Corruption seems ruling in Odisha. The rates of bribe money quoted by crooked babus of the State government indicate the rot in the service delivery mechanism of the State. There seems no fear among the corrupt State officials which is evidenced by the bribe money demand of as measly as Rs 2000.
The unearthing of the mushrooming under-the-table operations in the State by Odisha Vigilance gives a thumbs up to the comments made by former CVC N Vittal."Corruption is a low risk, high-profit business," observed Vittal.
No Fear Of Law?
There seems to be no fear of law among the shady babus in the State. As if doing an auction of the public services or putting govt jobs on sale, the fact is a majority of the pecuniary demands (Rs 2000 -Rs 3500) come from districts like Puri and Khordha, including the State Capital.
After all, why would one take 'high risk' for such a small amount of slush money?
This is so, when taking a cue from PM Narendra Modi, CM Naveen Patnaik has already dismissed 113 public servants from service on charges of corrupt practices and dealings since 2019.
The crooked seems apparently giving two hoots to the punitive action undertaken by the CM. The number of trap cases by the Odisha Vigilance in the last three months just gives the reality check.
- The anti-graft agency had trapped five State government officials red-handed taking bribe money in the last 11-days.
- The numbers are not an aberration. In September this year, the anti-graft agency of the State had trapped 8 public servants. In October, the trap cases stood at 5, despite a month of most RHs (religious holidays).
2010 Vs 2021
The 'no fear' syndrome among the public servant is well evidenced from the fact that when the number of trap cases registered by Odisha vigilance in 2009 was 123, the numbers stood at 103 in 2020 (despite a pandemic-hit year, where most govt offices remained paralysed for nearly 90 days).
In the year 2021, the State Vigilance has to date filed around 90 trap cases, despite the 60-days lockdown period in the State.
Moreover, when the State's top anti-corruption agency had registered 83 DA cases in 2010, the numbers in 2020 stood at 93. In the last 3-months of the year 2021, 12 DA cases had been filed by the State Vigilance.
The above comparison shows the unflinching tendency of Odisha State government babus to fall for illicit money.
Why Odisha Babus Fall For Hush Money?
When in the decade of 2001-2010, the graft cases were up in Odisha from 316 to 437, the cases dropped to 353 in 2019 and 245 in 2020.
Even after less registration of cases, the number of graft cases pending for trial in the State has zoomed to 3463 in 2020 from 2727 in 2010.
This year conviction sentences handed down by special Vigilance courts were on cases dating to as far as 2006 and 2009. As per data analysis, around one-third of the cases have been pending for over 10-years in the State for trial. Nearly 1-2 percent of cases have been on trial for over 2-decades.
Such a long trial stage in graft cases is not good for proving a corrupt public servant guilty. For which, the conviction rate in trap cases is around 60 percent during the period, the data reveals.
Moreover, the conviction rate which was 53 percent in 2009 has dropped to 50 percent in 2020.
Data analysis of sentences handed down to corrupt babus in Odisha reveals that in nearly 94 percent of cases, the prison term has been 1-year only. In another 5.7 percent of cases, the prison term is only 2-years. And in less than 1 percent of cases, the prison term awarded has been 3-years.
Punishment Under PCA-1988?
A look at the Offences and Penalties section of PCA 1988 indicates the following.
- Whoever, being, or expecting to be a public servant, accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gratification whatever, other than legal remuneration, as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act or for showing or forbearing to show, in the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavour to any person or for rendering or attempting to render any service or disservice to any person, with the Central Government or any State Government or Parliament or the Legislature of any State or with any local authority, corporation or Government company referred to in clause (c) of section 2, or with any public servant, whether named or otherwise, shall be punishable with imprisonment which shall be not less than three years but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
- When the Act mandates not less than 3-year imprisonment, nearly 99 percent of convicts in Odisha get away with less than 3-year punishment.
As per senior advocate Nishikant Mahapatra, nearly 95 percent of convicted corrupt govt officials never undergo jail terms.
"Since the punishment awarded is below 3-years, they are entitled to secure bail if they go for higher appeal. Over the years, it had been observed that at least 95 percent of convicted public servants live in the comforts of their homes on the plea of going for appeal in higher courts. In such a scenario, how can a law prove a deterrent," he questioned.