immunity against
corrupt practices. The limited immunity or bar is only subject to a
sanction by the appointing authority.
19 Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume No. 10, Page 51
20 H.M. Seervai, Constitutional Law of India, 4th Edition, Volume 3, pg. 2987
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22. Grant of sanction being an exercise of executive power, it is
subject to the standard principles of judicial review such as
application of independent mind; only by the competent authority,
without bias, after consideration of relevant material and by
eschewing irrelevant considerations. As the power to grant
sanction for prosecution has legal consequences, it must naturally
be exercised within a reasonable period. This principle is anyway
inbuilt in our legal structure, and our Constitutional Courts review
the legality and proprietary of delayed exercise of power quite
frequently. In Mahendra Lal Das v. State of Bihar & Ors.21 and
Ramanand Chaudhary v. State of Bihar & Ors.22 this Court found
21 (2002) 1 SCC 149
“7. In cases of corruption the amount involved is not material but speedy justice is the
mandate of the Constitution being in the interests of the accused as well as that of the society.
Cases relating to corruption are to be dealt with swiftly, promptly and without delay........
8. This Court in Ramanand Chaudhary v. State of Bihar quashed the investigation against
the accused on account of not granting the sanction for more than 13 years. The facts of the
present case are almost identical. No useful purpose would be served to put the appellant at
trial at this belated stage.
9. Keeping in view the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we are inclined to quash
the proceedings against the appellant as permitting further prosecution would be a travesty
of justice and a mere ritual or formality so far as the prosecution agency is concerned, and
unnecessary burden as regards the courts.”
22 (2002) 1 SCC 153
“5. It is not necessary to go into the legal points raised by Mr. Jain as we are inclined to quash
the prosecution against the appellant in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case.
After the raid no action was taken by the prosecution for six years. The Public Prosecutor
consistently opined that no criminal case was made out against the appellant. The
Commissioner on independent consideration refused to grant the sanction but later on at the
asking of the DIG (Vigilance) he changed his view. The Prosecution against the appellant is
pending for over a period of thirteen years and it would be a travesty of justice to permit the
prosecution at this stage which would mean that the appellant would suffer the trial/appeal
for another decade. In view of the facts and circumstances of this case we quash the
prosecution pending against the appellant........”
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it expedient to quash the criminal proceedings due to the abnormal
delay in granting a sanction for prosecution.
23. Noticing that there is no legislation prescribing the period
within which a decision for sanction is to be taken, this Court, in
Vineet Narian (Supra), sought to fill the gap by setting a normative
prescription of three months for grant of sanction.
“58. (I)(15) Time-limit of three months for grant of
sanction for prosecution must be strictly adhered
to. However, additional time of one month may
be allowed where consultation is required with
the Attorney General (AG) or any other law officer
in the AG's office.”
24. Legislative reforms for expeditious grant of sanction for
prosecution started with the enactment of the CVC Act,
whereunder Parliament has expressly empowered the CVC under
Section 8(1)(f) of the CVC Act to review the progress of applications
for sanction23.
25. While exercising the powers under Section 8(1)(f), the CVC
has been issuing guidelines and instructions to various
departments for expeditious disposal of requests for sanction.
Despite these legislative changes and administrative guidelines,
23 “Section 8: Functions and Powers of the Central Vigilance Commission-
(1) The Functions and powers of the Commission shall be to –
(f) review the progress of applications pending with the competent authorities for sanction of
prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.”
Page 20 of 30
delay in granting sanctions continued. In Subramanian Swamy’s
case, this Court suggested that Parliament may consider
prescribing clear time limits for the grant of sanction and to
provide for a deemed sanction by the end of the period if no
decision is taken.
