The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in Orissa has declined to give information on why it has been sitting on cases of corruption lodged against top government officials by the vigilance department.
In response to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act posed by HT on May 25, the government argued disclosure of the information “won’t serve larger public interest”.
HT had sought the information from the general administration department — under chief minister Naveen Patnaik — on why it refused the vigilance department’s request to sanction the prosecution of four officers and kept pending for years its decision on seven.
Using the RTI Act in February this year, HT found the vigilance department had registered corruption cases against 26 Indian Administrative Service (IAS), two Indian Police Service (IPS) and 13 Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers of Orissa cadre between April 1, 2000, and December 31, 2010.
During the same period, the department had sought sanction to prosecute 19 officers – 11 IAS, one IPS and seven IFS. Most of the cases related to misappropriation of funds and showing undue favour.
While the state government refused sanction to prosecute four officers — three IAS and one IFS — it kept pending for one to five years it decision in cases of seven officers (six IAS and one IFS) as on December 31, 2010, the RTI answer revealed.
The Supreme Court has ordered that sanction or refusal for prosecution be given within three months. On the other hand, a circular of the state’s general administration department says the nod or disapproval has to come in two months.
Replying to HT’s query in May, the public information officer and under secretary of the general administration department, JN Sarangi, in a letter (dated May 30) said: “The matter relates to vigilance… Disclosure of information won’t serve larger public interest. Rather it will hamper the process of investigation.”
On Sarangi’s answer, Biswajit Mohanty, board member, Transparency International India, told HT: “The continuous efforts of the state government to prevent transparency in the process of seeking sanction for prosecution exposes the lack of commitment to preventing corruption at high places. A citizen has every right to know why the government is protecting or delaying the prosecution of senior officers.”