Bihar to seize babus' ill-gotten wealth

Bihar to seize babus' ill-gotten wealth

Not very long ago, when the sleuths of the Special Vigilance Unit (SVU) in Bihar raided the house of minor irrigation commissioner S S Verma, they stumbled upon nine kg of gold, one kg of silver and Rs 2.58 lakh in cash from two bank lockers of the official. This included a one-kg gold bar, besides 800 guineas, stacked in one of the lockers of Allahabad Bank in Patna.

During a raid conducted on his residence earlier, they had recovered Rs 16.50 lakh and $500 in cash, jewellery worth Rs 4 lakh and papers related to investments of Rs 20 lakh. The total value of recovery made from Verma was around Rs 1.25 crore, far more than his declared assets, which led to the filing of a case against the bureaucrat.

In a similar case, the vigilance sleuths, as part of the Operation ‘Clean’ (corruption-linked efforts for affirmative action) swooped down on the residence of one of the top-most senior IPS officers, Narayan Mishra, and recovered cash and other valuables worth several lakhs, disproportionate to his known source of income. Mishra was then posted as Director General (Homeguards) in Bihar.

Though disproportionate assets (DA) cases were registered against them, the duo eventually got relief from the court.

Special Court Bill
It was then that the Nitish government decided to give more teeth to the existing law so as to punish such officials. In less than one year since it was conceived, the Bihar Special Court Bill has been enacted, thereby clearing the decks to net corrupt babus in the state.
The new legislation gives the state government the much-needed leeway to confiscate the property of corrupt officials in the midst of the trial.

“As of now, the government could only suspend the officials apprehended in the trap laid out by the vigilance department. But these accused still had the backing of money to get the best of legal brains to defend themselves in the court. All this will change now. After enactment of the new law, the government will not have to wait for conviction of the corrupt babus. It can confiscate the ill-gotten wealth and immovable assets of the officials facing DA cases even if the matter is sub-judice,” said cabinet secretary Afzal Amanullah.

The Special Court Bill was passed by the state Assembly in March 2009, but was referred to the Centre as the proposed Act brought under its ambit Central government employees and officials too. The matter was pending with the Centre for more than eight months, despite numerous reminders from the state. Eventually, the President gave her assent to the bill in January 2010. A few days back, the state cabinet approved the proposal for formal enactment of the Bihar Special Court Bill.

“We badly needed this legislation to weed out corruption from government offices. Over the years, the vigilance bureau had laid nearly 300 traps, which led to unearthing of investments and property worth hundreds of crores. But we could not confiscate them. The new law will help set up designated courts for speedy and effective trail of corrupt babus. We can pray to the court for confiscation of property, which was not the case earlier. Of course, if the judgment goes in favour of the accused, the government will have to return the property and money with interest,” said additional director general of police Anil Kumar Sinha.

Deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi, who also holds the finance portfolio, said the new Act will serve as a deterrent for officials who may be tempted to indulge in corrupt practices.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on his part, has already declared a war against corruption. Making a fervent plea to everyone to come forward and provide authentic information about corrupt officials. He recently told a gathering that the Bihar government would open primary and secondary schools in the confiscated buildings.

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