Why the corrupt get away in India

Last Updated: Mon, May 28, 2012 03:32 hrs

It is amazing to see in India umpteen scams worth thousands and thousands of crores just come and go with the conviction rate being abysmally low. There is a great brouhaha whenever a scandal breaks out. People are even arrested. But in the long run everything is forgotten and nothing much gets done.

The problem is with the whole way India is structured.

There are many reasons for this sorry state of affairs...

Slow judicial process

India has one of the slowest judicial processes in the world. It is not just about corruption; all cases follow a trajectory that may span many years or many decades. The best example is the convicting of former BJP president Bangaru Laxman.

The bribe amount was a paltry Rs 1 lakh (when compared to the 2G figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crores and other big ticket scams) and yet it took a long 11 years for the verdict to come out. Now also they will be appealing the verdict in the High Court.

That’s another problem, the continuous process of appeals where one goes from one court to another makes cases last for decades.

Big-ticket scams should straightway go to fast-track benches in the Supreme Court. That’s the only way one can expect results in a reasonable amount of time.

Investigative agencies under government control

Every case is initially probed by the police, which is under the control of politicians. Ultimately everyone comes under the Home Ministry. Therefore how can the government investigate itself?

Thanks to this lacuna, the whole process is slowed down substantially even before the case lands into the courts which sees a further delay. If a big scam lands under the purview of the CBI, then they report directly to the PM’s office. That’s why they are totally unfit to investigate the central government.

This is the reason why social activist Anna Hazare and his team are shouting from rooftops for the Lokpal to come into force. India desperately needs an independent investigative authority which can act free from government interference and which is accessible to the common citizen.

They’re all in it together

This is the biggest problem. All the parties are corrupt and hence they are all in it together. Many scams in India cut across party lines and it doesn’t matter who is in power. The investigative files do not move forward.

The best example is the Bofors case. The Rajiv Gandhi government ruled from 1984-89. It was unlikely that the government would convict itself on the Bofors issue. But in 1989, the Janata Dal came to power on chiefly the Bofors aftermath.

The two Prime Ministers VP Singh and Chandrashekhar from 1989-91 made absolutely no headway in the Bofors probes. If two years was too less, then the NDA government was in power from 1998-2004. They also made absolutely no breakthroughs in Bofors.

The system favours black money

The salaries are low. Politicians and their families lead high-flying lifestyles.

Expenditure to run a political party is high. Yet no accounts are shared with the public.

Election expenses are huge. But on paper, they are spending very little and politicians take oath of office on the declaration of fast oaths.

Let’s face it. India’s political system runs on black money. If huge amounts of black money are being spent in keeping it running, then that black money has to come from somewhere and it comes from endless scams.

Huge sums are involved

There have been many cases where officials have been caught and suspended. But those are for low-ticket crimes.

The equations totally change when you are dealing with scams worth thousands of crores. For such scams to take place, usually everyone is involved. The sheer amount of money corrupted involves all and sundry.

There is enough money to buy off everyone in the chain.

No big ticket crime laws

In one instance there was a bus conductor who was convicted for carrying more money than he ought to while on duty. At the other end of the spectrum is Hasan Ali, who is alleged to have evaded taxes to the tune of tens of thousands of crores.

There seems to be no difference between how we view the two. India needs specific laws for big ticket crimes. Like for one some countries have the death penalty for financial crimes of very high value. In the US life sentences really last for life and may run from 60-70 years.

Even if you end up convicting a corrupt official, there are no real mechanisms for recovering the money that was lost due to the scam. That desperately has to be changed.

More by this author:

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IPL diary: Of great chases and changing hairstyles

Coming soon: A 36-run over

India desperately requires electoral reforms

Who will be the next Prime Minister of India?

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/