By Y S Rao
Unless there is deterrent punishment, corruption will continue to be a high profit and low risk business…
Reports in the media regarding cases of possession of disproportionate assets booked against certain police officers working in Bangalore have attracted the attention of a large section of the public. For the officer who ordered the registration of the case, and for the investigation officer, the real challenge starts now – gathering unimpeachable evidence. Unlike in a trap case, the evidence based on which a chargesheet is placed in a case of possession of disproportionate assets, is mostly documentary in nature.
It would be interesting to study the fate of the cases registered under this category in the last 20 years in Karnataka state. Such a study will reveal how many cases were ordered to be closed for lack of evidence by the successor to the officer who ordered the registration of the case, the number of cases in which prosecution could not be launched for want of sanction by the government and the number of cases which ended in acquittal/conviction.
The number of cases in which the accused undergo punishment under this head is hardly any. Unless there is deterrent punishment, corruption will continue to be a high profit and low risk business. For fighting corruption effectively, in my view, there is need to amend the existing law to some extent.
In all cases in which the closure of the case was ordered for want of evidence, it should be made mandatory under the law for the court to summon and examine the officer who ordered the registration of the case in order to determine whether the registration of the case was a bona fide or mala fide act. Such a step would also act as an automatic check on any inappropriate or unjustified closure of the case.
In cases where the government does not grant sanction to prosecute the accused, such an order of the government goes to the appropriate court. A provision may be made in the law empowering the court to call for relevant records, examine the parties concerned and to determine whether such refusal was under justifiable grounds. If the court comes to the conclusion that the refusal was not based on justifiable grounds, the law must empower the court to dispense with such sanction in that particular case and proceed further. In the year 1988, the government of India passed the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act 1988 to penalise public servants who acquire property out of ill-gotten money. This law provides that benami properties can be acquired by the government without any compensation. For implementing this provision, the government was required to frame certain rules under Section 8 of the said Act.
I shall be happy to know whether the required rules have been framed at least now. This would provide for forfeiture of benami properties of corrupt public servants and act as a deterrent.
( The writer is a former director general of police, Karnataka.)