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K Veeraswamy vs. Union of India 1991

Citation1991 SCR (3) 189, 1991 SCC (3) 655
Date of judgement25 July, 1991
CourtSupreme Court of India
AppellantK. Veeraswamy
RespondentUnion of India
ReferredPrevention of Corruption Act, 1947; Constitution of India, 1950, art. 74, 79 ,121,211,124,217; CrPC, 1973 sec. 154,173(2),  173(5); Evidence Act, 1872

Facts of the case

A grievance or complaint was made to the CBI against the appellant, a former Chief Justice of a High Court, on which a case was enumerated on 24.2.1976 under section 5(2) read with section 5(I) € of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, and an F.I.R was filed in the court of Special Judge on 28.2.1976.

The appellant was granted leave on 9.3.1976 and retired on 8.4.1976 after reaching the age of superannuation.The investigation was thereafter completed, and a charge sheet was submitted against the appellant before the Special Judge on December 15, 1977. The charge sheet stated that the appellant, after taking office as Chief Justice on May 1, 1969, gradually began accumulating moneys and wealth and was in possession of pecuniary resources and property, in his name and the names of his wife and two sons, inconsistent with his known sources of income for the period between his appointment as Chief Justice and the date of registration of the case, and thus committed the offence.

The Special Judge issued the process for the appellant’s attendance. Meanwhile, the appellant filed a motion with the High Court under Section 482, CrPC, to stay the criminal proceedings. The case was considered by a Full Bench of the High Court, which dismissed the application by a 2:1 majority but granted a certificate under Articles 132(1) and 134(1)© of the Indian Constitution due to the serious legal issue Involved. The case was then heard by India’s Supreme Court.


1. Whether a judge of a High Court or the Supreme Court is a ‘public servant’ under Section 2 of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1947?

2. Whether a High Court Judge, including the Chief Justice, or a Supreme Court Judge can be prosecuted for an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947?

3. Who is the competent authority to remove a Supreme Court or High Court Judge from office in order for that authority to grant sanction for prosecution of the Judge under Section 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947?

Argument of petitioner

The petitioner claimed that the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1947 do not apply to a judge of a superior Court in such a case.

As stated in Section 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, the prior sanction of an authority competent to remove a public worker is required, and the ability to remove a Judge is not vested in any single individual authority.

However, under Article 124(4) of the Constitution, it is vested in the two Houses of Parliament and the President that the Parliament cannot be regarded as the sanctioning authority for the purpose of section 6, and if the President is regarded as the authority, he cannot act independently as he exercises his powers by and with the advice of his Council of Ministers, and the Executive may misuse the power by interfering with the judiciary that section 6 applies only in cases where there is a master and servant relationship between the public servant and the authority is competent to remove him, and where there is a vertical hierarchy of public offices and the sanctioning authority is vertically superior in the hierarchy in which the office of the public servant against whom sanction is sought exists, and that no prosecution can be launched against a Judge of a superior Court under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act except in the mode envisaged by Article 124.

He also argued that no law prohibits a public servant from possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, and that such possession becomes an offence only when the public servant is unable to account for it, and that the investigating officer is authorised to give the public servant an opportunity to explain the disproportionality between the assets and the known sources of income, and that the charge sheet must include such an averment, and failure to mention it is an offence.

 Arguments of the respondent

In this case, the respondent relied on the CBI’s investigation as well as the charge sheet filed by them and had evidence of the appellant’s disproportionate sources of income, which the appellant did not refute.

As a result, they made no arguments. The only question they had was who should decide on the matter.


1.A judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court is a ‘public servant’ under Section 2 of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1947.

2. Prosecution of a High Court Judge, including the Chief Justice, or a Supreme Court Judge can be initiated after getting the sanction of the appropriate authority, as provided for in Section 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Per Verma, J. (dissenting)

Even though he holds a public office, a judge or Chief Justice of a High Court is a Constitutional functionary, and in that sense, he may be included in the broad definition of a public servant. However, a public servant whose category for the issue of sanction for prosecution is not contemplated by Section 6 of the Act falls beyond the scope of the Act and is not intended to be covered by it.The Prevention of Corruption Act of 1947, as revised by the 1964 amendment, does not apply to High Court and Supreme Court judges.

Per Majority–Ray, Shetty and Venkatachalliah, JJ

1. The President of India is the authority authorised to grant prior approval for prosecution of a Judge of a superior Court under Section 6(1)© of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947.

2. No criminal case shall be registered under section 154, Cr. P.C. against a High Court Judge, Chief Justice of the High Court, or Supreme Court Judge unless the Chief Justice of India is consulted in the issue.

3. If the allegations of criminal wrongdoing are made against the Chief Justice of India, the Government must consult with any other Supreme Court judge or judges.

 Similarly, when reviewing the subject of providing sanction for prosecution, it is necessary and suitable that the question of sanction be directed by and in accordance with the recommendation of the Chief Justice of India.

J. Verma (dissenting)

Section 6 of the Act does not apply to judges of the High Courts or the Supreme Court, and such Constitutional officers do not fall under the ambit of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947.

Effects of the judgement

A legislation was thought to be necessary to provide for the prosecution and punishment of a superior Judge charged with criminal misconduct or corruption through misuse of his office. As the sole arbiter, it was up to Parliament to step in and enact appropriate legislation in accordance with the constitutional scheme, which provides for the preservation of the independence of the judiciary, and to expand the field of operation of the existing law to cover the superior Judges by usurping the legislative function of enacting guidelines, because the existing legislation cannot apply to them without the proposed guidelines.


The Act requires an authority to remove judges from subordinate, high, and supreme courts. Dismissing the appeal, granting sanctions for criminal misconduct, and enacting harsher punishments is inappropriate. Punishment and punishments for public servants are also necessary. The Supreme Court has established a rule in K.Veeraswami vs. Union of India, requiring an authority to remove judges from subordinate, High, and Supreme Courts. The appeal is dismissed, as no authority grants sanctions for criminal misconduct. A penalty and ratification of harsher punishments are necessary to prevent corruption among judges.

written by Shashi Pandey intern under legal vidhiya.


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