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More power to the complainant: anonymity key

"During the investigations at his residence in Archie's Complex near Kalyan railway station, officials found that Mali owns five flats worth Rs 2.5 crore and two shops worth Rs 50 lakh in the same building. He also owns two flats worth Rs 80 lakh in nearby building Sunder Plaza and 80 acre land worth Rs 16 crore in Solapur," says a Mid-Day report on a corrupt government servant.

Guess who Mali, the government servant, is? An IAS officer? A senior bureaucrat? A senior functionary at a PSU?

No, it's a story about a police inspector.

How does he manage to get Rs 25 crore in bribes? That kind fortune cannot be amassed by backhanders for petty crimes like robbery or pocket-picking or pimping or prostitution, surely.

 More power to the complainant: anonymity key

Representative image. Complainants are unsure if they would be harassed for lodging an FIR. Reuters

"According to sources Mali accumulated assets by extorting money from people, who invested in Sai Corporation's disputed building near Adharwadi jail. After Mali learnt that the builder had sold one flat to several people, he started to call those investors to the police station, along with their documents, and threatened to arrest them claiming that their documents were fake. He demanded bribes ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh from the investors to not arrest them,” says the Mid-Day report.

This is where we're foxed. Why didn't these investors complain to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) or approach news media for help? Or, indeed, the courts?

Especially when the report suggests that many of these investors seem to have been duped earlier by this amazing builder who 'sold one flat to several people'.

So first they get cheated by a builder and then pay bribes to a cop?

The victims have all lost the money they spent on the flats they did not get, and after that, sums between Rs 50,000 and Rs 5 lakh, which they paid to the inspector. This is not small change.

Some of them must have thought, briefly, of approaching the authorities for help – and something stopped them. Is it the lack of confidence that they would be safe and secure – and that their families would be safe and secure – if they made a complaint or lodged an FIR?

Lodging a complaint in a situation like this must be the first thing that strikes a common man, unless, of course, the victims are not common people and have, themselves, broken a law, a crime that would be impossible to hide once a complaint is lodged.

This is an instance of one policeman, and the Rs 25 crore is the sum extorted from investors in just one building in Kalyan. Are there more such – inspectors and buildings? There must be. The authorities must see this incident as a warning, and devise a mechanism by which victims can complain anonymously, without fear that a complaint could get them out of the frying pan and into the fire. Unless there is trust, anonymity is important.

Currently, if one wants to complain, these are the details that a complainant has to furnish to the ACB: Name, contact number, nature of transaction/business/ work with the public servant, purpose/ motive for demand of bribe and the quantum of bribe demanded.

In addition, "The Complainant/Victim will have to come to the ACB office in person and participate in the trap operation to be carried out by the ACB," says the ACB website.

The ACB needs to make this procedure simple and anonymous for those who are harassed and threatened. And there must be many. If such a mechanism was available, perhaps Mali would have been caught before he amassed such a fortune – and many victims would be sleeping better.

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Updated Date: Dec 08, 2011 12:06:35 IST