The number of corruption cases against government servants is going up by the day. However, investigation and trial in such cases continue to remain slow. If the statistics of the State Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) is anything to go by, 2,427 cases are pending at trial courts. And some of them date back to 1986.
On an average, ACB registers 80 to 90 cases a month and arrests more than 100 officials. This year, till the first week of May, the organisation has registered 362 cases.
ACB director general Praveen Dixit said: "We have only four special courts to handle cases and they are located in Mumbai."
In other districts, cases are handled by local courts. According to officials, the special ACB courts also handle other cases under the Indian Penal Code.
"There is a shortage of independent courts, and when ACB courts take up other cases too, it becomes all the more difficult, with trial being delayed inordinately. Besides, there is also dearth of special public prosecutors to handle corruption cases," said another officer.
The delay is also attributed to staff shortage in the department. Besides, the staff is not sufficiently equipped to handle such cases. "Although officials are imparted training, it lacks a proper structure, and many a time, officers are not familiar with the technology involved in laying traps and in seizure of disproportionate assets. Therefore, during trial, the defence finds loopholes," said an officer.
Moreover, when investigations and filing of chargesheets are delayed, witnesses turn hostile or refuse to cooperate as they are influenced or threatened. That apart, seizures by the ACB, be it money or valuables, become redundant when produced in court due to the time gap.
One reason the trial itself starts late is the number of ACB cases pending with the government for sanction. Although the deadline for the government to decide on sanction 9to prosecute) is three months, as many as 309 cases are pending with the government. The maximum number of such requests pending are with Revenue (88), Home (70) and Municipal Corporation (28).
"We send them reminders every month, but the internal inquiry committee and officials who examine these cases, need to follow several procedures. That invariably delays the criminal proceedings, and subsequently the verdict," said an officer. Currently, the conviction rate in the state is 27%.
Cases pending in trial courts