In a delayed rectification, the Punjab government has decided to broaden the jurisdiction of its vigilance bureau so that it can book its employees serving in Chandigarh in trap cases.
Currently, only the vigilance wing of the Chandigarh police and the CBI can lay traps and catch Punjab government employees accepting cash in the city. The move, mooted by the vigilance bureau, has been given in-principle approval by the government following a nod of the legal cell so that Punjab could ask for an amendment in the current rules from the Centre.
The proposal states that Punjab’s employees in Chandigarh, too, need to be brought under the bureau as the “success rate” of the UT police and the CBI in nabbing the Punjab government employees has been rather low.
In the past 10 years, the UT police have booked only two Punjab government employees while the CBI has booked another half a dozen. The move, once implemented, will bring over 15,000 employees under the VB scrutiny.
Working within the premises of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), the VB can currently book employees mainly for misconduct and disproportionate assets. They also undertake special investigations handed over to them by the state government or the high court.
However, the VB has been successful in laying traps across the state and nabbing corrupt officers and officials while accepting bribe.
But despite having specific information about rampant exchange of cash bribes within the secretariat and mini-secretariat and also in some government offices running in Sector 17, the VB has been helpless in reining in the corrupt employees.
The VB is also facing other problems for not having jurisdiction of action in trap cases in Chandigarh. A Punjab IAS officer who was nabbed by the VB in an alleged trap case in 2009 was arrested from Chandigarh but the case was registered at SAS Nagar. The accused, while defending him in the court, has now questioned the VB’s jurisdiction in arresting him from Chandigarh.
The situation faced by the Punjab VB is similar to that of Haryana, both having a union territory as the capital city. The bureau’s counterpart in Haryana has also written to Punjab to send them a copy of the proposal so that they, too, can ask for a similar extension of jurisdiction in Chandigarh for their employees.
However, it may be some time before the move is implemented as the matter will have to be sent to the Centre. The state legal remembrancer has been asked to prepare a draft of the proposal, and after the chief minister’s nod, it will be sent to the Centre for either appropriate changes in the relevant acts or enactment of a fresh act to deal with this unique situation.