Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

The Odisha vigilance department's onslaught against corrupt government officials seemed to have sent chills down the spine of dishonest servants. 

Be it the high profile arrest of crorepati Additional District Magistrate (ADM) of Sundargarh, Biswajit Mohapatra or Sambalpur Chief Electrical Engineer Sunil Kumar Panda, many government officials from top Class-I rank to bottom, have landed in vigilance net on charges of amassing property assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.

On Thursday, the Vigilance sleuths arrested Sukant Jena, a Gynaecologist posted at the Chari Chhak community health centre (CHC) in Puri district, who was caught red-handed while accepting bribes amounting to Rs 8000. He was arrested following the recovery of Rs 1.13 crore cash from his residence during a raid.  

The sleuths of Vigilance were also left stunned after unearthing the DA case of Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Trinath Mishra. The valuation of the assets found from Mishra and his family members are worth over Rs 11 crore.    

Notably, State vigilance department has already registered 31 cases from the beginning of 2022 till now under the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018, and arrested more than 20 government employees. 

However, while the anti-corruption agency claims unearthing crores worth of black money from the government officials, questions have been raised against poor conviction rate in its cases. 

The trend of low conviction rate for the past few years also points towards the influence wielded by the babus which help them slip due to lack of evidence despite having amassed huge piles of illicit wealth during their term of service.

As per the government records, of 353 cases of corruption against government officials in 2019, conviction was achieved in only 48% cases. Similarly, in 2020, of total 245 cases, 46% were found guilty while in 2021, of 267 cases, only 43% were convicted. 

The contradiction between Vigilance's success in nabbing corrupt officials and the poor conviction rate has raised many questions. 

Sourachandra Mohapatra, Senior Advocate points to a crucial factor on why crackdowns don't seem to act as a deterrent against corruption. 

"Conviction is the most crucial aspect that can drastically bring down the levels of corruption. If the conviction rate increases, the corrupt officials will refrain from such acts and fear the law," says Mohapatra.