Understanding Corruption in relation to Impunity

Corruption in the governmental administrative system has often been compared to a disease, choking onto the sources, and ultimately suffocating the welfare objectives of the State. Unfortunately, neither is this disease limited to a particular form of governmental structure, nor is it limited to the public sector undertaking. Corruption even forms a part of the business sector undertakings.[1] Though for the purposes of the article, the emphasis shall be on the public sector undertakings.

The reasons for spread of corruption are often attributed to not just the structural loopholes or transparency in the functioning of the organizations but also the culture and the social structure of the society. However, the fact that corruption exists is unassailable.

Transparency International, a United States based organization in its most recent Corruption Perception Index 2016 once again reiterated the point, that no country in the world is free from corruption. In fact it said that over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories assessed in this year’s index fell below the midpoint of their scale of 0(highly corrupt) to 100(very clean). The global average score in the report was at 43, which indicated endemic corruption in a country’s public sector.[2]

India was ranked 74th with a score of 40. India’s ongoing poor performance reiterated the inability of the state to effectively deal with petty corruption as well as large-scale corruption scandals. The report even pointed out that the corruption in India has significant impact on poverty, illiteracy and police brutality, and also furthering the inequalities and disparities of the society.[3]

While, the report by Transparency International effectively links the widespread corruption in the country to two major reasons, impunity and disparity, another US report on Human Rights Practices for 2013 directly indicated that corruption is present at all levels of the governance in India, including the Judiciary. [4] It mentioned that even though the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively and the officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

In the 2015 Report it was pointed out that the CBI registered 583 cases of corruption between January and November. Moreover, NGOs have reported of incidents where bribes were paid to expedite services, suggest as police protection, school, water supply, or government assistance. [5]

The report mentioned incidents to impunity in the public sector department. In July, a Special Investigation Team  claimed that the officials from Lokayukta, the anti-corruption body had been involved in taking bribes to order to avoid potential corruption raids. The allegations were made against the ombudsman’s Justice Bhaskar Rao’s son and even the Public Relations Officer.[6] In another incident in Goa, the police had arrested Public Works department minister along with three others on corruption charges.[7]

The verdict of the Karnataka High Court which reversed the decision of the Trial Court against the ex-Tamil Nadu CM, Late Jayalalithaa, stemming from her 1991-96 tenure, is also worth mentioning here. However, fortunately, the Supreme Court recently upheld the decision of the Trial Court.[8]

The chief of Central Vigilance Commission, while speaking to the media on an occasion in January of this year confirmed that there were as many as 300 corruption cases are pending for the last 20 years in 80 courts across 3,500 cases have been pending for more than five years.[9]

 In a research conducted it was found out that under the MNREGA scheme, in certain cases the people worked for one day, but were asked to sign for 33 days. The wages for 32 days were siphoned off by the concerned officers and contractors. It shows how the state and the union government continue to implement various welfare programs in the shape of schemes in order to provide better-quality housing, schools, government jobs, and access to food but these programs chronically suffer from poor implementation and corruption. [10]

In the context of India, the major factors revolve around the whistleblower protection law in respect to the employees, journalist, etc., laws for financial disclosures and public access to information.

Though in India, impunity forms one of the major hurdles in dealing with matters of corruption. In other countries of the world, like Kenya, with the Corruption Perception Index rank of 145, and Nigeria, with a rank of 136, impunity forms the right hand of corruption.

In an article by the deported British Journalist Jerome Starkey, published in Times, he has claimed that the endemic corruption in Kenya has made it normal for people to pay bribes to survive. He writes, “Corruption and impunity are not stray threads of life in Kenya, they are its fabric. Parents pay a bribe to get their babies’ birth certificates. Children pay bribes to bury their parents”[11] The claims made by him are not strange, Transparency International has consistently listed the Kenyan police as one of the most corrupt government institutions. In the article, he even claimed that the corruption is not limited to money in Kenya. He revived claims of looting by the military during Westgate Mall siege in September, 2013, where 67 people were killed. The Kenyan Defense Forces argued that the soldiers carried only water, the footage showed soldiers walking out with filled shopping bags.

While as for Nigeria, the reasons for corruption have been identified as societal pressure, tribalism, nepotism, low risk-high benefit of involving in corruption, among others. But the corruption has been incessantly involved in frustration of national welfare goals, in spite of the ready availability of the natural and human resources in the country.[12]

[1] Ryan, L.V. (2000) ‘Combating Corruption: The 21st-Century Ethical Challenge’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 10(1), pp. 331–338.

[2] Corruption Perception Index 2016, Transparency International, http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016

[3] Asia Pacific: Fighting corruption is side linedd, Transparency International, http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/asia_pacific_fighting_corruption_is_side_lined

[4]Corruption practised with impunity in India, says US report, Business Standard, 28 Feb., 2014, http://www.businessstandard.com/article/newsians/corruptionpractisedwithimpunityinindiasaysusreport114022800937_1.html

[5] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: India, United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/253175.pdf

[6] Karnataka HC grants bail to ex-Lokayukta’s son Ashwin Rao, nine others, Indian Express, 19, Sept., 2016, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/karnataka-hc-grants-bail-to-ex-lokayuktas-son-ashwin-rao-nine-others-3039388/

[7] Churchill Alemao: From daily wager to chief minister to jail, Indian Express, 7 Aug., 2015, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/churchill-alemao-from-daily-wager-to-chief-minister-to-jail/

[8] Not just Sasikala, SC verdict means Jayalalithaa’s legacy is now tainted, 16 Feb., 2017, http://www.dailyo.in/politics/jayalalithaa-sasikala-da-verdict/story/1/15693.html

[9]300 corruption cases pending for 20 years across India: CVC, The Times of India, 8 Jan., 2017, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/visakhapatnam/300-corruption-cases-pending-for-20-years-across-india-cvc/articleshow/56394931.cms

[10] Social Sector Communication in India: Concepts, Practices, and Case studies by Jaishri Jethwaney, Sage Publications India.

[11] Corruption, impunity Kenya’s fabric, says deported journalist- Daily Nation, 19 Dec., 2016. http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Corruption-impunity-Kenya-fabric/1056-3492084-format-xhtml-n6ctq3/index.html

[12] Aderele A. A. (2013, January 29). Plea bargain is mockery of justice. Punch, http://www.punchng.com/news/plea-bargain-is-mockery-of-justice/

Authored by Nishtha Sukhla | Edited by Jasleen Dua Kaur.

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