PM in command: corrupt bureaucrats beware
Prime minister Manmohan Singh has taken command of permissions to prosecute corrupt bureaucrats. The prime minister will be personally monitoring the persistence reluctance and refusal of sanction to the CBI and other investigating agencies to prosecute corrupt babus.
In a bid to send out the message that his government will not compromise on any kind of corruption, Singh will be keeping a tab on such matters through the cabinet secretary and the department of personnel and training (DoP&T), which functions directly under him. He wants them both to keep him posted to ensure that the decision on sanctions is taken strictly within three months.
Investigating agencies like the CBI need the sanction of the department or the ministry where a bureaucrat is posted to prosecute the official. If the official is of the rank of joint secretary or above, a sanction is needed even to begin a probe.
Any minister trying to put a lid on any such case is now required to submit to the prime minister a copy of the order refusing sanction to prosecute within seven days. All central ministries and departments have been also mandated to keep DoP&T posted with any move to deny sanction to give it at least three weeks to revert with its views.
An office memorandum (OM) issued on Thursday by DoP&T also mandates a monthly report by every ministry and department to the cabinet secretary about any case pending for more than three months, “giving reasons for such pendency and the level where it is pending”.
The prime minister has also tied hands of the sanctioning authorities in refusing the sanction on their own. They have to first refer the matter to the central vigilance commission (CVC) and if they disagree even with the CVC, they have to take view of the DoP&T before passing the final order, giving reasons for still sticking to the refusal. This is an indirect way of telling ministries to exercise caution in refusing sanctions — which is now more the norm than exception.
It is extremely rare for competent authorities to sanction the prosecution of officials. CBI officers say that of the 2,000 cases filed in the past three years, the agency is awaiting sanctions in over 700 cases. In most cases that evoked a response, sanction was refused.
The DoP&T must get "at least three weeks time to finalise its views and communicate to the competent authority" and that too within three months from the date of the request for prosecution comes from the investigating agency, updated with a draft chargesheet and related documents, notes the OM. It says the advance intimation will help the DoPT finalise its own views and communicate them to the sanctioning authority.
The prime minister personally added this proviso of getting clearance of the DoP&T before closing down any corruption case by refusing sanction to the investigation agencies for prosecution, over and above the recommendations by a group of ministers (GoM), headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, that he had constituted in January last year to suggest measures to tackle corruption, including fast-tracking of all cases of public servants accused of corruption.
The sanctioning authority is required to frame its tentative views on the prosecution request of the investigating agency and seek the advice of the CVC, who is required to respond within ten days. The case can be referred to the CVC for reconsideration only in exceptional cases of new facts coming to light.
The CVC is bound to tender appropriate advice within a fortnight and "if the CVC on reconsideration advises for grant of sanction, the ministry/department concerned will issue the requisite order immediately”. However, if the authority concerned does not accept the CVC’s reconsidered advice, it has to refer the case to DoP&T for the final decision.
The OM also directs ministries and departments to submit "copies of orders refusing sanction to prosecute" to the next higher authority for information within seven days.
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