Can't beat corruption with tied hands

Soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis had assured that there would be zero tolerance on corruption in his government. In one of his interviews to a news channel, Fadnavis took a dig at his predecessor, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, claiming he will act against the corrupt and also shared plans to change laws on pursuing corruption cases against political leaders. However, with the current scenario of 381 cases against corrupt babus still pending approval, it looks like the government has a long way to go.

As per the apex ruling of May 2013, in State of Maharashtra through CBI (appellant) vs Mahesh G Jain (respondent), grant of sanction is only an administrative function and the sanctioning authority is required to prima facie reach the satisfaction that relevant facts would constitute the offence. However, there seems to be a violation of this rule as, according to the ACB, the departments have denied prosecution sanction citing flimsy and unconvincing reasons.

The ACB is tied up in rules, amongst which one is that it should take the approval of the “competent authority” before starting prosecution. Although in the past, the government had assured that the state would take a decision on whether to permit prosecution of senior officials within 90 days of receiving such an application, there are no clear-cut guidelines to follow the rule.

As per the ACB statistics, there are 381 cases pending government sanction, of which 97 are with Home, 76 with Revenue, 46 at Gram Vikas, Town Planning - 34, Education - 20, Co-operative and Textile - 14, Public health - 9, Irrigation - 9 and 70 are from various other departments. In many of the cases, approval has been pending for more than 90 days.

Despite several requests by the ACB, the resolve to act on these cases seems to be lacking on the part of government. Unless there is major amendment in the proceedings of graft cases, or the ACB is given complete authority to prosecute the bureaucrats, the cases will continue to gather dust at Mantralaya.

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