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It is the responsibility of the Anti-Corruption Commission to take to trial persons accused of corruption. It was the general expectation that this institution would carry out its duties independently and without partiality, resulting in a curb in corruption. However, very little of that expectation has been fulfilled. The ACC has been noticeably selective in its actions against the accused. Many politically influential persons and otherwise powerful persons simply remain out of the ACC reach. That major reason behind this is the government's unwarranted intervention that often remains invisible to the public eye. But it is, at times, quite blatant too.

Such intervention came to notice recently in a verdict of the Supreme Court which was published in the media. In a report of the Daily Star published on 14 January, it was pointed out that the High Court had termed the government's interference in ACC's activities as "naked interference."

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It was about a corruption case of 2007 against Abul Kasem, the chairman of Bardal Uttar-4 union of Tahirpur upazila in Sunamganj, Sylhet. He had been accused of filching corrugated tin of the relief material for the local people. In 2011, during the rule of the Awami League, the home ministry had recommended that this case, among several others, be withdrawn. In 2012 the Sylhet court dropped the case. In 2014 ACC appealed to the High Court against the Sylhet court's order.

On 10 December, the High Court bench of justice Enayetur Rahim and justice Mustafizur Rahman gave its verdict in the appeal case and this was made available on Thursday. It said that the government's attempt to withdraw the case was 'naked interference' into the activities of an independent commission like ACC. After all, Section 3 (2) of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004 clearly stated that the Anti-Corruption Commission was an independent and impartial institution.

If the uncontrolled corruption in the country is to be reined in, even to a minimum extent, ACC must act independently and impartially. Rather than interfere, the government should extend all cooperation possible

If ACC files a case against anyone and proceeds with the case, the government has no authority to withdraw or recommend withdrawal of the case. The government can, of course, make such a recommendation to ACC, but it is entirely up to ACC whether to follow that recommendation or not. The government has nothing to do in the matter. But in the Tahirpur case, that is exactly what the government attempted to do.

The High Court's remark regarding the government's interference in ACC's activities is certainly significant. We hope the government pays due attention to this and refrains from such interventions. If the uncontrolled corruption in the country is to be reined in, even to a minimum extent, ACC must act independently and impartially. Rather than interfere, the government should extend all cooperation possible.

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