Decide prosecution sanction of ETOs in 30 days, FCT told.
In this article we will be talking about the pending issue of prosecution sanction of excise and taxation officials in last year’s multi-crore Goods and Service Tax (GST) scam.
Facts : Punjab chief vigilance commissioner Justice Mehtab Singh Gill (retd.) has asked the state’s financial commissioner taxation (FCT) A Venu Prasad to decide the pending issue of prosecution sanction of excise and taxation officials in last year’s multi-crore Goods and Service Tax (GST) scam ‘positively’ within 30 days.
Some of the accused officials in the scam include excise and taxation officers (ETOs) Lakhbir Singh, Kali Charan and Abhishek Duggal.
The Punjab and Haryana high court had released them on regular bail on March 31 after taking note of the fact that sanction to prosecute them under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2018, had not been obtained so far and they were in custody since the registration of the FIR on August 21, 2020, and some of them since June 2020 itself.
During investigation, it had come to fore that a number of officials of the excise and taxation department were receiving monthly bribes from transporters and businessmen for allowing them to ferry goods in and out of Punjab without paying the GST. One of the officials allegedly involved in the scam is joint director B K Virdi whose house was raided by Punjab vigilance bureau.
This case is a classic example of such cases where the sanctioning authorities, who are duty bound to either sanction or refuse prosecution sanction by passing a speaking order, keep on sitting on the file and let cases collapse in courts for want of prosecution sanction. The chief vigilance commissioner also reminded Prasad that according to Section 19 of The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, amended in 2018, the decision on prosecution sanction must be conveyed by the competent authority within three months.
Justice Gill said according to the law, this responsibility lies with the office of the financial commissioner taxation being the competent authority. Though the accused have been granted bail because the necessary sanction of prosecution has not been given, the cases are pending in the trial courts as well for want of the prosecution sanction said the chief vigilance commissioner in a letter addressed to Prasad.
The FIR in the case was registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for forgery, criminal conspiracy and various other sections of the Indian Penal Code at police station, vigilance bureau, flying squad-1 at Mohali on August 21 last year.
Section 19 in The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988
(1) No court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 alleged to have been committed by a public servant, except with the previous sanction,—
(a) In the case of a person who is employed in connection with the affairs of the Union and is not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the Central Government, of that Government;
(b) In the case of a person who is employed in connection with the affairs of a State and is not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the State Government, of that Government;
(c) In the case of any other person, of the authority competent to remove him from his office.
(2) Where for any reason whatsoever any doubt arises as to whether the previous sanction as required under sub-section (1) should be given by the Central Government or the State Government or any other authority, such sanction shall be given by that Government or authority which would have been competent to remove the public servant from his office at the time when the offence was alleged to have been committed.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974),—
(a) no finding, sentence or order passed by a special Judge shall be reversed or altered by a court in appeal, confirmation or revision on the ground of the absence of, or any error, omission or irregularity in, the sanction required under sub-section (1), unless in the opinion of that court, a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned thereby;
(b) no court shall stay the proceedings under this Act on the ground of any error, omission or irregularity in the sanction granted by the authority, unless it is satisfied that such error, omission or irregularity has resulted in a failure of justice;
(c) no court shall stay the proceedings under this Act on any other ground and no court shall exercise the powers of revision in relation to any interlocutory order passed in any inquiry, trial, appeal or other proceedings.
(4) In determining under sub-section (3) whether the absence of, or any error, omission or irregularity in, such sanction has occasioned or resulted in a failure of justice the court shall have regard to the fact whether the objection could and should have been raised at any earlier stage in the proceedings. Explanation.—For the purposes of this section,—
(a) error includes competency of the authority to grant sanction;
(b) a sanction required for prosecution includes reference to any requirement that the prosecution shall be at the instance of a specified authority or with the sanction of a specified person or any requirement of a similar nature.
Corruptions seems to be a prevalent issue within the country now, from the basic posts to highest ranks, this issue seemed to cover every sphere. More stringent, strict and quick laws should be made, no one shall be set free mere because of his position and the power. This is a necessary evil which need attention and eradication from its very roots.