CJI wants powers to judiciary to seize assets of corrupt officials

      Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan on Saturday pitched for the constitutional provision for seizure of illegal properties and assets of government officials convicted of corruption charges. Speaking in the national seminar on 'Fighting Crimes related to Corruption,' Balakrishnan said:"If a public official amasses wealth at the cost of public, then the state is justified in seizing such assets." "One prominent suggestion is the inclusion of a statutory remedy that will enable confiscation of properties belonging to persons who are convicted of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA)", he said. He opined that procedural delays like granting sanction and difficulty in marshalling large number of witnesses were the major hurdles in achieving meaningful convictions. Over 9,000 anti corruption cases are pending before various courts in the country due to lack of designated courts. "It is necessary that there should be a speedy manner of granting sanction. The prosecution becomes ineffective if the sanction is granted after six or seven years." Balakrishnan expressed concern over the dependence of the investigative agencies on collecting large number of witnesses in the corruption cases, instead of coming out with solid witnesses. "Instead of having eight to ten witnesses, emphasis should be on having one solid witness to prove the case," he suggested. He also expressed concern over the delay in grating the permission by the higher officials to prosecute the corruption charges of the lower officials. Stressing on the need for close co-ordination between investigating officers and prosecution lawyers, Balakrishnan suggested the creation of a specialized team of lawyers to ensure that they will progressively develop expertise in prosecuting corruption-related cases. "The real problem here is that investigating agency has been relying on government law officers and standing counsels to conduct the prosecutions where as there is a need for retaining a regular team of lawyers which will progressively develop expertise in prosecuting corruption-related cases," Balakrishnan said.

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