The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has claimed that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been slow in investigating certain cases due to several reasons including work overload, delay in obtaining reply to the Letter Rogatories (LRs) sent to various countries seeking information, government departments not supplying relevant records and sanction to the agency, delay in obtaining forensic reports from laboratories, among other reasons.
Other reasons cited by the apex vigilance body for CBI investigations getting stuck for years are shortage of manpower, time taken in scrutiny of voluminous records in economic offences, bank fraud cases and significant time spent by officers in locating and examining witnesses living in distant places.
According to CVC’s annual report, which was released on Sunday, investigation was pending in 744 CBI cases for more than a year at the end of December 2019 out of which 678 were related to Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.
It was found that about 25 corruption investigations in CBI are pending beyond five years. Overall, total 1,239 investigations and enquiries were pending in CBI till December last year. The data reveals that the CBI registered total 608 FIRs and 102 preliminary enquiries (PEs) in 2019.
Another worrying trend for the CBI, as shown in the CVC annual report, pertains to pendency of its cases in courts. As of December 2019, a whopping 6,226 PC Act cases probed by the CBI were pending trial in various courts across the country, some for more than 20 years. When it comes to appeals and revisions filed by agency and accused persons in various high courts, Supreme Court and additional session courts are taken into account; a staggering 11,380 appeals/revisions are pending in courts, CVC data suggests.
The CVC says, “The Commission is concerned about the slow progress of disposal of the large number of cases pending trial in different courts for long periods, at times for over twenty years. Such inordinate delays in investigation defeats the very purpose of efficient vigilance administration and are an impediment to the fight against corruption.”
The CBI spokesperson was not available for comments. However, an officer, requesting anonymity, said “Many of the high profile white collar criminals use their money to delay the cases in courts”.
The delays in courts, the CVC adds, happen due to limited number of hearings, non-availability of witnesses, dilatory tactics adopted by the accused by way of filing applications for transfer of cases from one court to another challenging the legality of investigation by CBI and court stay and inadequate strength of prosecution staff due to vacancies.
Discussing the nature of cases received against government officials, the CVC says large number of complaints received against public servants are “frivolous, vague, non-specific, pertaining to procedural lapses, or administrative violations.”
Also, a significant number of complaints seeking investigation against officials in Central ministries, departments are “anonymous”, having wild or unverifiable allegations and in some cases, the intention of the complainant is just to harass someone rather than reporting corrupt activities. As a general policy, anonymous complaints are not entertained by the CVC since October 2018 and only those complaints are recommended for investigation which have a clear vigilance angle.
According to the CVC’s annual report for 2019, out of total 35,649 complaints against public servants, almost 20 percent (7,425) were vague while 19 percent (6,975) were anonymous in nature.
“In many complaints, the allegations were found to be either vague or unverifiable. The Commission received a large number of complaints against public servants working in the state governments and other organizations who do not come under the jurisdiction of the Commission or which are of administrative nature,” stated the CVC report reviewed by HT.