Goa government clips anti-graft judge's power; decision challenged

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Goa government clips anti-graft judge's power; decision challenged
Panaji, Oct 23: A senior anti-corruption judge's power to hear corruption-related cases has been suddenly clipped and divested two weeks after he made a critical observation against the police while deciding a graft case in which the Goa chief minister is an alleged accused, triggering a controversy here.

A notification issued by the state government last week divesting Judge P.V. Savaikar's power to hear anti-corruption cases and handing over the charge to a regular judge has now prompted the petitioner, Aires Rodrigues, a city-based activist lawyer, to send a legal notice to the state chief secretary seeking withdrawal of the "dubious" notification.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who also holds the law ministry portfolio, has, however, claimed that the instructions to divest the charge of the special Central Bureau of Investigation judge Savaikar had come from the judiciary and his law ministry had only issued the notification as a mere technicality.

Rodrigues had in his complaint to the police in 2012 accused the chief minister of allegedly violating procedures in the recruitment process of one Soniya Phadte, the latter's constituent, to a position in the state-run Provedoria department.

After the police refused to file a first information report (FIR) in the case where the chief minister was the alleged accused, Rodrigues moved the court under section 156 (iii) of the Criminal Procedure Code to seek judicial direction to the police to register an FIR, following which a preliminary inquiry was started by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

In the first week of October, while dismissing the petition, Savaikar also castigated the ACB for seeking an order from the office of the chief minister, who also oversees the vigilance department, vis-a-vis registration of FIR.

"The Investigating Officer or SP, ACB, ought not to have followed such a procedure as it amounts to taking opinion of an accused. The Investigating Agency shall take care not to follow such a procedure in future," Savaikar said in his order.

Rodrigues is in the process of appealing against the order and has alleged that the divestment of cases against Savaikar, who headed the special anti-corruption court, to a regular district court would only mean slow trial of graft cases.

"By transferring the corruption cases to an already much over-burdened Principal North Goa District Judge, all the corruption cases will now move at a snail's pace to the benefit of the corrupt," Rodrigues said, adding that the decision was against the directive of the Supreme Court, which had directed setting up Special CBI Courts to fast track corruption cases.

Parrikar has, however, rejected the allegations made by Rodrigues, saying that the government had nothing to do with the transfer of cases, claiming the order had come "from the judiciary" and that the state law department had subsequently issued the notification as a technicality.

Rodrigues claims in his legal notice to the chief secretary that the notification "is contrary to the much published mantra of zero tolerance to corruption and good governance with transparency and accountability".

The controversy comes in the midst of a series of allegations levelled by Parrikar against the judiciary in the recent past.

During a debate Monday in the assembly on the ratification of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, Parrikar accused the Bombay High Court of grabbing land in Goa and judges taking over bungalows in the state.

The chief minister has in the past also accused judicial officers of exceeding their brief, while questioning the quality of judges in the state.

IANS

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