Corruption Among Government Officials and Legal Remedies

Reading time : 12 minutes

Abstract:

Corruption is not a new phenomenon; most people are aware of this. It is a poison that has been present since ancient times. It has a wide range of shapes as well as numerous different impacts, both on the economy and the general public. The most well-known reasons for corruption are the political and financial environment, unethical morals and, obviously, custom and demography. Corruption subsequently hinders monetary development and influences business activities, work and ventures. It likewise diminishes tax revenue and the adequacy of different monetary aid programs. Society is affected by a serious level of corruption as it leads to the bringing down of trust in the law and order, training, and therefore the personal satisfaction. It corrupts the human beings and causes the destruction of one’s humanity. There is not one field left where corruption has not planted its roots. It helps those in power to toy with the lives of those who are weak. It plays with the public life and puts it at risk. In this paper the main focus will be on the corruption activities that occur in government officials done by the public servants, the cause and effect of corruption, and lastly the legal remedies that have been provided to reduce corruption and punish the culprits.

Keywords: corruption, government, public servant, bribes, laws.

Introduction:

Before going into the detail of causes and effects of corruption we need to first know what is the meaning of corruption, where he word corruption comes from. It is derived from the Latin word “corruptus,” which means “corrupted” and, in legal terms, “the abuse of a trusted position in one of the branches of power (executive, legislative and judicial) or in political or other organizations with the intention of obtaining material benefit which is not legally justified for itself or for others”.[1]

Corruption can be defined as “the use of public office for private gain, or in other words, use of official position, rank or status by an office bearer for his own personal benefit. Following from this definition, examples of corrupt behaviour would include: (a) bribery, (b) extortion, (c) fraud, (d) embezzlement, (e) nepotism, (f) cronyism, (g) appropriation of public assets and property for private use, and (h) influence peddling.”[2]

In the case of Secretary Jaipur Development Authority v. Daulat Mal Jain[3] the court defined corruption as “when satisfaction sought in the performance of duties is for mutual personal gain, the misuse is usually termed as ‘corruption”.

In High Court of Judicature at Bombay v. Shirishkumar Rangrao Patil[4] the court observed that “corruption thy name is depraved and degraded conduct. In the widest connotation, ‘corruption’ includes improper or selfish exercise of power and influence attached to a public office.”

Corruption can be divided into three categories. They are grand, petty and political corruption, and it depends on the sector where it occurred and the sums of money that were lost.

Grand corruption comprises acts that are done at the high levels of the government which causes distortion of the policies or the focal working of the state, empowering the leaders to profit to the detriment of the public great.

Petty corruption alludes to regular maltreatment of the delegated power by low-and mid-level public authorities in their exchange with normal residents, who frequently are attempting to get to essential goods or administrations in places like medical clinics, schools, police offices, and different offices.

Political corruption is control of policies, establishments and rules of methodology in the apportionment of assets and financing by political chiefs, who misuse their situation to support their influence, status and wealth.

Main causes of corruption in India:

There are various factors that affect the growth and spread of corruption in a country. It can range from lack of moral values to lack of proper structure of governance in the country. The main factor is the very nature of a person. Individuals, by and large, have an extraordinary hunger for extravagances and solaces and because of which they get themselves engaged with all corrupt exercises that leads to financial or material advantages. Good and moral qualities are not given the most extreme significance in the educational framework, which is profoundly answerable for the weakening of the moral values in the general public.

Corruption is caused because of an incapable government, which has become a significant issue in India. It is not only the public authority that doesn’t battle corruption but residents as well, they also need to assume their parts in the society. As mentioned by the former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam: “The system will not change just because I wish to change it. It will change only if each one of us contributes towards it”

The following are the various reasons that can be summed up that cause corruption in India[5].

  • The biggest cause of corruption in India is said to be the large population and also the relationship between the industrialists and the political party members.
  • Another big reason for the growth and spread of corruption is the people’s tolerance towards corruption.
  • The compensation paid to employees is extremely less and because of which they are compelled to bring in cash by illicit ways.
  • The disciplines forced on the criminals are inadequate.
  • The general public have been totally ruined by the corrupt political leaders. They have an extravagant life and don’t think often about the general public.
  • Individuals of India are not awakened. They dread to speak against the hostile elements that prevail in society.
  • People are given low pay scales and wages.
  • The criminals are not awarded proper punishments and when they receive it, it’s not on proper time.
  • There is no unity in public and the public are not aware of their fundamental rights
  • There is an absence of an independent criminal investigator office and enough powers to the legal framework in India.
  • In India there is seen to be an encouragement to unhealthy competitions.
  • Another reason is that there is an absence of effective management and implementation, economic stability and effective leadership in India
  • There is an absence of accountability
  • The people suffer from the issues of poverty, hunger, unemployment, lack of autonomy.
  • The number of educational institutes is less, also there is lacking medical infrastructure.
  • Lastly, there has been an emergence of political elite who only believe and work in interest oriented programmes and policies rather than nation oriented programmes and policies.

