In News: In a judgment in 2022 — Neeraj Dutta v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) — the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court came down heavily on corruption among public servants in the country and lowered the bar for the quantum of evidence required to convict persons charged with corruption.
- But despite its unequivocal stand, the extent of corruption in public life remains undiminished.
- Transparency International says seven out of 10 people pay bribes to access public services.
- It is well known that some powerful people are accused of ‘buying’ prosecution witnesses. Some lawyers have also been part of this, bringing shame to the criminal justice system and to the bar. Hence, the apex court comes with the following ruling
Significance of the ruling:
- Through its ruling, the Supreme Court debunks the myth that absolute and conlusive proof of guilt alone can help convict an offender.
- the Supreme Court has set the standard of ‘preponderance of probability’, in criminal trials.
- Basically, the court has now laid down that even if prosecution witnesses turn hostile, a conviction would be in order if all the circumstantial evidence marshalled by the prosecution and produced before the court points unmistakably to the guilt of the accused.
- The court has directed that infirmities such as non-availability of the complainant, either because he is dead or otherwise not traceable, should not stand in the way of accepting the story of the prosecution.
- This is a great step towards ensuring integrity in public services, especially in the ‘superior’ services such as the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service.
- Since deterrence works only up to a point and increase in penalties for criminal behaviour also increases the quantum of proof required by the courts to be convinced of the guilt of those arraigned before them.
- The same liberal application of the law of evidence will now apply to cases where prosecution witnesses turn hostile, either because of inducement or intimidation.
Forms of corruption:
- Bribes to public servants
- Nexus between offender and victim
- Political corruption – illegal and rapacious demands from the political hierarchy as one of the reason for such bribes.
- Jobs are often sold at a price – many applicants are prepared to pay without a complaint as there is acute unemployment.
- No approval for construction of a building or for registration of a property is possible without payment of a bribe.
- Corrupt officials in the administration are willing conduits and avail themselves of the opportunity to line their pockets.
Causes of corruption:
- Personal factors
- Self-seeking human nature including feeling of income injustice, urge to create benefit, etc.
- Erosion of moral values shape individual psychology so that the act of corruption can be internally justified and normalised.
- Personal growth aspirations such as rank obsession, favourtisism,
- Structural factors
- Bureaucratic traditions – including decisions pertaining to resource use and implementation.
- Centralisation – leads to institutionalisation of corruption
- Ways of sharing authorization – civil servant’s decision making methods are determined within the programming of functions and decisions of the institution.
- Discretionary power diminishes, while bureaucratic supervision power increases, which can lead to corruption
- Political factors
- Politicisation of bureaucracy – means that civil servants are a part of the
policies of the government that comes to power. It includes appointments, promotions based on favouritism and favours.
- Personalization of power
- Social factors
- Lack of education
- Insufficiency in civil community
Challenges of corruption on public administration:
- Ineffectiveness of Public Administration – weakens governance and blocks stability and continuity in public services
- Damaging the State of Law Understanding – Corrupt civil servants abuse their duties instead of obeying the rules
- High Cost of Public Administration – bribes have turned into a second payment
- Political instability such as transitions to a newly elected government
- Lack of rule of law legal system is unable to provide sanctions for officials that engage in corruption
- Erosion of Social capital i.e. shared values and understandings in society that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and so work together (OECD).
- Frequency of Conflicts of interest: a conflict between the public duty and private interest of public officials that could improperly influence the performance of their official duties and responsibilities (OECD)
- Severity of the law and its application such as in the recent Supreme court ruling
- Strength of public opinion that would help carry forward the campaign for a clean public life.
- Greater public awareness about how corruption is gnawing away the vitals of society and affecting its governance system.
- Particularly when corruption is not just limited to high-level politicians but extends to every nook and corner of the governance system.
- Greater transparency in governance systems.
- Civil society and the media can play a critical role in bringing about this change.
- The Centre for Science and Environment is working on a project to publicly rate the environmental performance of Indian firms.
- Participation of the public in government policies and programmes at the gram sabha level – that is, in an open meeting of all village adults – rather than in a closed meeting of the gram panchayat – that is, the council of village elected representatives
- In 1977, Rajasthan government’ antyodaya project to identify five poorest families in the village for government support, the patwari would consult the panchayat leaders and they would normally get their kin or henchmen included in the list.
- Corruption has to become an important issue in primary and secondary education in order to deal with those cultural aspects that engender the phenomenon.
- A respect for state regulations and state property and for the poor and marginalised must be to inculcated from childhood.
The latest Supreme Court judgment may not deter people from corruption. However, that is no reason for us to give up the fight. It is here that we need enlightened opinion leaders who are not scared of taking on powerful elements in politics or in administration.
Source: The hindu