HYDERABAD: At a time when the government has expressed its will to plug all loopholes and overhaul the revenue department to weed out corruption and is even mulling over bringing in new legislation, it is the government, which, on several occasions, stands in the way of investigation and prosecution of the corrupt officers.
Though this is common knowledge, two recent responses under the RTI Act confirm the trend. The Vigilance 1 & 2 wings of the revenue department have disclosed that in at least eight cases of serious corruption charges since 2010, the prosecution was either dropped or kept pending till date after intervention from the government.
For example, a deputy collector-rank officer and his senior assistant were caught red-handed by the ACB in 2010, but the officer was let off after a GO was issued in 2014. Further, the accomplice has also requested for charges to be dropped. Subsequently, the district collector sought the DG, ACB’s remarks in this regard and the case has been pending till date.
Similarly, in the case of another deputy collector-rank officer charged with amassing disproportionate assets and caught red-handed in 2011, the government had prevented the prosecution and entrusted the case to the Commission of Inquiries (COI). Action in the case is still pending.
Other such cases of serious corruption charges include sub-registrars, commercial tax officers, assistant CTOs and prohibition and excise inspectors, against whom action has been pending for at least five years.
“These are cases in which the DG, ACB has recommended prosecution after due inquiry and the government has deviated from taking the recommendations. When the ACB takes up trap cases, there is material evidence. Ample opportunity is given to the officer to be heard. Only then, a report seeking prosecution is sent to the government,” said M Padmanabha Reddy, secretary, Forum for Good Governance, who filed the RTI petitions.“Prosecution is not punishment, but placing the accused before the law,” he said.
The RTI petition had sought information only on cases in which the government took a deviated approach, going against the recommendations of the DG, ACB. “Usually, the government takes a deviated approach in 40-50 per cent of the cases, but in the revenue department, we suspect it to be much more,” he said.
As for deviation tactics, the cases are either closed, or a departmental enquiry is ordered, or the cases are sent to Commission of Inquiries (CoI) or Tribunal for Disciplinary Proceedings (TDP), or just left to languish without any action. “For instance, there is no judge at the Tribunal for Disciplinary Proceedings (TDP) for at least six years,” he added.
‘It’s up to the wisdom of government’
Does this not undermine the authority of the ACB? A senior ACB official, requesting anonymity, said that the bureau’s job ends with the submission of inquiry reports to the government. “There is a process to be followed even after the submission of reports. They need to be verified and suitable action taken. The government can have fresh views and need not be influenced by any authority,” said the official.
The official claimed that there is no surge in complaints received by ACB against revenue officials with regard to corruption. Over 75 employees were transferred in Hyderabad collectorate in the wake of ACB inquiry against Keshampet tahsildar V Lavanya and VRO M Anaiah.