Establish Fast-track Anti-Corruption Courts
Special Anti Corruption Judges must be appointed for each district
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
The Special Anti-Corruption Court Srinagar in March this year sentenced an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) to one year imprisonment for allegations of accepting bribe while he was posted at Police Station Charar e sharief district Budgam in 2008.
This police officer namely Mushtaq Ahmad Shah the then ASI in the police station Charar e sharief was also ordered to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 under each offence. “If he fails to pay the fine, he will be subjected to an additional month of imprisonment under each offence” reads the order of the Special Judge Anti Corruption Court Srinagar.
This is a 15 years old corruption case wherein a police officer had demanded and taken bribe from a local person while he was carrying three quintals of rice with him in a vehicle. The officer not only took money from him but also snatched his one quintal of rice as well.
The aggrieved didn’t keep quite and filed a written complaint on 19th September 2008 before the State Vigilance Organisation -SVO, which is now known as J&K Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). The complainant in his written complaint told SVO that ASI Mushtaq Ahmad Shah had intercepted his vehicle while he was transporting three quintals of rice and demanded a bribe of Rs. 500. The ASI accepted the bribe and returned only two quintals of rice. He forcibly kept one quintal of rice for himself. When he was asked to give it back , he asked the aggrieved / complainant to pay a bribe of Rs1,000. The complainant assured that he would pay Rs 500 instead and ASI agreed. In the meantime the aggrieved person (complainant) informed the then SVO now called Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). The officers of SVO/ ACB laid a trap and caught ASI Mushtaq Ahmad red-handed while accepting the bribe. The tainted money was recovered from his possession in the presence of witnesses. The said police officer was sent to Central Jail Srinagar recently
Delay in Convictions ?
We all believe in the judicial system which has jurisdiction over other systems of governance, but if the judiciary fails to deliver justice in time who is to be blamed ?
Regardless of our religion, gender, or region, we have faith in our judiciary but what if we don’t get timely justice in our courts ?
If a corrupt police officer has been put behind bars only after 15 years of committing the crime, how can people expect to get justice and that is why Martin Luther King has rightly said Justice Delayed is Justice Denied ?
In-fact I don’t blame the judiciary for these long delays in convictions , but the blame is to be put on the Government as we have only a handful of Special Anti Corruption Courts in Jammu & Kashmir.
Hundreds of corruption cases are pending in these courts and only few Govt officials involved in corruption get convicted. In many districts of J&K the regular courts which hear other disputes look after anti corruption cases and the situation is more challenging in such courts.
It takes decades to get justice. The corrupt Govt officers who are trapped read handed while accepting money move freely in society because the trail takes years.
In-fact the J&K Anti Corruption Bureau -ACB has shown good progress in trapping corrupt Govt officials during last 3 to 4 years, but when it takes decades to put these criminals behind bars, it frustrates not only the upright officers of our Anti Corruption Bureau-ACB, but the public spirited citizens , activists and whistleblowers also get demoralized who play a role in getting these officials trapped.
Conviction Rate is lowest
The 2020 NCRB data recorded between 2018-2020 reveals conviction rate in corruption cases is more than four times lower than the national average in J&K.
While the conviction rate of corruption cases under trial at national level was 40.9 % in 2020, the conviction rate of such cases in J&K was only 9 % during this period. In contrast, the 2022 annual report of Central Vigilance Commission -CVC revealed that Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recorded a conviction rate of 67.56% in 2021, compared to 69.83% in 2020.
The CBI registered 680 regular cases and 67 preliminary enquiries in 2021, while it had registered 589 regular cases and 87 preliminary enquiries in 2020. In 2021 court judgments were received in 360 cases, which included 202 convictions, 82 acquittals and 15 of discharge from allegations.
In 61 matters, cases were disposed of for other reasons. At the end of the year 2021-22, a total of 10,232 cases were pending in different courts. In 2021, investigations were pending in 982 cases, whereas the figure stood at 1,117 the previous year. The probe was finalised in 798 regular cases and 86 preliminary inquiries last year.
Brashtachar Mulkt J&K
As we celebrated Corruption Free J&K week (Bhrashtachar Mukt J&K) between September 4th to 10th this year , it is the duty of the Govt to make sure Fast-track special anti corruption courts are set up in every district enabling them to dispose of long pending corruption cases in a time bound manner.
Technically the week- long corruption free J&K programme (Brashtachar Mukt J&K) should have been celebrated around this week which is commemorated as International Anti- Corruption day, but during last several years hardly any Govt function was held around this date.
Let us hope Govt organsies awareness programmes on corruption and its negative impact in society. The NCRB report on very low conviction rate of corruption cases in J&K should be an eye opener for the authorities. Corruption in Govt departments like Police , Revenue , Geology and Mining, Rural Development, R&B, and some other departments is seriously affecting our work-culture and governance.
International Anti-Corruption Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003 to raise awareness about the damaging effects of corruption and promote international efforts to combat it.
The day also marks the anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Corruption -UNCAC which is first global legally binding instrument against corruption.The corruption poses a significant threat to sustainable development, democracy, and the rule of law.
International Anti-Corruption Day underscores the collective responsibility to fight corruption at all levels.The J&K Anti Corruption Bureau -ACB is doing an appreciable job in last 3 years especially. It is good that Govt has began an open debate on corruption and programmes are being held at district level which was not done in the past.
Regular discussion and debates on corruption at governmental level is very impactful. I wish all HODs, DCs and SSPs had done this proactively without even being asked to do so through an official circular by Govt. I would suggest that corruption related debates be held every month at block , tehsil and district level.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement