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Spare The Innocent

The Central Vigilance Commissioner, while addressing a recent SBI conclave said that just about 50% of the cases recommended by the investigation agencies like CBI are prosecuted. The rest of the cases may not result in prosecution proceedings, but the fact is that in all cases, individuals are subjected to intense interrogation by these criminal agencies, which not  only leaves a permanent taint on their careers, but also an indelible stigma in their social lives. What the CVC did not further mention is that a mere fraction of individuals against whom criminal charges were filed by the likes of CBI, SFIO etc., were finally convicted by courts. Those who were found innocent and acquitted, however undergo untold agony and legal costs for many years, before they are declared innocent. They may have been finally acquitted by the court, but that does not make good the misery faced by them and their family for many years. The acquittal of an innocent who was hounded by agencies and was shunned by his employers and society, does not compensate him for his agony and precious years lost in stress and anxiety.

If the rate of prosecution is merely 50% and the conviction by courts is a mere fraction thereof, then there is something seriously wrong with the way white collar crimes are investigated in India. Courts acquit the accused if the charges filed are speculative and frivolous, or if charges are not supported by convincing and cogent evidence. With courts declaring conviction only in a fraction of cases, it means that either the agencies are vindictive or are suspicion driven, or that they are incompetent/illequipped to investigate white collar crimes. It could also be that the investigation agencies, in order to hide their negligence/incompetence, take the most convenient route ie. simply round up one and all and let the courts decide thereafter. This results in the most unfair allegations and harassment/prosecution of the innocents. Moreover, if the agencies are illequipped and ill trained, then while the innocents are finally acquitted, the guilty apparently go scot free, for want of evidence and also the application of due process of law. That is bad for the nation, since criminals go scot free and merrily continue their tale of crime.

The recent spate of banking frauds have not been easy to investigate. They need the collective trained eyes of diverse experts in banking, accounting, FEMA, taxation, capital markets and crime, so as to unravel the frauds and gather evidence that meets the approval of courts. The agencies like CBI, lack such expertise. They must either recruit such experts or simply outsource the investigation to competent consultants. The CBI has recently announced that it intends to recruit such experts, to bolster its investigation. That should help to nail the criminals and spare the innocent at the very inception, instead of subjecting them to the long agony and torture of investigation and courts.

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