Even as the Odisha Vigilance claimed of registering 93 DA (disproportion assets) cases, including the high profile Abhay Pathak - Pradeep Panigrahi case, in the Covid-19 hit year, the big fact to fore is for the first time in Odisha's anti-corruption crusade history, the lowest ever cases were registered under the prevention of corruption act (PCA) in the State.
As per the NCRB report, Odisha Vigilance had registered only 245 cases in 2020. The earlier lowest tally was 285 cases in 2004.
Fear In Crooks?
A detailed glance at the data shows, the crooked babus in Odisha have only become a little alert. The data shows trap cases by Odisha Vigilance had posted a sharp slide in recent years. The total trap cases in 2018 were 182. The tally in 2020 stood at 103.
But a rise in registration of DA cases tells the real story. After all why a Sarkari babu would fear the law, when data with the Vigilance for the period 2001-2020 shows that there is only a fifty per cent chance of getting convicted for looting public money.
In 2017, the conviction rate was 47 per cent. The rate in 2018 was 51 per cent. In 2019, the rate dropped again to 48.6 per cent. The rate limped back to 50 per cent in 2020.
The above data shows that for nearly half of the accused, there is a fair chance to achieve an acquittal in the court of law.
In contrast, the conviction rate in Tamil Nadu improved from around 63 per cent in 2019 to nearly 72 per cent in 2020.
Why Jail Or Acquittal 50-50?
As per NCRB data, of every 100 corruption cases registered, only 2 reach the trial stage. And in any crime delay in a trial means a gateway to escape the noose.
Consider the data. Including pending cases from previous years, the total cases under investigation under PCA stood at 1738. The State Vigilance could file charge sheets in only 153 cases. The charge sheeting rate is just around 9 per cent (8.8%).
"Poor charge-sheeting rate indicates the vulnerability of prolonged or say delayed investigation, which in a way lends a long rope to the accused (who are generally influential in power corridors) to tamper with and manage themselves wriggle out of the PCA mess with a clean slate. This is the reason behind a 50-50 chance of jail or acquittal," rued a former Vigilance DG.
Is Fight Against Corruption Serious?
"Real-time trials require vigilance courts in proportion to the cases filed, remarked a senior IPS officer. Moreover, for speedy investigation, the anti-graft body needs adequate manpower, which is grossly lacking in the State. And the decline in the number of PCA cases in the State for two consecutive years hints very big," quipped the senior officer.