The Maharashtra anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has not filed charge sheets in as many as 95 cases, most of which were registered between 2012 and 2015, a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed.
Some of the cases are even older, with one dating all the way back to 1987.
This failure to file charge sheets has contributed to the poor conviction rate in ACB cases, which has hovered between 19% and 29% every year since 2009.
The RTI application was filed by social activist Jeetendra Ghadge.
Under the law, investigating agencies must file a charge sheet within 90 days of registering a case. All those accused in the 1987 case have since died, but the police are yet to file a charge sheet or a closure report.
“The ACB is the only agency in Maharashtra that has failed to file charge sheets or summary reports in cases registered decades ago. In one of the cases, it’s been 29 years since the FIR was filed, but the police have not filed a charge sheet or summary report. All the eight accused have died, the last in 2014,” said Ghadge.
The 95 cases without charge sheets also include two registered in 1992 and 1993, in which the accused are still alive. Both cases pertain to bribery and involve builders, architects and senior BMC officials, according to the ACB’s FIRs.
Ghadge alleged that this shows the ACB is trying to protect the rich and powerful.
“The ACB is only concentrating on convicting junior-level officers in trap cases, while deliberately ignoring corruption cases in which big politicians, builders and senior officers are involved,” he added.
Between 2012 and 2015, the ACB registered 261 cases, of which 227 are related to bribery traps set by ACB officers, 20 concerned disproportionate assets and 14 were cases of misconduct.
However, ACB officials have only submitted charge sheets in 166 trap cases, three disproportionate asset cases and one misconduct case.
Four other cases — three traps and one for misconduct — have been quashed by summary reports.
“The fact that 14 [misconduct] cases since 2012 have yielded only one charge sheet proves the ACB is going very slow against the corrupt. This is the main reason why there is absolutely no fear among politicians and government officials about the ACB,” said Ghadge.
A high-ranking ACB officer said, “There are multiple reasons why the charge sheets are pending. In some cases, we do not get prosecution sanction from the department concerned, in others, the accused are absconding or details such as ITR returns and salary proofs are unavailable. We take utmost care to see that cases reach their logical conclusion.” Additional director general (ACB) Sanjay Barve said he did not wish to comment.
(With inputs from Pratik Salunke)