The government is going to give back law enforcement agencies the responsibility of investigating fraud cases filed by private citizens, a job the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has been doing since 2013 despite manpower shortages.
The cabinet yesterday approved a commission proposal for amending the ACC Act to relieve it of the task of probing cases over cheating and forgery if they do not involve government property and civil servants or government bank employees.
The ACC, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) and police hailed the cabinet decision, saying it would help people to get justice faster as such cases were piling in the ACC and people were not getting justice due to delay in investigation.
In 2013, the government amended the ACC law, empowering the commission to investigate forgery cases filed by the general public, until which time the police had been doing the job.
Following the amendment, the ACC received hundreds of cases. While it created a backlog of cases, the commission was struggling to investigate those with its limited resources.
Both the ACC and the law enforcement agencies were unhappy with the 2013 decision, but yesterday’s cabinet decision made them happy again, sources said.
In his reaction, ACC Chairman Md Badiuzzaman said, “We do not get time and cannot pay attention to investigate many important cases as our officers remain busy with private cases. For this reason, we wanted the job probing private cheating and forgery cases be given to police.”
Biplob Kumar Sarkar, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Tejgaon zone), their powers to investigate such cases were suddenly taken away and given to the ACC in 2013.
“We wanted this power back and suggested that the government do so. The cabinet approval to this end will help people get justice,” he said.
TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman termed the decision positive and said, “I welcome it.”
He added the previous decision created a backlog of cases in the ACC and also some “discontent” in both the commission and the police.
According to former ACC boss Ghulam Rahman there are logics in favour and against of the amendment proposal that the cabinet yesterday approved. When private citizens are affected by corruption of influential quarters like real estate and manpower sectors, they expect the ACC and the government to do something. This way, they don’t feel helpless against the powerful groups.
“Seen form this angle, it is logical to keep the provision [that empowers the ACC to probe such cases],” he said.
Changing this provision would engage the powerful quarters to indulge in corruption. But nevertheless it will help ease the backlog of cases in the ACC, he added.
Asked about Ghulam’s concern that private citizens might not get state assistance if the amendment is passed, DC Biplob Kumar said, “There are public prosecutors and assistant public prosecutors to fight for them in court.”
Briefing reporters after the meeting at the secretariat, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said following the 2013 amendment to the ACC law, the number of forgery cases by general public increased enormously, making the investigation and trial troublesome difficult.
So, the commission proposed exclusion of these sections from the law, he said.
All cheating and forgery cases filed by private citizens would be tried in judicial judge courts following the changes. This will ease ACC’s workload while the trial and investigation of other important ACC cases would see quick progress, he added.
However, the trial of cheating and forgery cases against government officials and state-run bank employees related to their official duties as well as those over cheating and forgery over government property would be held under the ACC Act.