Anti-Corruption Branch may hit brake on probes

 Politicians and high-profile bureaucrats targeted by the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi government since January may heave a sigh of relief following the resignation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The understaffed unit was revived by the Kejriwal-led government to “eradicate corruption” from the capital and to launch probes into graft allegations against former chief minister Sheila Dikshit and her government. Several cases were registered, but Kejriwal’s resignation is being seen as a big blow to the unit, which may force it to go slow on the investigations.

“As part of the promises made before the Assembly elections in December 2013, Kejriwal ordered cases against some senior politicians and businessmen. But questioning them or any particular action in the cases will be unlikely if Congress or BJP forms the next government,” a senior police officer says.

The officer says this has become particularly difficult as several police officers posted to ACB last month were not willing to join the unit. 

At present, the ACB is investigating a scam related to purchases made for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Before the games, the PWD had installed fancy lamp posts at a very high rate by ignoring the contract procedure. Due to this, the government had incurred an approximate loss of Rs 92 crore. An FIR has been lodged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code, but it does not name Dikshit.
There could have been more trouble for Dikshit, as the government had decided to reopen another case, involving advertisements put out by Delhi government. She was to be accused of spending public money for political gains.

The state government also ordered FIRs against Union Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, former minister Murli Deora and former Director General of Hydrocarbons V K Sibal for allegedly conspiring to inflate gas prices.

Kiran Bedi tweets

Reacting over the series of FIRs ordered by Kejriwal, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi says not much was done by the ACB on anti-corruption measures for solving the issues of the common man. She says it was good that Delhi Police are under the control of the Centre, not the state government.

“If the control over Delhi Police was given to the Delhi government, it may have led to cases being filed against political opponents,” she says.
She says the future of the ACB now appears to be dark.  
 
Within 36 hours of joining office, Kejriwal had asked Delhi Police Commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi to help fill up vacancies in the ACB as it had over 60 per cent vacancies. Kejriwal had also requested Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to replace five senior officers and handpicked some 30 officers to fill the vacancies.

But a senior police officer says that some of the handpicked officers were against joining the unit. It also included an inspector who was sent to district lines after being named in a controversy over facilitating illegal borewells in his area.  

Kejriwal further claimed that the unit had been inactive for many years and its inefficiency became apparent after the launch of their anti-corruption helpline. The helpline received a lot of sting operations, but the follow-up by the unit was said to be slow.

The appointment of 1993-batch IPS officer Praveer Ranjan was sought to head the unit, but he declined to take up the job. Kejriwal had asked Rajan’s appointment due to his good reputation. But Rajan, posted as Joint Commissioner of Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police’s Crime Branch, was posted to Pondicherry by the Union Home Ministry.

In January, the state government was also requested by the unit for a new office and more equipment required for surveillance and other specialised tasks. Handling of the anti-corruption helpline and investigation into the cases led to the demand for an increase in staff members.

The ACB reports to the Chief Secretary and has a sanctioned strength of nine Assistant Commissioners of Police and 30 Inspectors.

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