“81. In my view, Parliament should consider the
constitutional imperative of Article 14 enshrining
the Rule of Law wherein “due process of law”
has been read into by introducing a time-limit in
Section 19 of the PC Act, 1988 for its working in
a reasonable manner. Parliament may, in my
opinion, consider the following guidelines:
(a) All proposals for sanction placed before any
sanctioning authority empowered to grant
sanction for prosecution of a public servant under
Section 19 of the PC Act must be decided within
a period of three months of the receipt of the
proposal by the authority concerned.
(b) Where consultation is required with the
Attorney General or the Solicitor General or the
Advocate General of the State, as the case may
be, and the same is not possible within the three
months mentioned in clause (a) above, an
extension of one month period may be allowed,
but the request for consultation is to be sent in
writing within the three months mentioned in
clause (a) above. A copy of the said request will
be sent to the prosecuting agency or the private
complainant to intimate them about the extension
of the time-limit.
(c) At the end of the extended period of time-limit,
if no decision is taken, sanction will be deemed
to have been granted to the proposal for
prosecution, and the prosecuting agency or the
private complainant will proceed to file the
charge-sheet/complaint in the court to commence
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prosecution within 15 days of the expiry of the
aforementioned time-limit.”
26. Yet another legislative development took place in 2018 when
the Parliament, by way of an amendment to the PC Act, inserted
the following provisos to Section 19 of the PC Act;
“19. Previous sanction necessary for
prosecution. —
(1) No court shall take cognizance of an offence
punishable under sections 7, 11, 13 and 15
alleged to have been committed by a public
servant, except with the previous sanction [save
as otherwise provided in the Lokpal and
Lokayuktas Act, 2013] -
(a) in the case of....
(b) in the case of....
(c) in the case of....
Provided further that.....
Provided also that the appropriate
Government or any competent authority
shall, after the receipt of the proposal
requiring sanction for prosecution of a
public servant under this sub-section,
endeavour to convey the decision on
such proposal within a period of three
months from the date of its receipt:
Provided also that in case where, for
the purpose of grant of sanction for
prosecution, legal consultation is
required, such period may, for the
reasons to be recorded in writing, be
extended by a further period of one
month:
Provided also that the Central
Government may, for the purpose of
sanction for prosecution of a public
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servant, prescribe such guidelines as it
considers necessary.….”
27. The new proviso to Section 19 mandating that the competent
authority shall endeavour to convey the decision on the proposal
for sanction within a period of three months can only be read and
understood as a compelling statutory obligation. We are not
inclined to accept the submission of the learned ASG that this
proviso is only directory in nature. In the first place, the consistent
effort made by all branches of the State, the Judiciary24, the
Legislative25, and the Executive26, to ensure early decision-making
by the competent authority cannot be watered down by lexical
interpretation of the expression endeavour in the proviso.
28. The sanctioning authority must bear in mind that public
confidence in the maintenance of the Rule of Law, which is
fundamental in the administration of justice, is at stake here. By
causing delay in considering the request for sanction, the
sanctioning authority stultifies judicial scrutiny, thereby vitiating
the process of determination of the allegations against the corrupt
official27. Delays in prosecuting the corrupt breeds a culture of
24 Commencing from the concerns expressed in Vineet Narain case in 1998, followed by the
decision in Subramanian Swamy.
25 The passing of the CVC Act in 2003, and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act amending the
provision of PC Act and CVC Act and also the 2018 amendments to the PC Act.
