Criminal laws in India by way of “sanctions” allow for protective discrimination in favour of public officials. Under various laws, sanctions are required to investigate and prosecute public officials. Over the past 15 years these provisions of law have been revisited by the judiciary and the legislature. Recently the Supreme Court in the Subramanian Swamy Case has suggested the concept of a deemed sanction. We look at the history of the requirement of sanction under criminal laws. Requirement of sanction to investigate certain public servants of the union government was introduced through a government notification. The Criminal Procedure Code 1973 and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 provide that to prosecute a public servant, permission or sanction has to be secured from the government (central or state) for which the official works. Arguments that are often advanced in favour of such sanctions are that these ensure that (a) frivolous and vexatious cases are not filed, (b) public officials are not harassed, and (c) the efficacy of administrative machinery is not tampered with. Further, the requirement of sanction to investigate was also defended by the government before the Supreme Court in certain cases. In Vineet Narain vs. Union of India 1997, the government had argued that the CBI may not have the requisite expertise to determine whether the evidence was sufficient for filing a prima facie case. It was also argued that the Act instituting the CBI, Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946 (DSPE Act), granted the power of superintendence, and therefore direction, of the CBI to the central government. The Court in this case struck down the requirement of sanction to investigate. It held that “supervision” by the government could not extend to control over CBI’s investigations. As for prosecution, the Court affixed a time frame of three months to grant sanction. However, there was no clarity on what was to be done if sanction was not granted within such time. Following that judgment, the DSPE Act was amended in 2003, specifically requiring the CBI to secure a sanction before it investigated certain public servants. More recently, the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 that is pending before the Rajya Sabha, removed the requirement of sanction to investigate and prosecute public servants in relation to corruption. Recently, Mr. Subramanian Swamy approached the Supreme Court for directions on his request for sanction to prosecute Mr. A Raja in relation to the 2G Scam. As per the Supreme Court, judgment in Subramanian Swamy vs. Dr. Manmohan Singh & Anr, Mr. Swamy’s request was pending with the department for over 16 months. The Supreme Court held that denial of a timely decision on grant of sanction is a violation of due process of law (Right to equality before law read with Right to life and personal liberty). The Court reiterated the three month time frame for granting sanctions. It suggested that Parliament consider that in case the decision is not taken within three months, sanction would be deemed to be granted. The prosecution would then be responsible for filing the charge sheet within 15 days of the expiry of this period.
 Subramanian Swamy vs. Dr. Manmohan Singh & Anr. Civil Appeal No. 1193 of 2012 dated January 31, 2012
 Single Directive, No. 4.7.3
 AIR 1998 SC 889
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha