A recent Right to Information (RTI) query reveals that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has failed to follow a 2009 Bombay high court order, which directs the agency to self-investigate each complaint it gets, instead of passing on the complaint letters to the concerned departments.
The landmark judgement had been issued on 29th September 2009, while the court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL). However, the query revealed that from January 1, 2014 to July 13, 2016, the ACB passed a total of 4,603 complaints to the concerned departments, requesting them to make inquiries. Only 39 cases of disproportionate assets have been registered during the past 10 years, of which the ACB has been able to convict only four accused.
Conviction figures indicate the ACB’s overall performance with regard to controlling corruption. From January 1, 2014 to July 13, 2016, only the accused in 17 cases were convicted, while the accused in 105 cases were acquitted. The agency filed appeals in only three cases of 105 acquittals, while 160 cases are still pending in court.
“The ACB has made a mockery of the high court orders. A total of 4,603 complaints have been forwarded to the concerned departments without the ACB inquiring into them. Isn’t this contempt of court?” activist Jitendra Ghadge told HT.
“If any agency fails to follow high court’s orders, it is considered contempt of court. The 2009 order was issued in the best interest of the complainant,” said senior high court advocate, Kamlesh More. “If the complaints are passed on to the concerned departments at the preliminary stage, the evidence will be destroyed,” he added.
“The ACB only concentrates on political cases. The complaints of the common man are never attended to. An enquiry is ordered and the case is closed. Only 1% of FIRs are registered,” said Ghadge. “The ACB’s failure to register cases even after court orders and to secure conviction is the main reason why there is rampant corruption in Mumbai,’ he said.
“In a majority of the cases, dissatisfied locals complain of corruption against officials, even though the officer’s decisions are correct,” said a senior ACB official requesting anonymity. “We initially investigate applications, then send them to the concerned departments,” he added.
What the high court said
On February 1972, the state government issued a circular stating that when there are allegations of corruption against an officer, the ACB must refer the matter to the department to which such officer belongs — for preliminary enquiries — before it begins its own investigation. Following this, the Bombay high court mandated that the order shall not be implemented by the ACB. It added that whenever a complaint is received by the agency, it shall investigate the matter in accordance with law, irrespective of the order.
Not enough done
Complaints sent to government agencies by ACB officials – 4,603
FIRs registered in cases of disproportionate assets over the past 10 years – 39
People convicted in cases of disproportionate assets over the past 10 years – 4
Cases in which conviction was secured – 17
Cases in which the accused was acquitted by the court – 105
Cases in which the ACB filed an appeal against the acquittal – 3
Cases pending in court – 160