Delhi HC refuses to interdict Lokpal proceedings against former IAS officer

- May 15, 2023
| By : Patriot Bureau |

Delhi High Court has refused to interfere with Lokpal proceedings initiated against ex-IAS officer for alleged possession of disproportionate assets

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The Delhi High Court has observed that interference in the proceedings pending before Lokpal of India, while exercising writ jurisdiction, ought to be avoided unless there is something palpably wrong or contrary to law.

Justice Prathiba M Singh added that repeated petitions seeking to interdict in the proceedings before the anti-corruption body would defeat the purpose of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

The court was hearing a plea moved by former IAS officer Ramesh Abhishek challenging the orders passed by the Lokpal of India on February 02, 2022 and January 03. The anti corruption body had directed inquiries and investigation by the Directorate of Enforcement against Abhishek in respect of possession of disproportionate assets.

The Lokpal of India had referred the matter to ED to make enquiries in respect of immovable property and other properties of Abhishek. ED then communicated a report to Lokpal last year which was considered by the anti corruption body on January 03. An open enquiry was ordered and it was further directed that the investigation should be completed by ED within two months.

The petitioner, who retired in July 2019, assailed the Lokpal proceedings on several grounds, including that under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, an enquiry can relate to only the period during which the public servant is holding a position in serving capacity.

The judge noted in the present case, an order for initiating prosecution against the petitioner was yet to be passed and the investigating agency was also yet to file its final report in the matter. It clarified that the petitioner may move an appropriate application before Lokpal for dealing with the findings at an appropriate stage.

“The entire matter is under consideration of the Lokpal and challenge in the present petition is to stop the investigation by Lokpal which this Court is not inclined to do at this stage,” said the court in its order passed on May 10.

“All the grounds raised in this petition are left open to be considered and decided by Lokpal. This Court has not made any observations on merits in this regard. The remedies of the Petitioner, if needed, at the appropriate stage are also left open. Petition is disposed of in these terms,” the court stated.

The court said the investigation was currently preliminary in nature and before initiating various steps under the Lokpal Act, i.e. initiating prosecution etc., the petitioner shall be afforded a hearing and his contentions will be duly considered and a reasoned order shall be passed by the authority before proceeding further.

At this stage, the ED’s summons/notices are only for the purpose of gathering of information unless directed to the contrary by Lokpal, it added.

“The legal grounds which are being raised by the Petitioner, relating to the jurisdiction of Lokpal or the manner in which it is proceeding, can be brought to the attention of Lokpal by the Petitioner himself by appearing before the Lokpal at the appropriate stage,” the court said.

The court, in its order, observed that Lokpal was created to look into allegations of corruption and misconduct of public servants and interference in its proceedings ought to be avoided unless there is something palpably wrong or contrary to law.

“The Lokpal is a body created by Parliament to look into allegations of corruption and misconduct of public servants. In order for it to function effectively, the Lokpal needs to be able to get enquiries and investigations done by specialised agencies,” the court said.

“Moreover, interference in the proceedings before Lokpal, while exercising writ jurisdiction, ought to be avoided, unless there is something palpably wrong or contrary to law. Repeated petitions seeking to interdict the proceedings before Lokpal would defeat the very purpose of the legislation,” the court observed. (With inputs from PTI)