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Prior sanction mandatory for open inquiry against government

Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court that it is mandatory to procure sanction from them before initiating an open inquiry against any of their officers or employees.

In an affidavit filed before a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice G S Kulkarni, the state government said that prior sanction is required to initiate open inquiry against government employees of all groups.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by activist Ankur Patil challenging a March 12, 1981 circular of the government which says prior sanction is a must to initiate an inquiry against a public servant.

Patil had claimed that the 1981 circular was infructuous in view of the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Subramaniam Swamy versus CBI.

The Supreme Court had laid down in its judgement on May 6 last year that every public servant, who is facing allegations of corruption or an inquiry for corrupt offences, shall be treated equally and similarly under law.

The government today in its affidavit said that based on the 1981 circular another circular has been issued on March 3 this year by which if allegations of corruption are received against All India Services Officers, Heads of Department and Group A officers, then sanction must be taken from the competent authority in the government before initiating open inquiry.

“Whenever allegations of corruption against state government employees of Group B, C and D are received, the Anti-Corruption Bureau should scrutinise them to ascertain if there is any substance. If yes, then a discreet inquiry should be made and if it is satisfied that there is enough material to justify an open inquiry, then the same can be done after acquiring permission from the competent authority,” the affidavit filed by V M Bhat, Deputy Secretary, General Administration Department, said.

It further states that the authority shall take a decision on whether to give sanction to open an inquiry or not within 90 days of receiving the proposal. If no decision is taken within 90 days, then ACB shall presume that sanction has been accorded to conduct an open inquiry.

The High Court today admitted Patil’s petition and posted it for final hearing in July.

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