Vito Tanzi in an International Monetary Fund study proposes that in India, as different nations on the planet, corruption is brought about by inordinate guidelines and authorization necessities, complicated assessments and licensing frameworks, ordered spending programs, absence of cutthroat unregulated economies, imposing business model of specific merchandise and specialist organizations by government-controlled foundations, administration, absence of punishments for corruption of public authorities, and absence of straightforward laws and processes. A Harvard University study discover these to be a portion of the reasons for corruption and the underground economy in India.[6]

Consequences of Corruption:

Every action has a reaction. In the same manner, corruption too has its consequences. And these are not on the good sides. There are only negative effects of corruption and no positive. Its destroys a country from the inside. Its makes it hollow and thus leads to the collapse of the system. The following points show that what are the consequences of corruption: —

  • The biggest consequence of corruption is brain drain, along with this psychological and social disorder.
  • Corruption leads to an increase in hunger, poverty and unemployment.
  • It affects the economic condition of the country and thus leads to loss of economic wealth and fall in the growth of the economy.
  • The power and authority of the country may fall in the wrong hand as a consequence of corruption.
  • In the economic sense, corruption exhausts national wealth. It has been seen many times that the corrupt legislators put scant public assets in projects that will fill their pockets as opposed to profit networks, and focus on high-profile tasks like dams, power plants, pipelines and treatment facilities over a less astounding yet more earnest framework activities like schools, clinics and streets. Corruption additionally ruins the advancement of the fair market structures and misbalances competitions, which thusly dissuades speculation.
  • Corruption causes significant obstruction to majority rule government and law and order. When due to corruption the workplaces and establishments are abused for private benefit they lose their authenticity. This is very destructive for a democratic system, and its effects can considerably be seen more in recent scenarios. It is incredibly difficult to foster responsible political administration in a bad environment.
  • Corruption consumes the social structure holding the society together. It sabotages individuals’ trust in the political framework, in its organizations and its leadership. All of this leads to a wary or unresponsive public that turn out to be one more obstacle in the battle against corruption.
  • Another result of the corrupted frameworks is environmental degradation. The absence of, or non-implementation of, environmental guidelines and enactment imply that valuable natural assets are indiscreetly abused, and whole the environmental system is attacked. From mining, to logging, to carbon counterbalances, organizations across the globe keep on offering bribes as a trade-off for unlimited annihilation.
  • Corruption can be said to be the fundamental driver of poverty as the rich are getting more and more extravagant and poor are getting less fortunate. When the government provides compensation to the backward and minorities then not all of the remunerations, as ordered by the government are delivered to the minorities and the backward classes.

Instances of Corruption:

India has the highest rate of bribery and use of personal links to access public services such as healthcare and education in Asia, according to a survey released by global civil society Transparency International. “India has the highest overall bribery rate (39%) and the highest rate of citizens using personal connections (46%), following India, Indonesia and China have the second and third highest rates of people using personal connections with 36% and 32% respectively.” says the report titled “Global Corruption Barometer – Asia”.[7]

“It notes that in India, 50% of those involved in bribery are asked to bribe, while 32% of those who used personal connections say they will not receive the service otherwise. Of the people surveyed in India, who came into contact with the police, 42% had paid bribes. The use of bribes was also rampant (41%) to obtain official documents such as identity papers. Use of personal connections was also largely made in dealings with the police (39%), procurement of identity documents (42%), and in relation to courts (38%)”, it states.[8]

India has the highest rate of citizens using personal links to access a service, at 46%, followed by Indonesia (36%) and China (32.%). Conversely, in Japan and Cambodia, a small minority of those who access public services use their personal connections, only 4%, and 6% respectively.” India is in the 80th position among 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index, in the previous report issued by Transparency International that was released in January in Davos at the World Economic Forum.[9]

According to a recent study by Transparency International – a Berlin-based NGO working against corruption, India is the ‘Most Corrupt Country in Asia-Pacific Region’, and seven out of 10 people in India, pay a bribe to access public services.[10]

There have been various corruption scandals in India that have caused corers of loss to the country. A high-level official of a state-owned bank told The Times of India in 2009 that his superiors would routinely order him to give loans to applicants who had no means of repaying them, and offered him a bribe for doing so. Bank chairman HC Gupta even made the additional demand that he should accept bribes from the applicant too. The official who was asked to give loans immediately repaid them and avoided paying a bribe to the bank chairman but he was forced to take up the case of others with similar problems like him, as without taking action against this corrupt behaviour of his superior in-charge, there would be no incentive for him to change his unethical behaviour.

