Govt pressure hampering probes: CJI

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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