For civil servants in Bihar, 2006-07 were golden years. Nitish Kumar had been newly installed as Chief Minister and he was determined to get the bureaucracy to become a political force multiplier and get it to – well, just do its job.
Anil Kumar Sinha, then Additional Director General of Police, Headquarters (ADGP Hq) was one such officer, picked by Nitish Kumar to help him clean out the Augean stables. Eight months after he became Chief Minister, Kumar ordered an FIR against an MLA from his own party, the Janata Dal United.
Anant Singh, MLA from Mokama, along with a band of men all bearing guns, had been trying to get owners of shops on Patna’s posh Fraser Road to vacate their premises: the original owner of the plot and his wife had both died without heirs and Singh thought this was a good time to write the land down as his. He let owners of shops on the plot know that he had already bought small lots and advised them in their own interest to sell to him. The gunmen just stood by while he spoke, guns hanging loosely from their arms.
Nitish Kumar had pledged to bring down exactly these kind of men. It fell to Sinha to motivate, threaten and persuade policemen in the Kotwali police station to file a complaint against Singh.
Those who know Bihar politics and society alone can appreciate that this is easier said than done. Sinha got an FIR registered but policemen would go to Anant Singh’s house in Patna, not find him, paste a notice and return. He couldn’t be found anywhere, although reporters could find him without any difficulty and he addressed press conferences freely! Speaking to Business Standard in 2007, Sinha pledged he would get the job done.
A lot has happened since then. Anant Singh was found and last heard, another couple of charges of extortion had been registered against him. Sinha meanwhile moved to Delhi in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). He has now been appointed Director of an organization that is currently everybody’s favourite whipping boy.
In 2006, he, along with then Advocate General of Bihar PK Shahi, hit upon the simple stratagem of ridding Bihar of gun-raaj by invoking the Arms Act. All that is needed to put a gunslinger behind bars under the provisions of this act is the testimony of a sub-inspector. Sinha would get the local police to give testimony and Shahi would prosecute in fast track courts. Between them they put thousands of men with illegal arms in jail.
Later, Sinha got investigations into the 1989 Bhagalpur riots in which more than 2000 people died, reopened. 27 cases were reopened after it found that despite solid evidence against the accused in the police complaints, they were let off. It was a shocking travesty of justice. Sinha built up the case.
He was moved to Bihar’s vigilance department. Around this time, Nitish Kumar was anxious to put an end to rent seeking in contracts and jobs. He found that every time the government moved against officers whose assets were disproportionate to their income, they would move court and the case would drag on and on.
It was Anil Sinha’s idea to set up special courts for corrupt officials. The most significant aspect of the special courts was that the immovable assets of persons being tried in these courts could be seized during the pendency of the trial.
The Special Court Bill was passed by the state Assembly in March 2009. The President gave her assent to the bill in January 2010. In 2010, the home of one of the officials found to have assets disproportionate to his income was seized by the state government and turned into a school. Nitish Kumar won the 2010 election on the back of this legislation.
“We badly needed this legislation to weed out corruption from government offices. Over the years, the vigilance bureau had laid nearly 300 traps, which led to unearthing of investments and property worth hundreds of crores. But we could not confiscate this. The new law will help set up designated courts for speedy and effective trail of corrupt babus. We can pray to the court for confiscation of property, which was not the case earlier. Of course, if the judgment goes in favour of the accused, the government will have to return the property and money with interest,” Sinha had told Business Standard in 2010.
But as is inevitable in Bihar, caste politics intervened. Sinha moved out of Patna to join the Central Vigilance Commission and Abhayanand became Bihar’s top cop. He later moved to the CBI as Ranjit Sinha’s second in command.
Sinha’s greatest quality is that he is afraid of no one but the Constitution of India and the law.
There may be officers more brilliant than him and probably many who are more dashing. But Sinha brings with him a solid earthy dedication to the job – which hopefully, will let the sunlight pour in to India’s premier investigation organization.