New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of protection granted to public servants under which they cannot be prosecuted in corruption cases without government`s prior approval.
The apex court said Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act is not unconstitutional. The provision said that no court shall take cognizance of an offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant without the previous sanction from the competent authority.
"Thus while it is not possible to hold that the requirement of sanction is unconstitutional, the competent authority has to take a decision on the issue of sanction expeditiously as already observed.
"A fine balance has to be maintained between the need to protect a public servant against mala fide prosecution on the one hand and the object of upholding probity in public life in prosecuting the public servant against whom prima facie material in support of allegation of corruption exists on the other hand," a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.
It said there should be no tolerance to corruption but at the same time there is a need to protect the honest.
"Requirement of sanction has the salutary object of protecting an innocent public servant against unwarranted and mala fide prosecution. Undoubtedly, there can be no tolerance to corruption which undermines core constitutional values of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity. At the same time, need to prosecute and punish the corrupt is no ground to deny protection to the honest," Justice A K Goel, who wrote the verdict said.
The apex court held mere possibility of abuse cannot be a ground to declare a provision, otherwise valid, to be unconstitutional and the exercise of power has to be regulated to effectuate the purpose of law.
The court passed the order on a PIL filed by a lawyer Manzoor Ali Khan seeking quashing of Section 19 of the Act.