In another incident, Indian federal anti-corruption commission (FCAC) received complaints from several people that they were forced by “Hoysala” officers of Indian Forest Service (IFS) and Bharat Crop Husbandry Development Corporation (BCHDC) to open up accounts that are fake under their name.

Following are some of the most infamous corruption scandals that occurred in India[11]: —-

  • The chopper gate scam

The chopper gate scam otherwise called the Augusta Westland VVIP chopper bargain, this scandal by Congress-led UPA Government included cash paid to brokers and Indian authorities in 2006 and 2007 to buy helicopters for significant level legislators. As indicated by CBI, this added up to Rs. 2.5 billion moved through financial balances in the UK and UAE. A few Indian Congress legislators and military authorities were blamed for taking hush-money from AgustaWestland to win the Rs. 3600 crores Indian agreement for the inventory of 12 Agusta Westland AW101 helicopters. The helicopters are expected to perform VVIP obligations for the President of India and other significant state authorities.

  • Rafale deal controversy

It occurred between 1980-1990 and was identified with the acquisition of 36 multirole fighter airplanes at a cost assessed at Rs 58,000 crore or 7.8 billion euros by the Defence Ministry of India from France’s Dassault Aviation. The beginning of the arrangement lies in the Indian MMRCA rivalry, a multi-billion-dollar agreement to supply 126 multi-job battle airplane to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Following examinations, the Supreme Court gave the decision by upholding the Rafale bargain on December 14, 2018. It expressed that no abnormalities or corruption have been found. On November 14, 2018, the Supreme Court excused every one of the petitions looking for a survey of its December 2018 judgment.

  • Bofors scandal

It was one of India’s significant weapons-contract political outrage that happened in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This was started by the Congress party legislators blaming the then Indian head administrator, Rajiv Gandhi, and a few other Indian and Swedish government authorities of getting significant payoffs from Bofors AB which was a Swedish arms producer. It was affirmed that Bofors had paid Rs. 640 million as payoffs to the Indian legislators and significant guard authorities to win a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer, a short firearm for shooting shells on high directions at low speeds.

  • Kerala gold smuggling scandal

The custom authorities had detained a baggage (on June 30, 2020) which came from Dubai as it turned out to be a consignment that was carrying illegal gold and it was alleged to have connection with the top authorities of the Kerala government. It is being investigated by the national investigation agency, enforcement directorate[12].

Case laws:

  • Dr. Rini Johar and Another v State of Madhya Pradesh and Others[13]

In this case it was held that “corruption also violates human rights. It discriminates against the poor by denying them access to public services and preventing from exercising their political rights on account of their incapability of indulging in corruption, of course on account of poverty and other similar related factors. Corruption is, therefore, divisive and makes a significant contribution to social inequality and conflict. It undermines respect for authority and increases cynicism. It discourages participation of individuals in civilised society and elevates self-interest as a guide to conduct. In social terms we can say that corruption develops a range bound field of behaviour, attitude and beliefs. Corruption is antithesis of good governance and democratic politics.”

  • Subramanian Swamy v. Dr. Manmohan Singh[14]

In this case the Apex court held that “corruption in our country not only poses a grave danger to the concept of constitution governance, it also threatens the very foundation of Indian democracy and the rule of law. The magnitude of corruption in our public life incompatible with the concept of a socialist, secular, democratic republic. It cannot be disputed that where corruption begins all right ends. Corruption devalues human rights, chokes development and undermines justice, liberty, equality, fraternity which are the core values in our preamble vision.”

  • Bombay v. Shirishkumar Rangrao Patil,[15]

In this case the High Court at Judicature observed that “Corruption, appears to have spread everywhere. No facet of public function has been left unaffected by the putrefied stink of corruption . Corruption thy name is depraved and degraded conduct In the widest connotation, corruption includes improper or selfish exercise of power and influence attached to a public office.”

