The Supreme Court on Thursday held that it cannot direct a probe against politicians facing corruption charges, saying the onus was on investigating agencies.
"This court cannot sit in judgment over whether investigations should be launched against politicians for alleged acts of corruption," a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishanan said, refusing to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe into the alleged disproportionate assets case against Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling.
"If the Supreme Court gives direction for prosecution, it will 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," the bench said in a judgment. The bench directed petitioner Kungamina Lepcha, an opposition leader, to approach the investigating agencies concerned if he has got any such grievance.
"The onus of launching an investigation into such matters is clearly on the investigating agencies such as the state police, the CBI or the Central Vigilance Commission among others. It is not proper for this court to give directions for initiating such an investigation under its writ jurisdiction," the court said.
Questioning the motive behind the petition, which was filed at the initiative of persons belonging to a political party, the court said that the writ petition cannot be used as an instrument of such partisan considerations.
"However, even if we were to accept the locus standi of the petitioners, keeping in mind that allegations of corruption on part of the incumbent chief minister do touch on public interest, this court is not the appropriate forum for seeking the initiation of investigation," the bench said.
The apex court said that a person can approach it directly by filing a writ petition only in cases of violation of fundamental rights. It refused to give credence to the submission of the petitioner, who alleged that misappropriation of public funds by the minister amounts to violation of fundamental rights.
"The alleged acts of misappropriation from the public exchequer cannot be automatically equated with a violation of the guarantee of equal protection before the law," the court said, adding "It is quite evident that the onus is on the petitioners to demonstrate a specific violation of any of the fundamental rights in order to seek relief under writ jurisdiction".
The bench noted that the apex court did not have the mandate to give directions for initiating such an investigation under its writ jurisdiction.
"The writ court can only play a corrective role to ensure that the integrity of the investigation is not compromised. However, it is not viable for a writ court to order the initiation of an investigation. That function clearly lies in the domain of the executive and it is up to the investigating agencies themselves to decide whether the material produced before them provides a sufficient basis to launch an investigation," the court said.
The court said it can appreciate the general claim that the efforts to uncover the alleged acts of corruption may be obstructed by entrenched interests. "However, in this particular case, the petitioners would be well advised to rely on the statutory remedies," it said.