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Monday, June 7, 2010

Anti-Corruption Act Abridged & Simplified for RTI Activists

After many months and years of battling for information, activists sometimes succeed in uncovering documentary evidence of corruption. But then they are left wondering, “What next?” How to use these hard-won documents for seeking justice? There is a shortage of suitable forums for punishing corruption and criminal misconduct of public servants. Going to high court with writs and PILs is our last option, not our first; before we do that, we are required by law to exhaust all the other remedies, especially police complaints.

Read & understand SIMPLIFIED & ABRIDGED Prevention of Corruption Act 1988:
Originally 6045 words, we reduced it to 3,324 words, and made sentences short and easy.

After Bombay High Court’s order in September ‘09 order, The Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) 1988 is available to us in Maharashtra. A home department circular that made it ineffective has been stayed, and will probably be quashed. PCA now enables us to register FIR with Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and start prosecuting corrupt officials. ACB has a special duty to take action in such matters.

The reader-friendly website of ACB Maharashtra gives plenty of contact details, and promises actions within a clear timeframe. Similar links are available for ACB in other states also. Worth trying!

Plus points of Prevention of Corrupt Act 1988:
1) It gives a wide scope to the concept of “public servant”. The term includes judges, arbitrators, election officials, employees of public corporations, selection committee members and anybody in the “service and pay of local authority”, office bearers of cooperative societies of various kinds, and recipients of government funding. It is applicable to Information Commissioners and other quasi-judicial authorities.

2) As PCA 1988 includes judges and judge-like authorities, it seems to nullify some of the wide protection to judges under Judges Protection Act 1985.

3) It also gives wide interpretation to “gratification other than legal remuneration” and “criminal misconduct”. Thus, it is not necessary to prove that a public servant actually sought a bribe in cash, or was actually given. It is enough to show that undue favour or disfavor (or undue service or disservice) were given or sought to be given.

4) It spreads the net wide by including abetment of the offences and conspiracy, and thereby includes private parties such as touts and dalals, besides superiors, colleagues and others who assist indirectly and collude in the corrupt practices.

5) It has provisions for granting immunity from prosecution to bribe-givers or bribe-takers who turn into whistle-blowers and assist in the prosecution.

6) It provides for a summary trial, and restricts the scope for appeals before higher courts.

7) Offences under this Act will be tried by a Special Judge with special powers to attach the offender’s properties etc.

8) It mandates hearings on a daily basis.

Limitation of PCA 1988: After FIR is registered and after the police investigation is complete, the prosecuting authority ie. Anti Corruption Bureau must seek approval from the State or Central Government, or from competent authority, to prosecute the corrupt official. According to ACB Maharashtra website, this approval requires three months… But that is not such a long time, is it?

My friends have a saying about such things: Lag gaya toh teer, nahin toh tukkah. We have everything to gain from trying to get an FIR registered under PCA 1988, and we have very little to lose. So let us try our best.

Warm Regards,
Krishnaraj Rao []
98215 88114

PS: We will shortly publish easy formats and guidelines for drafting complaints to Anti Corruption Bureau, for getting FIRs registered.

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