Inquiries against politicians: India

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' SC will not order graft probes against politicians'

From the archives of The Times of India 2010

Now, SC won’t order graft probes against politicians


New Delhi: Making a strong departure from its proactive role in ordering registration of FIR against BSP supremo Mayawati in corruption cases, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that constitutional courts — the SC and HCs — must stay away from this course as it could prejudice the trial court against the accused.

“This court cannot sit in judgment whether investigations should be launched against politicians for alleged acts of corruption,” said a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal while rejecting a PIL seeking CBI probe into alleged disproportionate assets of Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling.

The SC and HCs were mandated to remove obstacles to a fair investigation to ensure its integrity, but “it is not viable for a writ court to order the initiation of an investigation”, it said. Ordering registration of FIR or initiation of investigation were functions that were clearly within the ambit of the executive and it was upto the probe agencies themselves to decide whether the material produced before them was sufficient to launch an investigation, said Justice Balakrishnan writing the judgment for the bench.

He said, “It must also be borne in mind that there are provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure which empowers the courts of first instance to exercise certain degree of control over the ongoing investigations. The scope for intervention by the trial court is hence controlled by statutory provisions and it is not advisable for writ courts to interfere with criminal investigations in the absence of specific standards for the same.” Accepting the logic supplied by Chamling’s counsel A Mariarputham, the CJI said, “If the SC gives direction for prosecution, it could cause serious prejudice to the accused, as the direction of this court may have far reaching persuasive effect on the court which may ultimately try the accused.”

At the same time, it did not shy away from its role to ensure fair probe. The SC said, “In some cases, judicial intervention by way of writ jurisdiction (available only with the HCs and SC) is warranted on account of obstructions to the investigation process such as material threat to witnesses, destruction of evidence or undue pressure from powerful interests.”

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