Monday, 3 October 2016

In Lokayukta, action against small fry okayed, big fish files don't get sanction orders

Bangalore Mirror d. 4/19/2016
It seems the state government has a double-standard policy when it comes to prosecuting corrupt officials; one based on rank and political clout. Sanction orders to prosecute small fry accused of accepting bribes of Rs20 and Rs100 are passed in a jiffy, but files seeking the nod to hook the bigger fish -- accused of abetting massive scams -- are lying untouched, gathering dust.

The state government is sitting on at least 145 Prosecution Sanction Orders (PSO) against senior bureaucrats and officials from as many as 23 departments. Though legal experts and a section of officials claim that action should be taken against all corrupt government servants, they pointed out that the government’s two-faced approach was a matter of serious concern.

A top government official revealed that the Lokayukta institution was awaiting PSOs in 145 cases, most involving high-ranking officers. The majority of these pending orders are from the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (RDPR), Home, Urban Development, and Energy departments.

“In cases pertaining to accepting a bribe, disproportionate assets cases, raids, and cases of dereliction of duty against officials and elected representatives, sanctions are pending, and prominent ones are special officer to chief minister, Gutti Jamunath, formerly Davanagere ZP CEO; Ballari MP Sriramulu; IAS officer S M Raju; chief engineer HC Jayachandra; chief engineer B Guruprasad; besides other department officials including directors, executive engineers, junior engineers, village panchayat secretaries, zilla panchayat chief officers, tahsildars and PDOs (Panchayat Development Officers). In all these cases the government has not given its sanction or a rejection of sanction is being contested,” a lokayukta officer told Bangalore Mirror.

As per a government circular issued on September 26, 2011, a sanction to facilitate the legal process in corruption cases has to be given within three months. Senior officials told BM that the callous attitude in these cases was despite repeated reminders and letters to the government seeking the green signal to initiate legal proceedings against the tainted officials. Without the sanction order, the Lokayukta police cannot proceed with the cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

This sanction order is a constitutional provision extended to accused officials to present their arguments and explanations to their superior officers before the clearance is given to officially charge them. If the sanctioning authority or competent authority is satisfied or finds such defence justifiable then he can reject the sanction.

“Repeated reminders have been sent from the Lokayukta registrar’s office to the concerned state government departments for granting sanction to proceed with corruption cases involving high-profile officers, but so far there has been no response,” said a senior Lokayukta official.

Meanwhile, legal experts have stated that this provision was now being misused to dodge prosecution and protect officials under the Lokayukta scanner. However, in certain cases involving small amounts like Rs20 and Rs 1,000 and ranks like lineman, village accountant, bill collector, or a constable, sanctions are quickly accorded.

“The very purpose of legislation enacting section 19 to prevent frivolous sanction has been defeated monotonously by the sanctioning authority by mechanically granting sanction where small amounts and lower grade clerks and staffers are involved, and by turning a blind eye to cases involving huge amounts and top officers. This can be seen from the manner in which the chargesheets are filed in trap cases, where 90 per cent of cases will not exceed a few lakh.

“Here, sanction is granted within days and records show that where huge amounts are involved, it is kept pending from as far back as 2005. This provision is widely misused to suit the needs of influential officers, and High Court directives to send cases involving small amounts to departmental inquiry by the sanctioning authorities over criminal prosecution is not adhered,” CG Sundar, a senior advocate said.

Law minister TB Jayachandra, when contacted, said the issue would be looked into to ensure pendency is redressed. Subhash Chandra Khuntia, the new chief secretary of the state, said, “The general principle is that quick decisions have to be taken. However, I’m yet to look into details of it. Pendency aspect will be looked into.”

Department and officials against whom sanctions have been sought

DC (excise) Somashekarappa; finance advisor, PWD, Govindraju; M H Nagesh, CFO Chickballapur ZP; Mahantappa Erappa Sulibavi CFO, KBJNL Almatti

Cooperative department

Joint registrar Satish; registrar Thimmaiah,

ACP Siddaramaiah; Mandya rural CPI Krishna Murthy; NK Rangaswamy CID PI; PSIs Nilesh Ganapathy, SH Shankar, Somla Nayak; KS Sundaraj DySp ISD

Urban Development department

Hubli-Dharwad commissioner M Thippesh; AEE Chitradurga municipality, AR Chidanand; Mysuru corporation AC Ravi Kumar; Hubballi-Dharwad corporator Bashir Ahmed; Hubballi-Dharwad corporation junior engineer, SN Puttananvar.

Revenue and others

Ballari DDLR (Deputy Director of Land Records) L Narayanaswamy; Karnataka University professor Dr Noor Jahan; Davanagere TP staffer SL Prabhudeva (PWD); BT Mohan executive engineer, minor irrigation, Ballari; SM Raju; KM Narayaswamy IFS; class one officers Rajappa, Shashidar; Bagli tahsildar tourism assistant director Kamlapura; planning department GR Omkarappa; CO Davangere ZP, road safety director TP Narayanswamy. The designations of officers against whom sanction have been sought or is being contested are from the time the cases were taken up.  

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