By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  The government’s new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for investigation under Section 17A of the amended Prevention of Corruption Act, may make it difficult for investigating officers to proceed against ministers or public servants. 

Issued on September 3, the SOP is aimed at streamlining the process of anti-corruption probe like providing for stage-wise processing of information received by police officers, specification of the rank of police officers vis-a-vis public servants. 

According to the SOP, a probe officer who finds material against a government servant will have to seek approval from a designated officer who would take a call if the case is fit for the “enquiry, inquiry or investigation”.

For Union Ministers, CMs, SC judges and PSU chiefs only a DGP or in case of CBI, the director can approve the probe. 

For senior bureaucrats and senior management in the PSU, it can be DGP/ Director or ADG rank officers. While IGs can decide on middle management, DIGs on junior officers. 

A former CBI director explained that had the provision existed at the time of 2G and coal scam cases, the agency would have found it extremely difficult to charge sheet secretary-level officers.

Section 17A already makes its mandatory for seeking government’s nod before initiating a probe or even questioning any bureaucrat unless caught red handed in an act of corruption.

Another CBI official pointed out that crucial evidence is collected mostly during the stage of preliminary enquiry.

“If a PE is rejected for lack of material at the prior approval stage, it can prove to be the wrong decision in number of cases.” 

An official, who has worked in the anti-corruption unit of a state, however, said there was nothing much new in the SOP.

“This system is in place since 2018. The check list will make it easier for the designated officer to decide if permission should be given or not.”