Investigative process has loopholes: officials
The Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of the Delhi Government, which over the past few years has faced “administrative hurdles” in probing many graft cases, is all set to get a free hand for pursuing leads.
While the ACB is being strengthened, according to sources, the State government might soon make arrangements for smooth sharing of information with the unit. The procedure for prosecution sanction would also be simplified and made time-bound to ensure expeditious delivery of justice.
“The anti-corruption helpline has been launched to put a curb on malpractices at offices dealing with the public. It has started showing results, with the call-centre receiving nearly 24,000 calls within 48 hours. Gradually the number of calls is expected to go down and it will get much easier for the unit to attend to all calls. Prompt action in the cases where sting operations can be carried out will be a deterrent at the lower levels,” said an official.
The unit, which is expected to be brought under the proposed Lokayukta Act, will also be handling cases of a complex nature, involving substantial public money. “Such cases require in-depth study and investigation from all possible angles. Unlike individual complaints, where accused officials can be arrested immediately through traps, such an action in complex matters requires sound evidence of culpability,” said another official.
The official said it is in this situation that the unit would require cooperation from the departments concerned. Experts would also be roped in whenever necessary.
The official said sting operations are the most scientific and reliable tool to catch the corrupt in the act and also a ‘trap case’ does not require prior sanction.
A former ACB official said that a few years ago a senior official, said to be close to the then Chief Minister’s Office, threatened him with dire consequences as he had arrested a senior government official on graft charges. “Surprisingly, the official went on to accuse me of acting at the instance of some political party. The accused in that case did not get relief from the courts for almost two months as we had a strong case,” he said.
The official said the procedure followed by the ACB for investigations and registration of cases had several loopholes, leaving the possibility of information being leaked to affected parties. “On receipt of a tip-off, we had to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the complaint and then prepare a note that would be forwarded to higher-ups in the Vigilance Wing. They would, in several cases, take a call on further action. In following the norms like raising and answering queries, things would get delayed. In an anti-corruption mechanism where a complaint of sensitive nature passes through several hands, there is always a possibility of sabotage,” said a retired official. In another case, the official recalled a “gag order” was issued a few years ago against the ACB through the Central Vigilance Commission preventing the unit from making public the details of the cases registered and actions taken. “Many in the unit felt that there was nothing wrong in it, as a similar practice is followed by the CBI,” he added.