Legal Remedies:

In the case of Subramanian Swamy v. Dr. Manmohan Singh [16]the court observed that “the duty of the Court is that any anti-corruption law has to be interpreted and worked out in such a fashion as to strengthen the fight against corruption. That is to say in a situation where two constructions are eminently reasonable, the Court has to accept the one that seeks to eradicate corruption to the one which seeks to perpetuate it”. There are various corruption laws in India under which a public official can be prosecuted for the doing the acts of corruption. These include the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of corruption Act, the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, and The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, India is also a signatory (not ratified) to the UN Convention against Corruption since 2005.

Now let’s have a detailed look on these laws and see how they penalises the government official for the acts of corruption.

  • Indian Penal Code, 1860:   

The section 21 of the IPC defines “public servant” as a government employee, officers in the military,navy or air force; police, judges, officers of Court of Justice, and any local authorityestablished by a central or state Act.[17]

Section 169 deals with public servant unlawfully buying or bidding for property. The section states that “Whoever, being a public servant, and being legally bound as such public servant, not to purchase or bid for certain property, purchases or bids for that property, either in his own name or in the name of another, or jointly, or in shares with others, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both; and the property, if purchased, shall be confiscated.”[18]

Section 409 deals with criminal breach of trust by a public servant. The provides that a public servant will be punished with life imprisonment or with imprisonment of up to ten years and a fine.

  • The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988:

 The categories that are included in the definition of Public servant under IPC also includes office bearers of cooperative societies receiving financial aid from the government, employees of universities, Public Service Commission and banks.

Under section 7 of this Act which deals with public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act provides that if this kind of act is committed then the public servant will be punished with imprisonment which shall be not less than 1 [three years] but which may extend to 2 [seven years] and shall also be liable to fine.

Under section 11 of this Act which deals with Public servant obtaining valuable thing, without consideration from person concerned in proceeding or business transacted by such public servant, it provides that if such kind of acts are committed by the public servant then the public servant will be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than six months but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.

  • The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988

The Act forbids any benami exchange which is acquisition of property in bogus name of another individual who doesn’t pay for the property. The only exception to this law is when an individual buys property in his spouse’s or unmarried girl’s name.

If a person does a benami transaction, he will be punished with imprisonment which can of 3 years and or may have to pay fine also.

  • The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002

The Act expresses that an offense of tax evasion has been committed if an individual is part to any process that is connected with “proceeds of crime and projects such proceeds as untainted property. “Proceeds of crime” means any property obtained by a person as a result of criminal activity related to certain offences listed in the schedule to the Act. A person can be charged with the offence of money laundering only if he has been charged with committing a scheduled offence.”[19]

The punishment for submitting the offense of tax evasion is thorough detainment for three to seven years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. In the event that an individual is convicted for an offense under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 the term of detainment can expand up to 10 years.

The Adjudicating Authority, designated by the central government, will choose whether any of the property appended or seized is associated with money laundering.

  • The Right to Information Act, 2005

Under this Act the Indian citizens can obtain information held by any public officials or authority subject to certain exceptions. It mandates the public officials to provide certain information relating to their functions. It is a key tool in the fight against corruption as requests made by citizens and activists have been helpful in bringing to light various corrupt scandals involving government officials. It promotes transparency in the government’s decision-making and policies.

Method of investigation and prosecution of corrupt public officials

The three primary specialists associated with inquisitive, examining and prosecuting corruption cases are –

  • the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC),
  • the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and
  • the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

The Directorate of Enforcement and the Financial Intelligence Unit, which are under the Ministry of Finance they research and investigate the cases which are identified with tax evasion by the Public servant.

The CBI and state ACBs examine cases identified with corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The central government and the Union territories come under the jurisdiction of CBI, while the matter of the states are investigated by the ACBs. States can allude cases to the CBI.

The CVC is a legal body that manages corruption cases in government offices. The CBI is under its watch. The CVC can allude cases either to the Central Vigilance Officer (CVO) in every office or to the CBI. The CVC or the CVO prescribes the move to be made against a civil servant however the choice to take any disciplinary activity against a government employee lays on the office authority.

It is only when prior approval of the central or state government is received then the investigating agency can start the prosecution. Government-appointed prosecutors undertake the prosecution proceeding in the courts.

Only Special Judges who are selected by the central or state government try the cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The Directorate General of Income Tax Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission and Central Bureau of Investigation they all are involved in the matter of anti-corruption issues. Certain states like Andhra Pradesh (Anti-Corruption Bureau, Andhra Pradesh) and Karnataka (Lokayukta) likewise have their own anti-corruption offices and courts.

