In a bid to curb corruption among public servants, the Maharashtra government on 27th March, 2018, introduced ‘Maharashtra Confiscation of Disproportionate Property (of Public Servants) Act, 2018’ bill in State Legislative Assembly proposing confiscation of assets if they are found to be in excess of 50 per cent of the known sources of income of such corrupt officials or are worth Rs 10 lakh and property of a public servant who has committed the offence of criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
At present, the Prevention of Corruption Act provides for appointment of special judges to try the offences punishable under the said Act.
Properties of public servants disproportionate to their known sources of income will now not only be attached but also confiscated. Currently the attached assets continue to be in the custody of the public servant and she/he can enjoy the property and its relevant benefits up to the end of all court proceedings.
The action is to be taken on the basis of a report from the Director General, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Maharashtra state, duly approved by the committee under the chairmanship of additional chief secretary, Home department along with Director General, Anti-Corruption Bureau and secretary of the concerned department.
“Any public servant who commits the offence (of corruption) and has assets in excess of 50 per cent of his/her known sources of income or Rs 10 lakh whichever is more; the state government may authorise the officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police for making an application to designated court for confiscation of the money and property of such public servant,” stated the Maharashtra Confiscation of Disproportionate Property (of public servants) Act 2018 which was tabled by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Girish Bapat.
“The Criminal Law Ordinance 1944, provides for attachment of property of the scheduled offences including certain offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. As per the provisions of the said Criminal Law Ordinance, the assets are only attached and cannot be confiscated,” it stated.
The application for confiscation is to be made by a police officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police before the designated court. The court will serve a notice to the public servant to explain the source of income, earnings, or assets by means of which money or property has been acquired.
The draft law also proposes to constitute a designated court to initiate the proceeding of confiscation of assets which will separate from the trial of the offence.
A public notice shall be issued detailing the properties to be confiscated. Any person can make an application before the court specifying her/his interest in such property. On receipt of an application for confiscation, the court shall serve a notice upon the Registrar in whose jurisdiction the property is situated. Thereafter, the registrar shall not register or transfer the property.
The bill stipulates a time limit for speedy disposal of cases and refund of the confiscated money or property if the person concerned is acquitted.