Recovery of assets valued at over Rs 1,000 crore in several graft cases in Maharashtra is pending, even as a heightened drive against politicians and government servants accused of corruption is under way.
At least 250 cases are pending where permission has been sought for recovery of assets to compensate for loss to the public exchequer involving government officials, reveal official documents. However, the Maharashtra government is yet to act on a legislation that proposes to make confiscation of assets including immovable properties acquired through graft, easier. Maharashtra’s draft Lokayukta Act, which allows the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to ‘provisionally attach’, immediately after investigations, assets and properties of persons alleged to have committed or abetted an offence has been pending in the state secretariat for over a year now.
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The previous Congress-NCP regime in the state had taken up this legislation after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was then an Opposition legislator, submitted a private member bill in the state legislature. A senior minister in the Fadnavis government confirmed that the legislation was still pending with the general administration department, which the CM heads.
Currently, the state anti-corruption agency has to seek prior approval from the government for attachment of assets and then move an application before a court.
“The delay currently is two-fold. Political will is lacking in certain cases. The second is court nod,” a senior home department official said.
The proposed Lokayukta Act aims at bringing the ACB directly under Lokayukta, sparing it from government interference. “Where the Lokayukta (Chairperson and all members together) on the basis of material in his possession has reason to believe that any person is in possession of any immovable property acquired through proceeds of corruption and is alleged to have committed or abetted an offence related to
corruption, provisional attachment of such properties or assets for a 90-day period may be ordered,” the draft reads. It empowers ACB to conduct such seizures, while granting a hearing to those affected.
Further, the proposed Act does not require prior government approval for confiscating properties. “Special courts to be formed for trying such cases are to confirm these attachments within the 90-day period,” a senior official said.
Praveen Dixit, Director General of Police, ACB, said, “It will be good if delays in recovery of assets in corruption cases are cut down. I’m unaware of specifics of the draft Act.”
Sources pointed out that the proposed Act identifies assets that can be seized in corruption cases.
Besides immovable properties, it allows for confiscation of cash, shares, and bonds, recovery of debts etc, secured through proceeds of the crime, sources revealed.
It clearly states that “proceeds and benefits of crimes” that are recovered are to be treated as “properties of the state government.”
It, however, provides that an offender can continue to reside in an attached property.
Explaining the existing process involved in recovery of ill-gotten wealth, Dixit said, “About the time that we file a chargesheet, we move a proposal to the government for attaching disproportionate assets. Following state’s approval, we send an application to the court.”
Sources in the ACB said 27 cases involving recovery of over Rs 164.20 crore were pending in the current year alone.