In last 6 months, DVAC in Chennai has booked only 5 graft cases

Data shows declining trend in FIRs booked by Chennai units; dists with single detachments like Tiruchy, Coimbatore, Madurai have booked five to 10 cases each
Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC)
Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) (Photo| Website)

CHENNAI: Investigations into corruption by the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC) in Chennai has dropped steeply, as official data shows the eight units covering the capital city have together booked only five cases in the last six months. In comparison, districts with single detachments like Tiruchy, Coimbatore and Madurai have booked five to 10 cases each.

This is based on the FIRs published on the agency’s website. The agency says it publishes all registered FIRs complying with a Supreme Court order.

The detachments in Chennai include the special investigation cell (SIC), which is headed by a separate joint director, an IGP-level IPS officer, and is tasked to investigate major corruption cases. The other seven detachments covering the city are Chennai City-I, II, III, IV, V, Chennai Special Unit-I, and Special Unit-III.

While all other districts have one DVAC detachment each, Chennai has eight detachments and a higher number of police officials, backroom staff and other resources at their disposal as the state capital houses all major government offices, headquarters of departments and has the highest number of government officers and personnel.

Jayaram Venkatesan, convenor of Arappor Iyakkam, alleged that this showed the intention of the government to go slow on corruption, even in the case of complaints filed alleging corruption during the previous regime.

“Cases in at least 20 complaints filed by Arappor with evidence in big-ticket corruption during the previous AIADMK regime have not yet been filed. These include the Chennai smart city and bus shelter scam, the scam in the poor quality of buildings by TNUHDB in KP Park in Chennai, the coal import scam, etc,” Jayaram said.

An analysis of DVAC data shows a declining trend in the number of FIRs booked by Chennai detachments - from 74 in 2019 to 31 in 2023. Until Saturday, only four FIRs have been filed by these eight detachments in 2024.

The data also shows that usually in a calendar year, Chennai registers at least 3-5 times the number of cases booked by the Tiruchy, Madurai or Coimbatore detachments. For instance, in 2019 Chennai units had booked 74 cases, while Madurai and Coimbatore had 22 each and Tiruchy 12. In 2024, till date, Tiruchy has booked 6 cases, three in Madurai and one in Coimbatore.

This comes on the back of a 30% drop in inquiries and investigations conducted by DVAC in 2022-23, as compared to the previous year, according to their own data. DVAC declined to give an official response, however, sources said that they act on filed complaints and there was no compromise on anti-corruption work.

DVAC officials highlighted section 17(a) in the amended Prevention of Corruption Act as a reason for the slowdown. This amendment to the Central Act, which came into force in 2018, mandates prior approval from the head of a government servant who needs to be investigated for corruption. Probes are delayed as the approvals are not processed quickly, investigators said.

However, Jayaram claimed that the agency had not filed cases even in probes where approval was obtained. “The amendment came in 2018, after which the DVAC’s performance has been improving, until a drop in the last one year,” he said.

DVAC conducted 389 inquiries and investigations in 2022-23, compared to 551 in 2021-22 and 553 in 2020-21. Inquiries and investigations included preliminary inquiries, detailed inquiries, regular FIRs, and FIRs filed after traps.

In fact, the total number of investigations in 2022-23 is the lowest in a decade. Their earliest data is from 2013-14 when the agency had recorded 462 probes. The data for 2023-24 has not yet been released by DVAC.

V Suresh, national general secretary of People’s Union of Civil Liberties, said this indicated a slowdown in the commitment to ensure a corruption-free governance for the citizens. “Also, when cases aren’t registered, it forces complainants to approach courts to seek registration of FIR,” he said.

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