EAS Sarma, former secretary of the GoI, has questioned the AP government's decision to reject a CBI plea for prosecution of Dharmana Rao, the minister who is accused and charge-sheeted in the Vanpic Port land scam
The Andhra Pradesh (AP) government has rejected a plea from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for prosecution of AP roads and buildings minister Dharmana Prasada Rao, who has been named as an accused and charge-sheeted in the Vanpic Port land scandal. Following this decision, EAS Sarma, former secretary of the Government of India (GoI), wrote a letter to AP governor ESL Narasimhan requesting him not the accept the recommendation of the state government keeping in mind the public interest.
Mr Sarma, in his letter, said, there is evidence of malfeasance in the irregular and improper land deals in the Vanpic case. “Already, one state minister and several officers are facing the heat of CBI prosecution in Vanpic, Emaar MGF and other cases. There cannot be one set of norms for them and another set for Dharmana Prasada Rao. It will amount to discrimination and an infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution,” he said.
Dharmana submitted his resignation from the minister’s post on ‘moral grounds’ on 14th August, a day after he was charge-sheeted by the CBI in the Vanpic Port land scam. AP chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, however, did not take any decision on the minister’s resignation and kept it pending for more than three months now.
Meanwhile, according to PTI sources, health minister DL Ravindra Reddy objected to the issue being raised in the Cabinet meet. “Granting or rejecting permission (for prosecution) is an issue to be decided by the chief minister. Why should it be placed in the Cabinet?” Ravindra Reddy questioned and said he was opposing the Cabinet resolution.
Panchayat raj minister K Jana Reddy said there was no need for a discussion on the issue in the Cabinet. “As ministers, we will accept your decision,” he told the chief minister, reports PTI.
Here are the points raised by the former secretary in his letter written to the AP Governor, against the denial of permission for CBI prosecution by AP government...
1. In Vineet Narain & Others Vs Union of India, the Supreme Court pronounced a landmark order on 18 December 1997 laying down norms to be followed by the government in sanctioning permission to the CBI and other agencies to prosecute senior public functionaries. I have extracted below an important portion of the order for your ready reference.
“Every person accused of committing the same offences is to be dealt with in the same manner in accordance with law, which is equal in its application to everyone. The Single Directive is applicable only to certain persons above the specified level who are described as ‘decision making officers’. The question is whether any distinction can be made for them for the purpose of investigation of an offence of which they are accused. Obviously, where the accusation of corruption is based on direct evidence and it does not require any inference to be drawn depend on the decision making process, there is no rational basic to classify them differently. In other words, if the accusation be of bribery which is supported by direct evidence of acceptance of illegal gratification by them, including strap cases, it is obvious that no other factor is relevant and the level or status of the offender is irrelevant”.
The essence of the above order is that there can be no double standards on the part of the government in sanctioning permission for prosecution in such cases. Already, one state minister and several officers are facing the heat of CBI prosecution in Vanpic, Emaar MGF and other cases. There cannot be one set of norms for them and another set for Dharmana Prasada Rao. It will amount to discrimination and an infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution.
2. In another case relating to illegal occupation of government lands on the basis of fabricated documents, a senior revenue minister at that time and several senior officers had benefited the culprits in return for posh apartments at nominal prices, about which I had made a reference in my letters 1st to 3rd and 5th cited. The state is yet to grant me permission under the Prevention of Corruption Act to prosecute the culprits. It clearly shows how the state is shielding the corrupt deliberately. In a way, by shielding them, they have become abettors in the criminal offences committed by the concerned public servants. Clearly, the state cabinet's recommendation in this case is coloured and prejudiced, not based on any judicious consideration.
3. In Madhya Pradesh, in a similar case of a corruption case involving a senior public functionary, the state cabinet recommended to the governor to reject permission to the investigating agency to prosecute the concerned. The governor, however, felt that public interest was involved and rejected the cabinet's recommendation. His decision was upheld by the apex court. This case will be of relevance to the case of Dharmana Prasada Rao. You may like to get the details of this.
4. As the constitutional head in the state, under article 159, the governor is committed to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law” and “devote (himself/herself) to the service and well-being of the people of the state”. In consonance with this oath, it will be appropriate for you to uphold the public interest by sanctioning prosecution by the CBI.
5. In the instant case of Vanpic, lands tilled by D-Patta assignees (who were all marginal farmers) were illegally given away to rich individuals. Compensation due to them was allowed to be misappropriated by him as a result of the deliberate acts of the culprits in this case. Government lands were transferred to an industrialist in violation of the Doctrine of Public Trust. Water bodies have been damaged in violation of the environmental norms laid down by the apex court. There cannot be a more appropriate case than this for bringing the culprits to book.
Mr Sarma, requested governor Narasimhan to reject the recommendation of the state government and allow prosecution of Dharmana Rao by the CBI, in public interest.