Wednesday 26 September 2018

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Lukewarm response for Public Men's Corruption Commission

 

Goa's case seems to be an eye opener in effectively dealing with corruption cases against public men in high places as the commission, set up to probe into corruption charges against public men here, has received only two cases in last six months. The response is lukewarm despite Goa being the second ranking literate state in the country and known for its socio-political sensitivity, probably because its ineffectivity is an open secret.

It has disposed off the first case, filed against former chief minister Ravi Naik, who is considered to be Goa's most corrupt CM, by throwing out the complaint. On the contrary, the complainant was fined Rs 5000 for filing a false complaint, as per the provisions of the act.

Justice Gustav Philip Couto, the commission chairman, admits that the first case was a disaster. "I feel little sorry that the commission could not respond positively to the first case", he says, while blaming the complainant for ruining the whole case. Rather than giving factual position, he admitted before the commission later on that Naik was not involved in it.

This has obviously sent wrong signals to the educated lot in Goa, while local political circles suspect the complaint a deliberate attempt to defame the commission. Justice Couto however still asserts that the commission can nab the corrupt public men, if a complaint is filed even with little evidence.

But knowing its limitations, Justice Couto also admits that the commission acts more as an ombudsman with less penalising powers than the courts, but denies that it is purely a recommendatory body, leaving action part to the government.

"Any public man has to step down from his position once the commission holds him guilty. We can also initiate criminal proceedings against the guilty, while the government cannot deny us sanction for it", adds Justice Couto.

But the commission's credibility came under cloud even before its three members were sworn in early this year. Irrigation minister Dayanand Narvekar, who is presently facing a public interest litigation for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore irrigation scam, requested the high court to refer the case to the commission. It was rejected as courts cannot refer corruption cases to the commission.

But surprisingly, the court then requested Damodar Ghanekar, a freelance journalist, who has filed a public interest litigation against Narvekar, to file a complaint before the commission. "why should I try an experiment with the commission when it has no punishing powers ? At the most it can hold the person guilty and refer the matter to the government for further action", feels Ghanekar.

Though it's a positive step in right direction, the Goa public men's corruption (investigations and inquiries) act is not perfect, admits Justice Couto. Stating that several lacunae have made the act little ineffective, he feels confident that suggestions pending before the government to amend the act would be accepted. But the irony is that even the commission has not asked for more powers rather than removing minor lacunae.

He has also suggested the government to specify competent authorities for few left-out public men, before whom they should file their returns. But despite specifying most of the competent authorities, the commission is totally in dark over who have filed their returns till the deadline which ended on 30 June.

In fact, while copying the Kerala act verbatim to set up the commission here, the Goa government however has skilfully avoided constitution of a separate competent authority before whom all public men have to file their returns.

The act also does not authorise the commission to take action if returns are not filed. Also, no machinery is available to know who has declared their assets before the competent authority, as the act does not provide to intimate it to the commission.






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