Don't proceed with probe ordered by Lokpal against MCD: HC directs CBI
Justice Prathiba M Singh issued notice on the MCD's challenge to the Lokpal order for a CBI probe and sought the response from the anti-graft ombudsman
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the CBI to not proceed with a probe ordered by the Lokpal against officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi over certain alleged unauthorised constructions in the city, saying no preliminary investigation was conducted either by the CVC or the anti-corruption authority on the complaint.
Justice Prathiba M Singh issued notice on the MCD's challenge to the Lokpal order for a CBI probe and sought the response from the anti-graft ombudsman.
The judge said as per the law, there has to be a preliminary investigation by an agency to ascertain whether a prima facie case is made out to proceed further and, in the present case, no inquiry was conducted by the Lokpal or the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) before the direction for a CBI probe was issued. The court also said no specific allegations were made against officials of he civic body.
The only finding by the Lokpal was that there was massive illegal construction in South Delhi and precise role of the public servants was not forthcoming, the court said.
"In the present case, the record would show that the CVC was merely asked to obtain a report from the MCD. The vigilance report of the MCD has been forwarded by CVC to Lokpal. In effect therefore, there has been no inquiry by CVC or Lokpal at this stage. No specific allegations have been raised against officials concerned or against the MCD and other agencies," said the court.
"In the meantime, the CBI shall not proceed with the investigation," it ordered.
The court, however, clarified that if a specific complaint is received by the Lokpal against other MCD officials or unauthorised constructions, there will be no interdiction on the authority proceeding as per the law.
The court also said it was only expressing a prima facie view in the matter.
The CBI counsel said the agency was yet to register an FIR on the basis of the order of the Lokpal.
The proceedings before the Lokpal arose from a December 2021 complaint by Vikram Singh Saini, a former General Secretary of the Samajwadi Yuvjan Sabha, alleging some "illegal constructions" in an area in South Delhi on account of the conduct of certain officials.
The MCD and these officials had approached the high court against the Lokpal's order for a CBI probe last year.
The senior counsel appearing for the petitioners argued the proceedings arose from an unsuccessful RTI query by the complainant and the law required the Lokpal to obtain the prior consent of the Delhi government before exercising its jurisdiction.
The counsel contended the complaint was not made in the proper format and the Lokpal's order did not contain any reasoning as well.
The counsel for Lokpal said notice was issued to the parties concerned before the direction was passed and the basis of the order was a report in the form of a covering letter received from the CVC along with a vigilance report of the MCD.
The court, during the proceedings, however said, "CVC has not done anything on its own" and both the CVC and Lokpal cannot act like post offices.
"I was reluctant to stay it because I thought the Lokpal had found something. After seeing the file, I feel both the Lokpal and the CVC are behaving like.....it can't be like a post office. CVC has literally forwarded the letter of the SDMC," the court said.
The court said the case raised issues with respect to the jurisdiction of the Lokpal and the manner in which he proceeded in the matter.
In the petition filed through lawyer Sanjay Vashisht, the MCD and its officials have claimed that the complainant, without following the requisite procedure, filed a "frivolous, unsubstantiated and vague complaint" to the Lokpal whch does not even make allegations with respect to specific corrupt activities.
It has submitted that the Lokpal passed a "blanket order" on the basis of an "incoherent and general complaint" with respect to illegal constructions in South Delhi in 2020-21.
"The Respondent, despite appreciating the fact that the complaint was not filed in a proper format and the fact that the complaint dated 30.12.2021 does not contain any specific allegations of corruption against the concerned officials, have passed an impugned order dated 28.11.2022," the plea has said.
The petition highlighted that the data unequivocally depicts a "steady decline in the incidence of unauthorised constructions in South Zone" and asserted the officials have been discharging their duties with due diligence and coherence.
"The fact that is also evident from the following figures in terms of availability of data from the year 2018. That out of 1141 properties booked 606 were demolished, 223 were sealed, prosecution in 326 and letter in all such properties were duly issued," the plea asserted.
The matter will be heard next on April 25.