The Supreme Court on Wednesday said "blanket protection" given to top bureaucrats in graft cases appeared to be contrary to the object of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"If the policymaker in the top bureaucrats gets protection from inquiry, who should face the rigour of law? The lower bureaucracy which implements the policy decisions? How is this class of bureaucrats separate from others?
"All bureaucrats and government servants have a protection under the PC Act, which requires a probe agency to seek sanction from concerned authority prior to prosecution. Why this special protection for a small band?," a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said.
The Centre faced some tough questions from the apex court while defending the law making it mandatory for CBI to take approval of competent authority to probe top bureaucrats in graft cases.
The apex court virtually endorsed the contention of those who have challenged the provision in the law which allegedly creates a "privileged class" of central government employees and violates equality clause of the Constitution.
The bench repeatedly put the question to Additional Solicitor General L Nageshwar Rao who argued section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which makes it mandatory for prior approval of competent authority to probe joint secretary and above-ranked officials, was necessary to protect top bureaucrats to work fearlessly.
"On what classification can you deprive other public servants of this benefit"? the bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and F M I Kalifulla said.
It referred to the Vineet Narain Judgement and said an identical provision, earlier known as "single directive", was struck down by the apex court.