Civic anti-corruption organizations

An assortment of associations has been made in India to effectively battle against corrupt government and strategic business approaches. Prominent associations include[20]:

  • Bharat Swabhiman Trust; this trust was established by Ramdev, and has battled against black money and corruption for a decade.
  • 5th Pillar, it is most noted for its creation of the zero rupee note, which is a valueless note created for the purpose of giving it to corrupt officials when they request a bribe.
  • India Against Corruption, during the period of 201-12 it was a popular movement and had received a lot of attention from the media. A lot of popular public faces were also involved like Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Anna Hazare.
  • Jaago Re! One Billion Votes, is an organization that is founded by the Tata Tea and Janaagraha for the purpose of increasing youth voter registration and have expanded their work to include social issues like corruption.
  • India is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, India is a signatory to this convention since 2005 and ratified it in 2011. Under this convention a wide range of acts of corruption is covered and it also provides preventive policies.
  • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 which came into force from 16 January 2014, seeks to provide for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries in India.
  • Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011: which gives a system to examine asserted corruption and abuse of force by local officials and furthermore secure any individual who brings forward alleged misconduct in government bodies, ventures and workplaces, and has gotten the consent of the President of India on 9 May 2014, and (starting at 2 August) is forthcoming for notice by the Central Government.

Conclusion:

From the above points, case laws and discussion on it is clear that corruption has spread like a disease in India. Even though the path to clear corruption from India is full of hurdles and not an easy one but it is not an impossible one. There are a lot of things that have to be done, like the anti-corruption offices have to become more vigilant and authoritative, everyday activities of the government officials must be under the surveillance system, The present anti-corruption laws must be followed sincerely and furthermore strict anti-corruption laws must be made, people who are sincere and who follow the anti-corruption laws and stay away from the corrupt activities must be awarded as it will act as an incentive to stay away from corrupt activities and most importantly the ethical standards must be insisted on every sector and aspect of people’s lives. For the purpose of eradicating corruption, it is very essential that adherence to ethical standards in the process of decision-making must be the foundation of the nation’s policies. But the foremost requirement is to curb corruption at the grass-root level.


[1] Corruption, Causes and Consequences, available at: https://www.intechopen.com/books/trade-and-global-market/corruption-causes-and-consequences( Visited on July 10, 2021)

[2] “Asia-Pacific Development Journal”, Vol. 7, No. 2, December 2000

[3] 1996 Supp(6) SCR 584

[4] INSC 482 (30 April 1997)

[5] Corruption In India – Causes, Effects Of Corruption In India And Types, available at : https://iasgatewayy.com/corruption-in-india-causes-effects-of-corruption-in-india-and-types/  (visited on July 10,2021)

[6] Corruption in India, available at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_India#cite_note-WFR2011-12  (Visited on July 10,2021)

[7] India records highest rate of bribery in Asia: survey , available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-records-highest-rate-of-bribery-in-asia-survey/article33184156.ece , (visited on July 10, 2021)

[8] India records highest rate of bribery in Asia: survey , available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-records-highest-rate-of-bribery-in-asia-survey/article33184156.ece , (visited on July 10, 2021) 

[9] India records highest rate of bribery in Asia: survey, available at : https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-records-highest-rate-of-bribery-in-asia-survey/article33184156.ece  (visited on July 10, 2021)

[10] Most infamous corruption scandals of India, available at: https://www.educationworld.in/most-infamous-corruption-scandals-of-india/ (visited on July 10, 2021)

[11]Most infamous corruption scandals of India, available at: https://www.educationworld.in/most-infamous-corruption-scandals-of-india/ (visited on July 10, 2021)

[12] List of scandals in India, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scandals_in_India (visited on July 10, 2021)

[13] IR 2016 SC 2679

[14] AIR 2012 SC 1185

[15] 1997 (6) SCC 339

[16] AIR 2012 SC 1185

[17] Indian Penal Code 1860, available at: https://www.iitk.ac.in/wc/data/IPC_186045.pdf (visited on July 10,2021)

[18] Supra

[19] PRS legislative Research, available at : https://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1302844978_PRS%20Note%20on%20corruption%20laws.pdf  (Visited on July 10,2021)

[20] Corruption in India, available at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_India#cite_note-WFR2011-12  (Visited on July 10,2021)

Author: Marisha Shandilya, Jamnalal Bajaj School of legal Studies, Banasthali Vidyapith

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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