No filter – Supreme Court’s Ruling on Section 6A of the DSPE Act | 13 September 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the Supreme Court's ruling on Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.


  • GS2: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.


  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that its 2014 verdict, invalidating Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, the law that governs the CBI, will have retrospective effect from the day the provision was introduced in 2003.


  • Background:
    • Section 6A provided that any investigation into corruption charges against officials of the rank of Joint Secretary and above, can begin only after the Central government’s approval.
    • It was introduced to restore the Centre’s ‘Single Directive’, a set of instructions to the CBI on the modalities of holding an inquiry.
    • In the landmark case of Vineet Narain (1997), the apex court had struck down the directive on the ground that a statutory investigation cannot be impeded by administrative instructions.
    • Six years later, Section 6A was introduced to restore the prior approval requirement. However, in 2014, the Court struck down this section too, holding that it violated the norm of equality by extending its protection only to a class of public servants and not everyone.
  • Ruling:
    • The latest judgment rejects arguments by some who are facing investigation that they should be given the protection of Section 6A as they were charged with offences that date back to the time before the 2014 judgment, when the provision was in force.
    • The Court has reiterated the position that post-Constitution laws cannot be inconsistent with the Constitution and when they are so declared by a court, the invalidation is with effect from their inception.
  • Impact:
    • The judgment is of limited applicability now, as it will impact only allegations that date back to the period between 2003 and 2014.
    • The law as it stands now is quite different. In 2018, when the Prevention of Corruption Act was amended, Section 17A was introduced to make the government’s previous approval a mandatory requirement before any probe can be begun into decisions or recommendations made by a public servant.

Way Forward:

  • A prior approval requirement for initiating an anti-corruption probe is not inherently desirable.
  • In its 2014 judgment, the Court had observed that such provisions are destructive of the objective of the anti-corruption laws, block the truth from surfacing and sometimes result in a forewarning to those officials involved as soon as allegations arise against them.
  • It may be necessary to have safeguards to filter out frivolous inquiries into the conduct of public servants making crucial and bona fide decisions, but it is equally in the interest of the public that these provisions do not become a shield for the unscrupulous.

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