Himachal tightens laws against corruption

September 2nd, 2011 - 11:15 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Sep 2 (IANS) With the national outcry against corruption, Himachal Pradesh has been quick to make laws that aims to check misappropriation of public money and assets and ensure timely delivery of services to the public. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal says the laws were required to nail corrupt officials and make them accountable to the people.

“The existing laws were inadequate. We have reports that some public servants have acquired vast properties, disproportionate to their known sources of income,” Dhumal told IANS in an interview.

“The new legislation will enable speedy trial and confiscation of ill-gotten money and property,” he added.

The state assembly, during its eight-day monsoon session that adjourned sine die earlier this week, passed the Himachal Pradesh Special Courts (Attachment and Confiscation of Property) Bill and the Himachal Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Bill.

The former aims to provide speedy trial in corruption cases and for confiscation of ill-gotten money and property of the public servants while the latter will ensure time-bound delivery of services to the public.

Dhumal said now special courts would be set up to dispose of the trial within a year’s time and appeal against the orders would lie only with the high court.

“The special courts will be headed by a district and sessions judge or additional district and sessions judge. The confiscated ill-gotten movable and immovable assets would be put to use for public purposes,” he added.

According to the Himachal Pradesh Special Courts (Attachment and Confiscation of Property) Bill passed in the assembly Aug 30: “If the government is convinced that, prima facie, a public servant has amassed wealth and properties by corrupt practices, an application can be made to the special court.”

“If the offence is proved, the authorised officer will serve a 15-day notice on the public servant concerned, asking him to explain why all or any such property should not be confiscated,” it added.

Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have already implemented a law to confiscate properties of corrupt officials.

According to Dhumal, the Public Services Guarantee Bill would help checking growing inefficiencies in public services like issue of ration cards, birth/death certificates, etc, and penalise officials in case of delay.

He said now there would be a provision under the legislation for imposing a penalty of Rs.1,000 and the amount could go up to a maximum of Rs.5,000 if the official concerned fails to deliver the service within a time frame.

The penalty would be borne by the erring officer.

Interestingly, the state has at least 23 tainted government officials, including Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Sanjay Gupta, two Himachal Administrative Services officers, additional superintendent of police-rank officer Mohinder Singh and former drug controller Sher Singh.

This fact came to light in a reply filed by the chief secretary recently in the Himachal Pradesh High Court in a case, which is still pending, related to postings of tainted officials occupying crucial posts.

In the case, the high court again pulled up the government Aug 18 for its tardiness in granting sanction to prosecute corrupt officials.

A division bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rajiv Sharma directed the chief secretary to depute an officer, not below the rank of under-secretary, to take a decision on priority regarding sanction for prosecution of tainted officials.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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