Justice Najmi Waziri interpreted Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act to conclude: “When the act of a public servant is ex-facie criminal or constitutes an offence, prior approval of Government would not be necessary.”
Asthana and co-accused DSP Devender Kumar had argued that the FIR lodged on Alok Verma’s orders is illegal as no prior permission of the government to prosecute public servants was taken. But the HC pointed out that the purpose of Section 17A “can be read to be only to provide protection to officers/public servants who discharge their official functions and/or duties with diligence, fairly, in an unbiased manner and to the best of their ability and judgment, without any motive for personal advantage or favour.”
It underlined that the shield of Section 17A is to ensure that a public servant is not “under the constant apprehension that bonafide decisions taken by him/her would be open to enquiry or investigation, on the whimsical complaint of a stranger”.
The HC said businessman Sathish Sana’s complaint shows an alleged promise to him of relief in a criminal case and/or investigating officer ceasing to call him for further investigations.
It noted that such an alleged promise “cannot be said to be in the discharge of official functions or duties of the public servant (IO)” and highlighted that “bar to enquiry or inquiry or investigation under Sec 17A of PCA is for such alleged offence as may be relatable to any recommendation made or decision taken by a public servant in discharge of his official functions or duties.”