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PMO rapped on Swamy plea, government gets prosecution deadline

Tuesday January 31, 2012 09:15:17 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The government has to decide within a maximum of four months whether or not to sanction the prosecution of a public servant for corruption, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, while pulling up the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for delaying Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy's 2008 plea against then cabinet minister A. Raja in the 2G case.

In a far-reaching judgement that the government said it would honour, Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly said a decision on a request for prosecution must come within three months. This could be extended by a month if the government wanted the attorney general's views.

Swamy, who has been waging a dragging legal battle against the now jailed Raja, hailed the verdict, saying it would give teeth to the war on corruption. The Congress was defensive, while the BJP called it a slap on the government's face.

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party underlined that the judgement was an indictment of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the judges said that Manmohan Singh could not be blamed for the lapses of his officials.

The court was reacting to a petition by Swamy that the PMO sat for months on his request seeking sanction to prosecute Raja under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) for his alleged involvement in the 2G scam.

Justice Singhvi said the government was bound by the apex court verdict in the Vineet Narain case holding that any application seeking sanction should be decided in three months.

Separately, Justice Ganguly said if the government failed to do so, then it would be deemed it had given the sanction.

He also asked parliament to consider amending Section 19 of the PCA to provide for a time-frame for deciding similar applications. The apex court had reserved its order on Swamy's application on Nov 24, 2010.

But in clear embarrassment to Manmohan Singh, the judges hauled up his officials for not acting wisely when Swamy approached them in the wake of allegations of irregularities in the grant of 2G spectrum licences.

"Unfortunately, those expected to give proper advice to (Manmohan Singh) and place full facts and legal position before him failed to do so," said the apex court bench.

Swamy had challenged a Delhi High Court order that said that since the CBI was probing irregularities in the grant of 2G licences, it would not be correct to issue a mandamus to the prime minister to take decision on the Janata Party leader's request for sanction.

"By the very nature of the office held by him, (prime minister) is not expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case placed before him and has to depend on his advisers and other officers."

Speaking for the government, Home Minister P. Chidambaram welcomed the court order. "It is a welcome decision," he said.

Swamy said: "I am happy today (and) I visualise it is possible to win the war against corruption. The thorniest issue of sanction has been simplified by the court."

He said the prime minister did not reply for 16 long months to his letter requesting sanction to prosecute Raja, a key member of the cabinet from the DMK.

"The delay won't be accepted beyond three months... then one month more," Swamy said. "So maximum four months, else it will be treated as deemed sanction."

The PMO was happy Manmohan Singh had escaped a rap.

"We welcome the fact that the judges have completely vindicated the PM," a statement from the PMO said.

Raja has been in Tihar Jail since last Febraury in connection with the 2G scandal.






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