In a country where corruption is rampant from the top rung to the bottom, these numbers aren’t very flattering. In the past 10 years, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Mumbai has secured convictions in only three cases of trap (traps laid by police relying on complaints from the public against government employees demanding bribe) and seven cases of disproportionate assets.
This startling revelation (copy with this newspaper) was made by ACB, Mumbai in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) plea from activist Jeetendra Ghadge, a resident of Opera House. Ghadge claims during his numerous past visits to the ACB office, he had come across instances of shoddy functioning of the department and hence decided to file the query.
According to Ghadge, apart from trap cases the usual complaints that ACB receives from members of public are usually classified as open inquiry and discreet inquiry, and the officers are expected to conduct an unbiased probe before deciding whether to register an FIR or reject a complaint.
The RTI reply states that between 2008 and July 31, 2012, a total of 750 cases were being probed (discreet and open) by ACB, Mumbai, of which 730 were closed down by the department and FIRs were registered in the remaining. Also, 210 cases were still pending with the department from prior to 2008.
“It’s absurd that ACB hasn’t clarified why it shut down inquiries into as many as 730 cases. It hasn’t mentioned on whose instructions such steps were taken,” said Ghadge.
Ghadge is of the belief that the ACB system of conducting inquiries — and sorting them as open and discreet — before registering a case, actually makes little sense and is nothing but an excuse that eventually gets the accused off the hook. “When a common man is accused of cheating, an FIR is directly registered under section 420. So, if a government servant cheats and an inquiry is conducted before an FIR, it’s unfair. This procedure should be scrapped,” he said.
Ghadge also enquired about the number of disproportionate assets and misconduct cases registered between January 2002 to July 31, 2012, and the figure pertaining to convictions secured. ACB replied that only 24 cases of disproportionate assets were lodged in the aforementioned period, of which 7 reached the conviction stage, in 9 the accused were acquitted, and the remaining are still pending in court.
Similarly, out of 42 cases of misconduct, convictions were secured in only 3, four cases led to acquittals and the rest are before the court.
Speaking to MiD DAY, director general of police (ACB) Raj Khilnani, recently said, “It is unfortunate but the figures and statistics speak for themselves. I hope that the future isn’t just a continuation of the past. There are numerous reasons for low conviction rates and I am working on modalities to improve the situation.”
As per statistics available with ACB, 2,130 corruption cases — 171 in Mumbai — are pending in various courts of Maharashtra since 1986.
Plan of action
Quality of work has to be high; we should be on a sound footing as far as collecting evidence and presenting the same before courts is concerned. Also, assistance from experts like Chartered Accountants would be taken. Bright officers and men will be picked to handle ACB cases.
We are considering appealing against acquittals. The process of hiring law officers for departments and units would be expedited after seeking required permissions from the state government.
I also intend to have a meeting with the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court soon and would bring to his notice the volume of pending cases and that such delays will affect results.
I will be visiting Delhi soon to participate in a CBI seminar, which will also be attended by the Prime Minister, to understand ways and means to tackle and probe corruption. I will request the CBI to conduct workshops for my officials.
Lack of co-operation from department heads whose staffers get trapped is also a hindrance. Departments seldom permit prosecution of their staff, which is evident in the statistics.
— Director general of police (ACB) Raj Khilnani to MiD DAY