HYDERABAD: Will the liquor babus who have been caught taking bribes from the booze mafia in recent weeks have the last laugh after all? That seems likely if one examines the record of what the state government has done on cases of corruption by bureaucrats referred to it for prosecution by the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) over the years, particularly since 2003.
Two phrases reflect the government’s most likely response to such referrals: ‘drop action’ or ‘departmental enquiry’.
Decoded, they mean: Let’em go with a rap on the knuckles.
In the past eight years, the ACB has recommended prosecution of about 1,800 bureaucrats of all levels for a variety of graft activities: possessing disproportionate assets running into crores of rupees, bribe taking and criminal misconduct.
Surprisingly, the government has not given its nod for prosecution in 99 per cent of the cases, defeating the very purpose of setting up the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
An ACB file listing all the graft cases referred to the government for prosecution between 2003 and 2011 -- a copy of which is with Express -- shows that the powersthat- be let off the black sheep despite there being irrefutable evidence against the officials.
The watchdog agency, after making arrests and gathering evidence, sends a report to the vigilance commissioner, who in turn recommends action.
In almost all the cases sent on by ACB, the vigilance commissioner agreed with the ACB.
Yet the government denied permission for prosecution, with the recommendation: ‘drop action’ or ‘departmental enquiry’.
Moreover, the government inordinately delayed rendering its two pearls of wisdom after the receipt of the vigilance commissioner’s advice.
In many cases, the delay extended to several years.
The long hiatus allows the accused officers (AOs) time to ‘manage’ their cases, using their ‘contacts’ and knocking the recommendation down to something innocuous like ‘departmental action,’ which, in a metaphorical sense, is like serving a prison sentence at home.
Take the case of P Rajasekhar Reddy, then a joint director in the Mines and Geology Department at Hyderabad.
He was arrested by the ACB for acquiring disproportionate assets to the tune of over Rs 1.11 crore (the market value being much more) and the ACB wrote to the government seeking permission for prosecution.
Instead, the government wrote back recommending a ‘departmental enquiry.’ That is reportedly still pending.
Ditto was the case of P Narasaiah, a joint director in the Town and Country Planning wing.
He was caught with disproportionate assets of over Rs 1.16 crore.
The government’s recommendation? ‘Drop action.’
Similarly, G Chandrasekhar and V Srinivas Goud, municipal commissioners of the municipalities of LB Nagar and Alwal respectively, were found in possession of disproportionate assets worth Rs 36 lakh and Rs 39 lakh respectively.
And then? ‘Drop action’.
In hundreds of other cases, even the rap on the knuckles in the tainted babus’ home departments remained pending for long.
In several of the cases, the officers retired, died or won transfers to to other posts.
The government’s other option, ‘departmental action’ had no more bite than ‘drop action’.
Some 1760 departmental enquiries are pending in various government departments against the dodgy babus.
More than half of these delayed departmental enquiries pertain to the last six years; the rest pertain to the 21 years prior to that, beginning 1984.
What is surprising is the fact that though the Government issues instructions from time to time, directing that departmental enquiries be completed within 3-6 months, the situation remains where it was.
What more, in several cases, enquiry officers were not appointed for years together.
THE DIRTY DEPARTMENTS
Departmental enquiries pending against the slush fish
* Revenue: 460
* Health, Medical and Family Welfare: 160
* Municipal Admn & Urban Development: 160
* Transport, Roads & Buildings: 150
* Home: 145
* Panchayat Raj: 130