FOR THE fourth year in a row, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of corruption cases in the country in 2019 but the conviction rate was less than 15 per cent, according to NCRB data.
Maharashtra recorded 891 cases in 2019 under the Prevention of Corruption and related Acts, which is more than double the figure of Rajasthan that is second at 424 cases. The cases registered in 2019 are, however, less than the 936 cases registered in 2018 in the state.
Of the 891 cases, 866 were ‘trap cases’ where a person was caught allegedly taking a bribe, 21 related to Disproportionate Assets where a government servant is found to have assets disproportionate to his known sources of income while four cases related to criminal misconduct on the part of government officials.
Trials were completed in 370 cases. Of these, while in 55 cases the accused were convicted, in a whopping 294 cases the accused were acquitted. In 21 cases, the accused were discharged as the court did not find enough evidence to carry on with the trial.
The only state worse off than Maharashtra, with 14.9 per cent conviction rate, is Himachal Pradesh that has a conviction rate of 14.7 per cent.
An official with the state Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), however, said that low conviction was not always the result of the agency not being able to provide evidence in a case.
“In cases where a government servant is to be prosecuted, we need prosecution sanction from the competent authority, who is an official who has the power to hire an official of that rank. So for example, for a constable, the Mumbai police commissioner has to give sanction while in cases of senior officers it is the government. On most occasions the sanction especially at the level of the government is not provided,” said an IPS officer, requesting anonymity.
As per law, without the sanction, the judge cannot try a government servant. “While this provision is there to ensure government servants are not subject to false complaints, it has been used to shield them more so,” the officer added.
Apart from this, even the backlog of trials in cases of corruption has been increasing over the years. While 2019 began with 5,572 cases pending trial, another 808 trials began during the course of the year taking the total to 6,380. At the end of 2019, as many as 5,971 trials were under way in various special courts across the state bringing the pendency rate to 93.6 per cent.
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