Prior approval u/s 17(A) of Prevention of Corruption Act is not applicable in disproportionate assets cases

Recently, the Madras High Court observed that prior government approval for an inquiry into corruption allegations against a government employee u/s 17(A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act is not mandatory when allegations are regarding disproportionate assets.

According to Section 17(A), there has to be prior approval from the concerned government before the police can initiate inquiry against a public servant under the Act if there are corruption allegations related to discharge of their official duties.

After going through the facts of the case, the offences alleged against the public servant were not related to the discharge of his official duties or functions. The Court noted that FIR was registered as the charges relate to disproportionate assets offences.

Hon’ble Justice K Murali Shankar ruled that prior sanction is not required u/s 17(A) and remarked that the said provision would not be applicable in disproportionate assets cases.

The Judge agreed with the contention that in judgments of courts in Devendra Kumar vs CBI and Sathish Pandey vs Union of India wherein it was held that Section 17A would not be applicable where the act of the public servant appears to be lacking in faith, he further remarked that Section 17(A) was only inserted to provide protection to honest officers, but if a public servant’s act amounts to an offence, then prior approval of the concerned government is not needed.

In the instant case, the prosecution alleged that the Rural Development Department’s assistant Director had purchased properties that he did not disclose to the government and were also not accounted for.

Before the Court, the Public servant challenged the inquiry by the Director of Vigilance and Anti Corruption Wing, Chennai, on the ground that prior permission from the government is needed for such an inquiry u/s 17(A) of Prevention of Corruption Act. 

The Bench dismissed the petition and held that 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act has no application in the instant case.

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