Anti-Corruption Bureau still awaits okay to prosecute

Anti-Corruption Bureau still awaits okay to prosecute

The Anti-Corruption Bureau is waiting for prosecution sanction order (PSOs) in 117 cases.

It is two years since the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was set up but the state government is yet to issue Prosecution Sanction Order (PSO) to the body. According to statistics, various department heads are sitting on over 117 cases of corruption in which the ACB has completed the investigation.

In 2015, when the Lokayukta police was investigating cases of trap and raids under the Prevention of Corruption Act, chargesheets in 117 cases could not be filed because of pending PSOs. A Karnataka High Court bench, during the hearing over a matter pertaining to the Lokayukta police investigation, had directed the state government to speed up the process of issuing PSOs. Subsequently, the then Chief Secretary Subhash Chandra Khuntia had instructed all department heads to act on PSO requests within three months.

As of October 2018, the situation does not seem to have changed with the ACB waiting for PSOs in 117 cases.

Set up in 2016, the ACB has so far filed chargesheets in 202 cases, including raids (disproportionate assets), cases of the trap (caught red-handed while receiving bribe) and petition complaints. ACB officials stated that the agency has completed investigations in 371 cases. The statistics pertain to the period between April 2016 and October 5, 2018.

In this period, the ACB has registered a total of 716 cases. Of these, 456 are trap cases, while 139 cases pertain to disproportionate assets. A senior official said that the power to issue prosecution sanction orders against the accused government servants is vested with the “competent authority” in various departments. “Unless and until a PSO is received, charge sheet cannot be filed. The number of cases waiting for PSOs is 117, however, we are following it up with the department heads for speedy disposal of our request of PSO,’’ an official said.

What is a PSO?

Prosecution Sanction Order (PSO) is a mandatory requirement before filing the chargesheet against a public servant for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. While setting up the ACB, the state government had included a clause making it mandatory for the ACB to obtain sanction to initiate a probe against a public servant, mainly bureaucrats, for his/her official discharge of duty. The ACB has so far registered 121 cases that fall in the “other” category.

“These cases include court-referred cases and cases based on petition complaints filed with the ACB. While the provision for mandatory prior sanction before registering a case against a public servant other than trap and raid was included by the government, it is now part of amended section 17A of Prevention of Corruption Act,’’ an official said.

Amended section 17A reads: “No police officer shall conduct any enquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant under this Act, where the alleged offence is relatable to any recommendation made or decision taken by such public servant in discharge of his official functions or duties, without the previous approval.’’