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Corruption: A Menace In India

Everyone censures corruption at a societal stage but that does not mean that anyone has escaped from the flu of corruption. It is not an infection in one country. People worldwide are involved in the act of corruption. India is no exception to it. Corruption in India has even crossed the alarming stage. From the officials of the highest rank to a peon everyone is corrupt.

It is a term known to all of us precisely meaning an illegal, immoral or unauthorized act done in due course of employment. But literally it means "Inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by committing a felony)".

Corruption is a termite in every system. Once it enters the system, it goes on increasing. Today it is rampant and has gradually become routine. Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion US dollars annually.

This shows how big a problem is corruption. It is indeed the biggest challenge in front of any government because the system itself is handicapped as its own employees are slaves of another. In the author's view view corruption is the root cause of all other problems that a country faces. Let us look at it with reference to India. Many big problems such as poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, pollution, external threats, underdevelopment etc. are posed in front of the Indian government. But having a glimpse at all these problems faced by India, one might notice that corruption plays an important role in making these problems even bigger. India is still facing poverty due to corruption. The government and its employees all are corrupt so the schemes floated by the government for the betterment of poor are not properly implemented and just because corruption comes into play the grant advanced to the poor does not reach them and they remain the same and so does the problem of poverty. The same principle applies to the problem of external threats. India’s neighbouring countries are also a threat to the country and its sovereignty. Because of the officials or even citizens being corrupt either for their personal gain or enmity towards their home country the neighbors prove to be even more dangerous. Such officials may leak important information to the neighbours which gives them an upper hand. The same was hinted post 26/11 attack in India. According to the sources the attack couldn’t have been possible without the help of the insiders.

Corruption is not just limited to administration. It is very much prevalent even in legislation and judiciary so much so that it is probably the biggest challenge and needs to be eradicated from its grass root. For the same purpose the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 has been enacted.

This Act incorporated the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952, and sec. 161 to 165-A of the Indian Penal Code. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, thereby widened the coverage, strengthened the provisions and made them more effective.

This Act in particular defines the act of bribery, prescribes its punishment and also deals with the intricacies of law such as appointment of special judges, their powers, summarily triable cases etc.

The Act describes, defines, discriminates different forms and stages of corruption and prescribes punishment for the same. Under Section 7 of the Act, any public servant expecting or accepting any gratification other than his legal remuneration from any person to favour or disfavour or service or disservice any other person shall be punishable with imprisonment not less than 6 months but may extend to 5 years and also with fine.

Section 8 deals with the cases of public servants accepting gratification by illegal means to influence public servant. The same provision prescribes punishment up to 5 years imprisonment and fine. The maximum punishment prescribed under the Act is up to seven years imprisonment and fine under Section 14 that deals with those habitual of getting involved in the act of corruption in one or the other way. Under this provision any public servant committing an act of:-
1. Accepting gratification by illegal means to influence public servant as dealt with under Section 8 or
2. Taking gratification for exercise of personal influence as dealt under Section 9 or
3. Act of abetment of an offence under sections 7 or 11 as prescribed under Section 12 is punishable with the punishment prescribed.

The Act has been very well enacted to see to it that the conviction rate should not be very less due to legal intricacies coming in the way of justice. Though a good enough legal process is set up to flee fake cases. For instance Section 19(1) requires previous sanction of the employing authority for a case under this Act. But clause (3) of the same provision states that any order passed by a special judge may not be reversed or set aside due to any error or omission of such sanction. The anti- corruption law is made more stringent by the insertion of section 24. This section states that any statement given by the bribe giver should not subject him to any prosecution. The existence of this section ensures the bribe giver that any statement made by him regarding giving bribe to any public servant is not going to lead him in any legal trouble. This provision is therefore inserted to see to it that absence of such statements by bribe givers which are conclusive evidences does not lead to acquittal in such cases.

But still the conviction rate in corruption cases is very less. Therefore in my view the Swedish concept of Ombudsman be incorporated in Indian system. The same was recommended by M.C. Setalvad, Former Attorney General of India way back in 1962. So, an Administrative Reforms Commission under the Chairmanship of Morarji Desai was set up to investigate and recommend enshrining the concept of Ombudsman in India. The commission placed definite suggestion before the govt. in its interim report in October. 1966. The commission recommended 2 categories of Ombudsman for India: a Lokpal to investigate actions of ministers and secretaries and one or more Lokayuktas to investigate the actions of officials below the rank of secretaries. The recommendation of the commission was accepted by the Govt. and a Bill providing for Ombudsman was introduced in Loksabha in May 1968. The Bill was known as "The Lokpal and Lokyuktas, 1968”. More than four decades have passed but still the Indian Parliament has not passed a Central Legislation regarding this. This shows lack of political will to eradicate corruption from its roots from Indian system. But some Indian states namely Orissa, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh are some amongst many to pass the Lokpal bill as a state legislation. But due to absence of a Central Legislation the State Legislations could not make this law more stringent. For the same reason a Lokpal is not vested with many powers and hence unable to act effectively.

Corruption is a big reason to worry for the Indian government. The Act is technically drafted in a beautiful way, but it has not effectively come to the aid of the government to curb corruption. So the punishment prescribed in the Act shall be much stricter to deter the intending violators.

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