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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
 
  May 2016
 
  April 2016
 
 
 
 
LEGAL ARTICLE
A SLIPPERY SLOPE
Joginder Singh

The extent of corruption and bribery, which is a major problem in our country, is well known all over the world. A 2005 study done by Transparency International (TI) in India found that more than 50% of the people had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office. Transparency International estimates that truckers pay annually US$5 billion in bribes. For 2010, India has been ranked 87th out of 178 most corrupt countries in the world with an integrity score of 3.3 out of 10 as against the 3.5 score and 79th rank as the most corrupt country in 2009.

Simply put corruption is an act done with an intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. It includes bribery, without which nothing moves, even according to our Apex Court. Transparency International's (TI) Global Corruption Report 2009 reveals the extent of bribery, price-fixing cartels and undue influence on public policy. Corruption undermines fair competition, stifles economic growth and ultimately undercuts a business's own existence.

About half of international business executives polled by TI estimated that corruption escalated project costs by at least 10 per cent., and in some cases much more.

The report also reveals that consumers around the world were overcharged approximately $300 billion through almost 300 private international cartels from 1990 to 2005.

In developing countries alone, companies colluding with corrupt politicians and government officials have supplied bribes estimated at up to $40 billion annually. Corruption has not only become unchecked and uncontrolled, but has also increased, whether it be the Commonwealth Games, 2 G Scandal or the latest, Adarsh Housing Scam, involving the top army brass of the country.

Those wanting to do business with India, willingly or unwillingly have to bribe Indians by jacking up prices at the cost of National Exchequer. It has to be clearly understood that no businessman whether an Indian or a Foreigner pays any bribe unless he or she makes enough money out of the contract to pay for it.

Take, for instance, the latest reported scam, wherein The Central Bureau of Investigation has found evidence that Rs. 100 crore had been allegedly paid as kickbacks by a Russian firm, Techno Prom Export or TPE, to secure a Rs. 2066 crore power contract. The 2005 contract was for the supply of power equipment to NTPC's 1,980 mega watt supercritical thermal power project in Barh, Bihar.

It appears that nothing moves without bribing those who are in a position to do favours. In another case, a charge sheet filed by the CBI, on the basis of information furnished by the US authorities to the Indian Government in response to a letter rogatory, reveals that a senior Central Government official and his aides were bribed $32,000 in cash and jewellery while their travel and hotel expenses were also picked up by a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, which took over the Union Carbide company after the 1984 Bhopal gas leak tragedy, to push its sub-standard pesticides in the Indian market.

The Dow scam was unearthed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2007. It had also fined Dow Chemicals $325,000 for bribing the officials in India to fast-track permission to sell their pesticide brands that are banned in the US and many other countries.

The SEC, in a "cease and desist" order to Dow on February 13, 2007, charged the company with violations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for letting a subsidiary use funds for illegal activities in a foreign country. The order was passed after Dow voluntarily approached Commission staff with the results of an internal investigation of DE-Nocil. The SEC had simultaneously filed a complaint in the United States district court for the District of Columbia against Dow, alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act. Dow then agreed to pay a civil penalty of $325,000 which the SEC accepted.

The American Ambassador to India had brought to the notice of the Prime Minister in May, 2010, the details of US-based firms who had paid bribes to officials in the Indian Navy, Railways, Maharashtra State Electricity Board and other Government agencies, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Anti-Corruption Enforcement for the second half of 2008 and early part of 2009. There are several references in the report to illegal payments having been made to officials in India.

Not only this State of Affairs has brought disrepute and disesteem to our standing in the comity of Nations. Part of the problem lies with our Governments. The whole world has changed the outmoded, outdated, obsolete, and archaic laws on all subjects, including corruption. But we are still sticking to them.

Such is the situation that no centralised list of cases of corruption all over the country is available, or the time frame to dispose them or their disposal rate, except in the case of CBI, which handles about 1200 to 1300 cases every year.

Indeed corruption and scams, which are following one after the other with rapidity, are the signs of misgovernance. Cumbersome, exhausting procedures and rules are the causes of corruption, which despite proclamations of zero tolerance to corruption remain unchanged .

The unfriendly and time consuming system leads to the complainants and witnesses losing interest in the case. In fact, if a person helps in laying trap for catching the corrupt, his money is locked up for years together, till the case is decided in the court. It is on the specious ground, that it is a part of the evidence. The complainant faces double jeopardy, that of harassment at the hands of the system, and spending his own money, which he may not get back for years, for bettering the administration.

In the normal course, nobody would complain against the high and mighty, whether in bureaucracy or politics. Most people take the route of sending anonymous complaints, which, as per the present dispensation, are discarded and are not taken note of. Only the reckless, when pushed against the wall lodge complaints, because at present there is no whistle blower or witness protection law in force.

The Government could blow up Rs. 70,000 crores on Scam tainted Commonwealth Games of 11 days ( 3rd October-14th October, 2010), but it puts forward the excuse of lack of funds for improving the criminal justice system, which is going to cost not even 30% of what it spent in blowing up for an 11 days show.

A report of 2006-2007 shows that in the previous three years food grain worth Rs. 31,500 crore was siphoned off from the public distribution system (PDS), making it to become a statesponsored munificence and generosity for black marketeers, corrupt babus, ration shop owners and others.

Of the seven North-Eastern States, not a single grain of wheat supplied to Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Assam reached the targeted poor. Arunachal Pradesh can claim to be a little less corrupt as 96.2% of its PDS wheat got diverted.

Manipur took the cake as 97.7% of its rice allocation was also siphoned off, with Nagaland following close behind at 88.6% of rice being diverted. In 2006-07, Rs. 3,289.71 crore worth of rice and wheat was stolen in UP. The corresponding figure in West Bengal was Rs. 1,913.76 crore and in MP, Rs. 1,038.69 crore.

Corruption has become free for all. Government must wake up as the accomplice to corruption is indifference. It must make it easier to do the right and difficult to do the wrong, by overhauling the system, changing the laws. It should show its will in deeds, and not in words.

 
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