26 The various instructions issued by the CVC from time to time from 2003.
27 Supra- Subramanian Swamy
Page 23 of 30
impunity and leads to systemic resignation to the existence of
corruption in public life. Such inaction is fraught with the risk of
making future generations getting accustomed to corruption as a
way of life. Viewed in this context, the duty to take an early
decision inheres in the power vested in the appointing authority to
grant or not to grant sanction. In fact, the statement of object and
reasons for the 2018 amendment of Section 19 clearly explain the
purpose as under: -
“2(i) …Further, in the light of a recent judgment
of the Supreme Court, the question of amending
section 19 of the Act to lay down clear criteria
and procedure for sanction of prosecution,
including the stage at which sanction can be
sought, timelines within which order has to be
passed, was also examined by the Central
Government and it is proposed to incorporate
appropriate provisions in section 19 of the Act.”28
29. The intention of the Parliament is evident from a combined
reading of the first proviso to Section 19, which uses the
expression ‘endeavour’ with the subsequent provisions. The third
proviso mandates that the extended period can be granted only for
one month after reasons are recorded in writing. There is no
further extension. The fourth proviso, which empowers the Central
Government to prescribe necessary guidelines for ensuring the
28 Bill No. LIII of 2013, GOI (Ex.) Part II Sec 2 No. 31 dated 19.8.2013 (amendment
implemented in the year 2018)
Page 24 of 30
mandate, may also be noted in this regard. It can thus be
concluded that the Parliament intended that the process of grant
of sanction must be completed within four months, which includes
the extended period of one month.
30. If it is mandatory for the sanctioning authority to decide in a
time-bound manner, the consequence of non-compliance with the
mandatory period must be examined. This is a critical question
having no easy answer. In Subramanian Swamy, this Court
suggested that Parliament may consider providing deemed
sanction if a decision is not taken within the prescribed period. The
Appellant herein contends the very opposite that the criminal
proceedings must be quashed if the decision is not taken within
the prescribed period.
31. In the first place, non-compliance with a mandatory period
cannot and should not automatically lead to the quashing of
criminal proceedings because the prosecution of a public servant
for corruption has an element of public interest having a direct
bearing on the rule of law29. This is also a non-sequitur. It must
29 Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh and Anr, (2012) 3 SCC 64
76. The sanctioning authority must bear in mind that what is at stake is the public
confidence in the maintenance of the Rule of Law which is fundamental in the
administration of justice. Delay in granting such sanction has spoilt many valid
prosecutions and is adversely viewed in public mind that in the name of considering a
prayer for sanction, a protection is given to a corrupt public official as a quid pro quo
for services rendered by the public official in the past or may be in the future and the
Page 25 of 30
also be kept in mind that the complainant or victim has no other
remedy available for judicial redressal if the criminal proceedings
stand automatically quashed. At the same time, a decision to grant
deemed sanction may cause prejudice to the rights of the accused
as there would also be non-application of mind in such cases.
32. It is in between these competing interests that the Court must
maintain the delicate balance. While arriving at this balance, the
Court must keep in mind the duty cast on the competent authority
to grant sanction within the stipulated period of time. There must
be a consequence of dereliction of duty to giving sanction within
the time specified. The way forward is to make the appointing
authority accountable for the delay in the grant of sanction.
33. Accountability in itself is an essential principle of
administrative law. Judicial review of administrative action will be
effective and meaningful by ensuring accountability of the officer
or authority in charge.
sanctioning authority and the corrupt officials were or are partners in the same
misdeeds…….
77. By causing delay in considering the request for sanction, the sanctioning authority
stultifies judicial scrutiny and determination of the allegations against corrupt official
and thus the legitimacy of the judicial institutions is eroded. It, thus, deprives a citizen
of his legitimate and fundamental right to get justice by setting the criminal law in
motion and thereby frustrates his right to access judicial remedy which is a
constitutionally protected right…….
Page 26 of 30
34. The principle of accountability is considered as a cornerstone
of the human rights framework. It is a crucial feature that must
govern the relationship between “duty bearers” in authority and
“right holders” affected by their actions. Accountability of
institutions is also one of the development goals adopted by the
United Nations in 201530 and is also recognized as one of the six
principles of the Citizens Charter Movement31.
35. Accountability has three essential constituent dimensions.
(i) responsibility, (ii) answerability and (iii) enforceability.
