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Imperceptible Convictions in Corruption Cases
(An exploration of experience)
8/28/2018 9:34:08 PM
Jamwal Mahadeep Singh

Vigilance Organization
is primarily an agency to check corruption by government officers/officials who champion their own pockets. The working of the Organization includes keeping a proper monitoring of all the government functioning and take cognizance of cases involving financial irregularities. Believing that doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming denial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment of the truth. Based on this philosophy, my encounter with such criminals on the investigation front, in this organization spread over to more than twelve years as investigating officer, coupled with specialized courses, encouraged me to come up with a commentary of my know-how of the investigation mechanism in this specialized wing of the government, that takes up investigations pertaining to offences related to corruption envisaged in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006 BK (1949 A.D) and offences related to public servants envisaged in the Jammu & Kashmir Public Men and Public Servants Declaration of Assets and Other Provisions Act, 1983 A.D.
My perspective to script on the concern has been derived from the much articulated arguments of virtually imperceptible convictions in corruption related cases in Jammu and Kashmir State, investigated by the State Vigilance Organization (SVO), a foremost exclusive investigating agency in J&K for corruption cases. The power of investigation doesn't provide any extraordinary power to vigilance investigators other than what is stipulated under the code of criminal procedure. Needless to mention that there is much decorated system of scrutiny of complaints in place in SVO to ensure that innocent are not harassed while the corrupt ones are brought to book. The complaint is disposed of by one of the following: 1. Registration of the case. 2. Holding of Preliminary Enquiries (PE). 3. Ordering a joint Surprise Check (JSC). 4. An enquiry by the Departmental Vigilance Officer (DVO). 5. Secret Verification by Vigilance Organization. 6. Consign to records, if no verifiable specifics are mentioned. The "Departmental Vigilance Officer" (DVO) and "Joint Surprise Check" (JSC) was conceptualized as 'Preventive Vigilance'. So it is the registration of FIR that set investigation machinery into motion. Investigation means to examine and to look at carefully to discover the actuality to set the offender on journey from commission of offence to conclusion of trial.
Defining the problem or allegation, need to investigate is a crucial part of understanding how to tackle the investigation, here set in motion the efficiency and skills of the investigating officer (IO) for positive results otherwise it could potentially lead to legal liability down the road. Investigation is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding. The traditional way of investigation in RPC offences mostly based on oral testimonies and less on documentary evidence. Accordingly IO's posted at the first instance in SVO are loaded with experience of traditional methods of investigation, whereas the investigation in vigilance organization is based on the pillars of the documentary evidence. The area of operation in vigilance is spread over to all departments of J&K government. IOs acclimatized in a set frame of offences of RPC, fail to adopt the new line of investigation required as per the working procedure of different departments. This shortcoming attribute as one of the reasons for poor investigation leading ultimately to the acquittal of offenders. Another reason of poor results of investigation is that prosecuting agency of vigilance comes into the picture only, once the IO submits its final report marked as FR-I, whereas like IO, a prosecuting officer is also required to be earmarked to assist IO right from the time of registration.
The poor investigation has rightly been addressed to some extent by issuance of SRO 273 notified on 7th July 2017, placing the mechanism of selection of police officers up to the rank of Dy. S P in vigilance Organization by a committee headed by Chief Secretary. I will cross over the lines in suggesting that for perfect flawless investigation and in obtaining conviction, the only way is to look in the system of posting process of investigators having served as SHOs at least for a period of not less than ten years and as Dy. SP not from armed police background and SSPs having served as district chief at least in three districts. The frequent posting of investigators makes SVO as a training institute therefore investigators are required to be on permanent establishment of SVO for best out put on the pattern of CBI.
I will not hesitate to point out that less conviction is also repercussion of the system of getting assistance from various experts of different departments (especially engineering wing) posted in vigilance and this scenario can be explained in the chain as: Obtaining the relevant record by IO (sometime by experts of the vigilance directly) - handing over the same to experts - conduction of spot inspections by expert wing of vigilance on the lines of recorded entries - obtaining of report by IO - concluding accordingly. Whereas this is a faulty practice and there is much scope of a report much favorable to offenders from experts as they become aware about what has been charged by the offenders even before spot inspections and are in a position to ditto the recordings. To arrive at actuality in between charged entries in books and that existing on spot, the system require adopting the chain as: Record be obtained exclusively by IO - Experts of VO should in no way enter into direct correspondence with alleged department for any quarry or record - spot inspection be carried jointly by IO and experts of VO - spot inspection report be obtained by IO - after receipt of the report the record be given to expert for arriving at the differences in-between charged and existing work on spot - subsequent report of difference be obtained and then case should be processed further. A time frame exceeded in almost 100 per cent cases for concluding the investigation also proves fatal for its outcome. But the irony is, there is no procedure to what extent the investigation should continue. There is a serious need of change in the procedure and the system in the vigilance organization, for restoration of people's confidence in the machinery that is eroding day by day.
The disposal of corruption complaints and misuse of powers through the mechanism adopted through DVO's, require immediate revisiting on following grounds: The system of nominating the DVO's is faulty as subordinate officers are mostly nominated as DVO for the department and it is least expected that he can justify enquiry against his colleagues and his seniors in the same office and in the same department. There is every apprehension of DVO's also part of collusive corruption system. There is no provision of initiation of any enquiry or punitive measures against DVO acting arbitrarily or sitting over matters referred by vigilance for enquiry. This way thousands of such genuine complaints have piled up with different DVO's and targeted officials are enjoying best of their postings. The facts stand well elaborated in my earlier article heading "War against corruption loses steam" finding space in leading news papers 'State Times' on 28 March 2018. The matter is beyond speaking of it as serious nature. Till March 2018, some over 8,935 enquiries since last 9 years against corrupt element in various departments were lying pending with various DVOs. . The matter becomes more serious when 2163 enquiries with revenue and relief department, 1174 with education, 823 Rural Development Department, 517 police department, 431 Social Welfare Department, 394 with Health and Education department, 393 with Public Health Engineering, 377 Forest, 310 Municipalities, 198 Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department are there with DVOs and these departments are tagged as most corrupt departments in the state.
Priority is the need to pay attention towards professional accountability i.e., how much one is faithful and truthful towards his profession. Here it becomes important to visualize the intentions of those preparing 'Dossiers' in vigilance organization against corrupt/inefficient government servants for compulsory retirement as the hammer of Courts bring almost everyone back to job. "If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher - APJ Abdul Kalam.
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