HC miffed over delay in investigations in corruption cases

Miffed over “delay in investigations” in corruption cases, J&K High Court has asked the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to inform it if the Agency was facing difficulty to investigate the FIRs so that “alternative means” could be explored to ensure that the cases were brought to the logical end at the earliest and not buried under the carpet.

While hearing a PIL, a division bench of Justices Rajesh Bindal and Sanjay Dhar said: “The files apparently move from one office to another and then to the Central Office with different queries like of shuttle cock. Everyone knows that shuttle cock has a life and thereafter it is dead and not worth use”.

Over delay for sanction of prosecution, the court held that the apparent reason of sleeping over these matters was “connivance” with the accused. “As a result, the conduct of these officers also needs to be examined for abetting the crime and not letting the investigation reach the logical end,” the court added.

Pulling up the GAD for not furnishing information it had sought, the court said though the department is said to be the custodian of entire record, it may be “uncomfortable for it to furnish information as many of the officers involved in the cases under Prevention of corruption Act may be enjoying plum postings even now”.

The Court directed the GAD to furnish the information by November 11 saying in case of failure Secretary GAD will remain present in person in Court through Video conference.

Meanwhile the court said a copy of its order be placed before the Chief Justice so that the cases wherein stay has been granted by the High Court vis a vis investigations or presenting of challan in courts could be taken up on priority and disposed of.

The directions came after the court went through a status report indicating that 295 cases were registered from 1998 to 2018  with the ACB in J&K and out of these, 31 cases are pending wherein either investigation could not be concluded or the challans could not be presented on account of the interim orders passed by High Court.

In 35 cases, the court said, the matter was sent to the competent authority for sanction of prosecution for presentation of challan. “But the same was lingering on for years together, apparently, in some connivance.”

Citing 18 cases, the court said the final report has been submitted to the Central Office of the ACB but they are sitting tight over the matters. “In 14 cases, directions have been issued for further reinvestigation but the same are pending”.

“In about 2/3rd of the total cases i.e. 192 out of 295, the investigation is still in progress,” it said.

Regarding the cases in Jammu region, the court said there are FIRs of the years 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 and the matters were referred to the competent authority for sanction of prosecution.

The court said there was no final decision.

Citing the investigation in FIR no 1/2008, the court said it is claimed that the investigation has been completed now and the closure will be produced in the court shortly. “One can easily imagine what kind of investigation is possible in a case, which remained under investigation for more than a decade”.

The court pointed out that in number of cases registered way back in the years 2012-13, the Court had issued directions for further investigation more than three years back. “But still the investigating agency is sitting tight over the matter” it said.

With regard to FIRs registered in 2008 pertaining to the Industries Department, the Court said the current status of the investigation is mentioned as “posting details of the accused are being ascertained and some record is being obtained”.

This, the court said, shows in last 12 years even this information from the relevant record could not be procured by the Agency.

“It shows either unwillingness or incompetence and connivance of the persons at the helm of the affairs, also cannot be ruled out,” the court said.

With regard to an FIR of 2009 against the then Vice Chancellor SKUAST Jammu and other senior officers, the court said after more than a decade, the status is that the case has been concluded and final report is under preparation. “There cannot be any possible explanation for keeping the investigation pending for more than a decade”.

With regard to the FIR of 2011 registered against a Former Minister of R&B, MD of JK PCC, GM JKPCC Jammu, the then CE R&B Srinagar, Senior IAS/KAS Officers and others, the court said the matter has been put under the carpet apparently for the reason that high officials are involved.

The Court was also miffed over investigation in FIRs registered against then VC, JDA, Joint Commissioner JMC , MD the State Financial Corporation, Executive Director, State Social Welfare Board, Executing Engineers, and other officers in the Revenue Department.

With regard to cases in Kashmir Province, the court said there are cases pending for sanction of prosecution for more than two years.

With regard to an FIR registered in 2013 against the senior officers of PHE department pertaining to allegations of  236 non existing works, the court said the investigation is still pending.

In one case pertaining to the Engineering Department where FIR is pending consideration from 2013 onwards, the reason assigned is non-cooperation of the concerned department.

“Apparently, they are all co-sharers in the loot. Hence, any cooperation in investigation cannot be to their benefit,” the court said, adding the investigating agency has apparently surrendered before these unscrupulous corrupt persons in the system.

The court also disapproved of delay in probing  FIRs registered for irregularities and illegalities committed in transfer of land under the Roshni Scheme.