The Delhi High Court held that powers of the AAP government’s anti-corruption branch (ACB) were limited to probing graft in various departments which are under the administrative authority of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and shall not extend to employees of the Centre. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said merely because two notifications of 1986 and 1993 held that ACB can take cognisance of offences committed within the limits of the national capital territory of Delhi (NCTD), it does not amount to expanding of its jurisdiction to proceed against officers and employees of the central government.
The court noted that the rules and procedure of inquiry for the branch, issued in 1977, “make it clear that power to initiate action against officers of the central government has not been conferred upon the ACB”. The bench agreed with Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain’s contention that the jurisdiction of ACB to proceed against the employees and officers of the Centre was limited in nature.
“Thus, it is evident that the jurisdiction of ACB is limited to curbing corruption in various departments of the Delhi Administration as well as other statutory bodies over which the Lt. Governor exercises control.
“In other words, the officers and employees of the central government have not been brought within the purview of ACB, GNCTD. The mere fact that under the notifications dated August 1, 1986 and November 8, 1993, it was declared that ACB can take cognisance of the offences committed within the limits of NCTD does not amount to expanding the jurisdiction of ACB to proceed against the officers/employees of the central government,” the court said.
The finding by the court came while upholding the Centre’s notifications of July 23, 2014 and May 21, 2015 with regard to powers and jurisdiction of ACB. “Accordingly, we hold that the direction in the impugned notifications that ACB Police Station shall not take cognisance of offences against the officers and employees of the central government is neither illegal nor unconstitutional,” it said.
The ruling assumes significance as the earlier AAP government had lodged an FIR against Reliance Industries Ltd, Mukesh Ambani and others, including two then Union ministers, accusing them of “fixing” gas prices. The issue of role and power of the Delhi government’s ACB and that of the appointment of M K Meena as ACB chief by LG Najeeb Jung has been the bone of contention. The AAP government has filed a petition in the high court alleging that Meena was violating the court’s order by removing an SHO of ACB, Delhi. The high court has kept the matter pending.