Anti-corruption movements have been in vogue in the country for the past year or so, but there has been little movement in terms of nailing the corrupt. Whether a call of conscience or one from his uncle dictated state deputy CM Ajit Pawar’s decision to resign from his post after facing allegations in a Rs 20,000-crore irrigation scam is still a matter of conjecture, but it has left the Democratic Front government high and dry. And yet there’s a comforting prospect. Following Pawar’s departure — since NCP has made its stand clear, it appears certain that his resignation would be accepted — the state home department on Wednesday sought the details from Anti Corruption Bureau on files of graft cases against babus that need the government’s nod.
Till now, ACB officials were moving from pillar to post to get sanctions for these pending cases but their pleas fell on deaf ears of government representatives. Tired of repeatedly getting entangled in red tape, before leaving the post on July 31 this year, the then director general of ACB, Sanjeev Dayal, exposed the government by uploading the minutest details of cases awaiting approval on the bureau’s website, http://acbmaharashtra.gov.in. Officials at ACB have since been regularly updating records on the portal.
“All the data is accessible on ACB’s official website. We have also sent timely reminders about the sanctions. It is pointless to seek these particulars again and again when the government has hardly reacted on them till date,” said a senior ACB officer on condition of anonymity.
Records on the website illustrate how the government remained indolent while deciding the fates of more than 80 (Class I & II) officers allegedly involved in 73 corruption cases across the state in the last five years. Apart from this, the government has also not approved the prosecution of more than 200 (Class III & IV) officers. Moreover, 43 open inquiries against several bigwigs including state education minister Vijay Kumar Gavit, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, former principal secretary of excise and transport CS Sangeetrao, commissioners, MLAs and collectors are gathering dust at Mantralaya.
Sources from ACB revealed that in the last few years the bureau has been made to face disparagement from media and other sectors for these undetermined cases. “One should understand that most of these cases require government approval at some stage, depending on the grades of the officers who are involved. Since the government has turned a blind eye to clearing the requisite authorisations, the cases keep piling on.
System at work
As soon as ACB receives a letter from a complainant against Class I and II officers, it makes preliminary inquiries. If the investigations throw up evidence against the officer, ACB has to first write a letter to the home department and seek permission to go ahead with the inquiry. From the home ministry the file goes to the department where the tainted officer works and is then sent back to the home department and then to the ACB office with the requisite approval. But in actuality, in most cases the file hits a dead end after reaching the concerned department.
While prosecuting Class III and IV officers ACB does not need authorisation to go ahead with investigations. But while filing a chargesheet in the case, the bureau requires a go-ahead from the respective department to which the accused is attached.
In case ACB officials receive a complaint against a minister, commissioner, MLA or a very senior bureaucrat, they make discreet inquiries into the matter. Once they are through with the inquest, they seek consent from the government to conduct an open inquiry into the matter wherein the accused is called to the ACB office. The officials record his statements pertaining to the complaint and seek clearance on allegations made.
When contacted, Dayal, who is now Maharashtra’s police chief, refused to comment on the whole issue. “Since I have moved out of ACB, it would not be appropriate on my part to talk about these matters,” he told MiD DAY.
Confirming the report, existing DG of ACB Raj Khilani said, “We have already submitted out report to the government.” When asked the reason for such information being sought from ACB, he added, “There was too much hype in the media. Also there are chances that the department lost these files in the recent fire at Mantralaya. It could be anything.”
Look who’s on the waiting list!
Members of an NGO have approached ACB alleging that late chief minister and union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in connivance with former Collector (Mumbai suburb) CS Sangeetrao; former Collector (Mumbai suburb) SS Zende; former Principal Secretary (Department of Revenue) RC Joshi; and former Principal Secretary (Urban Development Department) Ramanand Tiwari changed the reservation of two plots in Mumbai's Bandra (East) in favour of two private societies housing some judges. The complaint says several retired and sitting judges are members of these societies.