Govt pressure hampering probes: CJI
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Last Updated: Saturday, September 12, 2009, 23:45
  
New Delhi: Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan on Saturday favoured statutory provision for seizure of illegal properties and assets of government officials convicted in corruption cases.

He also wanted specialised teams of lawyers to ensure that they will progressively develop expertise in prosecuting corruption-related cases.

"If a public official amasses wealth at the cost of public, then the state is justified in seizing such assets," Balakrishnan said at a national seminar on 'Fighting Crimes related to Corruption'.

"One prominent suggestion is the inclusion of a statutory remedy that will enable confiscation of properties belonging to persons who are convicted of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA)", the Chief Justice said.

The CJI said procedural delays like granting sanction and difficulty in marshalling large number of witnesses were the major hurdles in achieving meaningful convictions when the anti-corruption agencies was already finding it difficult to grapple with 9,000 pending cases due to shortage of designated courts.

"It is necessary (that) there should be a speedy manner of granting sanction. The prosecution becomes ineffective if the sanction is granted after 6-7 years," he said.

Balakrishnan expressed concern that CBI relies on large number of witnesses in the corruption cases instead of coming out with solid witnesses which unnecessary prolongs the trial of the case for 3 to 4 years. "Instead of having 8 to 10 witnesses, emphasis should be on having one solid witness to prove the case," he said.

However, dwelling on the PCA, the CJI said the foremost criticism of the law is that an investigating agency needs to obtain prior sanction from competent authority to initiate prosecution against a public servant which is delayed or denied by higher executive authorities.

"Even in instances where the investigating agencies have gathered substantial material to proceed against a person, it is felt that the necessary sanction is not given on account of extraneous considerations," he said.

Expressing concern that the country did not have an effective prosecuting agency, the CJI said there was a need for separation of prosecution function from the investigating functions of the CBI which has been a controversial issue.

"I understand that there has been considerable resistance to this suggestion, since investigating officers and prosecution lawyers need to work in close co-ordination.

"The real problem here is that CBI has been relying on government law officers and standing counsels to conduct the prosecutions whereas there is a need for retaining a regular team of lawyers which will progressively develop expertise in prosecuting corruption-related cases," Balakrishnan said.

He said, "having a specialised team of lawyers will also ensure that they thoroughly scrutinise the investigators' efforts in evidence-gathering, thereby improving the presentation of cases."

Bureau Report


First Published: Saturday, September 12, 2009, 23:45


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