RESIDENTS DEMANDING bribes on behalf of officials or claiming to be acting on behalf of government officials comprise the second largest group among those arrested by the Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) this year.
Between January and September, the agency arrested 157 such people in traps across Maharashtra, ACB data shows. The figure is the second highest in the classification of various kinds of people arrested on graft charges. At the top are Class III government officials. At third spot are Class II government officials arrested for seeking bribes.
According to ACB officials, the number of civilians demanding bribes had increased noticeably over the last few years, with the highest number of such cases involving people acting as “agents”, claiming to be able to get a job done in exchange for money.
These are mostly people roaming in the premises of government offices such as the Regional Transport Offices, courts, district collectorates and other offices, offering to cut through the red tape and get a job done for a fee.
The other large category of civilians seeking bribes comprises those claiming to be acting on behalf of government servants, with or without the knowledge and complicity of the latter.
ACB officials said there was not much awareness earlier about the clauses of the Prevention of Corruption Act among people and even among its own officers to an extent and the ACB top brass was now working to change that, so that civilians demanding bribes did not go scot-free.
“The Prevention of Corruption Act has clear clauses according to which civilians can be prosecuted for demanding bribes in exchange for facilitating work through government offices, or even claiming to. We have been consistently cracking down on such offenders,” said Director-General of Police (ACB) Praveen Dixit.
Officials added that earlier, arrests of civilians were limited to those accepting money on behalf of government servants with the complicity of the government servants being proven beyond doubt.
Slowly, even those operating independently were trapped and arrested.
“In a recent case in Washim, we arrested a lawyer who would sit next to a magistrate and accept money in exchange for issuing adjournment dates to people. No one realised he was a private lawyer and assumed that he was a member of the magistrate’s office,” Dixit said.
An interesting case under investigation involves a paan shop owner, arrested earlier this year for allegedly accepting money from people in exchange for increasing the marks of their wards in connivance with Mumbai University officials. Several MU officials were suspended in the wake of the arrest and the ACB is still probing the case.
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