Responsibility requires the identification of duties and
performance obligations of individuals in authority and with
authorities. Answerability requires reasoned decision-making so
that those affected by their decisions, including the public, are
aware of the same. Enforceability requires appropriate corrective
and remedial action against lack of responsibility and
accountability to be taken32. Accountability has a corrective
function, making it possible to address individual or collective
grievances. It enables action against officials or institutions for
30 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 70/1 dated 25th September, 2015
31 Citizens Charter adopted by the Government in the ‘Conference of Chief Ministers of various
States and Union Territories’ held in May 1997 in New Delhi, available from
https://goicharters.nic.in/public/website/home.
32 See: Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Who will be
Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, available from
http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/WhoWillBeAccountable.pdf
Page 27 of 30
dereliction of duty. It also has a preventive function that helps to
identify the procedure or policy which has become non-functional
and to improve upon it.
36. Accountability, as a principle of administrative law, when
applied to the issue that we are dealing with, translates in this
manner. Responsibility for grant of sanction for prosecution of a
public servant under Section 19 of the PC Act is always vested in
the appointing authority. Identification of appointing authority is
always clear and straightforward. The 2018 amendment
specifically obligates the appointing authority to convey the
decision within three months and to provide for the reasons to be
recorded in writing for the extended period of one month. This
amendment, in fact, evidences legislative incorporation of
answerability, the second constituent of accountability. For
enforceability, Parliament has expressly empowered the Central
Vigilance Commission under Section 8(1)(f) of the CVC Act to
review the progress of the applications pending with the competent
authorities, and this function must take within its sweep the power
to deal with the consequences of failure of the competent authority
to comply with its statutory duty. This power and responsibility of
Page 28 of 30
CVC is clear from the provisions of the statute and decipherable
from functions entrusted to it.
37. In conclusion, we hold that upon expiry of the three months
and the additional one-month period, the aggrieved party, be it the
complainant, accused or victim, would be entitled to approach the
concerned writ court. They are entitled to seek appropriate
remedies, including directions for action on the request for
sanction and for the corrective measure on accountability that the
sanctioning authority bears. This is especially crucial if the nongrant of sanction is withheld without reason, resulting in the
stifling of a genuine case of corruption. Simultaneously, the CVC
shall enquire into the matter in the exercise of its powers under
Section 8(1)(e) and (f) and take such corrective action as it is
empowered under the CVC Act.
38. The second issue is answered by holding that the period of
three months, extended by one more month for legal consultation,
is mandatory. The consequence of non-compliance with this
mandatory requirement shall not be quashing of the criminal
proceeding for that very reason. The competent authority shall be
Accountable for the delay and be subject to judicial review and
Page 29 of 30
administrative action by the CVC under Section 8(1)(f) of the CVC
Act.
39. Returning to the facts of the present case, we have noticed
that the CBI made the application for sanction for prosecution on
08.09.2015, and the same was granted on 24.07.2017, i.e., after
one year and ten months. As the Appellant did not question the
legality of the delay either before the Trial or the High Court but
chose to confine the challenge only to the appointing authority
acting under the dictation of the CVC, there was no occasion for
CBI to respond to the submission of delay. The submission was
raised for the first time before this Court. Though the learned ASG
submitted that this plea should not be permitted to be raised,
without standing on a technicality, we would have proceeded to
examine the matter if the necessary material were on record of the
case. As there is no material placed on record to examine the
accountability of the appointing authority for not deciding the
request for sanction within time, we leave it to the Appellant to
seek appropriate remedy based on principles that we have laid
down hereinabove.
40. For the reasons stated above, we dismiss the Criminal Appeal
arising out of SLP (Crl) No.1568 of 2022 arising out of the
Page 30 of 30
Judgment of the High Court of Madras in Criminal Revision
Petition No. 349 of 2019 dated 06.01.2022. We permit the
petitioner to raise and seek such remedies as are permissible in
law on the basis of principles laid down by us.
41. The parties shall bear their own costs.
……………………………….J.
 [B.R. GAVAI]
……………………………….J.
[PAMIDIGHANTAM SRI NARASIMHA]
NEW DELHI;
OCTOBER 11, 2022 

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