Should bribery be le­galised?

High of­fice bear­ers, in­clud­ing former Chief Jus­tice of In­dia and Prime Min­is­ter had ac­cepted that cor­rup­tion is a part and par­cel of ev­ery so­ci­ety.

Alive - - Contents - by K.V. Venu­gopal

The former Chief Jus­tice Balakr­ish­nan made an in­fa­mous state­ment dur­ing his ten­ure that it is time for the bribery to be le­galised. Not only, the le­gal lu­mi­nar­ies, but the peo­ple in gen­eral were sur­prised over his un­called-for-state­ment. How­ever, he made it clear to the public that he had come to the in­evitable con­clu­sion, af­ter it was no­ticed that it is well­nigh-im­pos­si­ble to stop bribery and cor­rup­tion charges at var­i­ous lev­els, as it has started spread­ing like a can­cer in the so­ci­ety. The ex-CJ had made a sug­ges­tion that bribes can be de­cided ac­cord­ing to cat­e­gories. For in­stance, a clerk in any gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion or at the court is en­ti­tled to re­ceive a par­tic­u­lar sum as le­gal bribe. Will his sug­ges­tion au­gur well for a coun­try like In­dia? This is the ques­tion lin­ger­ing in the minds of peo­ple, who firmly be­lieve in ad­her­ing to the val­ues as­so­ci­ated with hon­esty and in­tegrity in public life. In­ter­est­ingly, will the bribe seek­ers ac­cept the money doled out to them in the name of le­gal­ity, or else will in­sist on ad­di­tional amount on off-the-record ba­sis with a be­lief that dis­hon­esty is the best pol­icy?

Balakr­ish­nan’s ut­ter­ances has proved be­yond doubt that no gov­ern­ment worth the salt in our coun­try is able to stop the bribery/gam­bling right from the In­de­pen­dence Days. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, he was un­der the im­pres­sion that the only rem­edy lies in mak­ing it le­gal, the il­le­gal way of earn­ing money by the wrong-do­ers. A sec­tion of peo­ple say that his opin­ion can­not be termed as en­tirely un­rea­son­able, as the cit­i­zens find it dif­fi­cult to get their work done with­out sat­is­fy­ing the con­cerned depart­ment in some or other way. They are per­haps right, as the prac­ti­cal prob­lems be­ing wit­nessed by them are ga­lore. A trend had been cre­ated by a large-num­ber of public sec­tor em­ploy­ees, that they are hardly in­ter­ested in serv­ing their clients, un­less they are as­sured of a size­able re­turn from them, al­beit il­le­gally to fill up their cof­fers. Not only the com­mon peo­ple, even the busi­ness com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially the small-scale in­dus­try have to suf­fer, when it was quite com­mon for them to keep some money re­served ex­clu­sively for var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to run their busi­ness with­out any dif­fi­culty.

Af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion

over bet­ting in cricket, and the peo­ple, who were in­volved in it were nabbed by cops dur­ing the In­dian Premier League tour­na­ment two-years ago, the lovers of the game were op­ti­mistic enough to hope that Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia would leave no stone un­turned to get-rid of the tainted sportsper­sons and ad­min­is­tra­tors.

N. Srini­vasa case

Though, the then BCCI pres­i­dent N. Srini­vasan was forced to ten­der his res­ig­na­tion, con­sid­er­ing the in­volve­ment of his son-in­law, in the bet­ting is­sue, it did not take much time for him to be­come a force-toreckon with in Tamil Nadu Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion and to a larger ex­tent in the BCCI. Though the Supreme Court has ap­pointed Lodha Com­mit­tee, which in turn, formed the Com­mit­tee of Ad­min­is­tra­tors(CoA) headed by the former jus­tice Lodha to re­vamp the cricket administration, noth­ing tan­gi­ble has emerged so far. It is crys­tal clear that the BCCI ad­min­is­tra­tors, ir­re­spec­tive of their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions and dif­fer­ences of opin­ion, are united in thwart­ing the at­tempts of the gov­ern­ment to im­pose Right to In­for­ma­tion (RTI) Act in the cricket board, Not to be left un­done, the Board and the CoA are not sick and tired of trad­ing barbs at each other ev­ery now and then.

Even the pre­vi­ous Congress gov­ern­ment could not im­ple­ment the RTI in BCCI, de­spite the best ef­forts by the then Cabi­net Min­is­ter Ajay Makhan, as the Union Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Sharad Pawar put his foot down by stat­ing that “the BCCI is not com­ing un­der the purview of RTI”. The in­sid­ers in the po­lit­i­cal cir­cle as­sert that the then Congress pres­i­dent and the United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance Chair­per­son So­nia Gandhi and the present Congress chief Rahul Gandhi did not med­dle in the BCCI im­broglio, in spite of the murky deal­ings in the Cricket Board, as they did not want to up­set the po­lit­i­cal ap­ple-cart by an­tag­o­nis­ing the stormype­trel Pawar.

When lot­tery banned

The AIADMK gov­ern­ment, dur­ing the ten­ure of Jay­alalithaa, made a wise-de­ci­sion by abol­ish­ing the Lot­tery busi­ness in Tamil Nadu. Many small-time traders, hoard­ers and black­mar­keters had be­come busi­ness mag­nets over­time, af­ter in­dulging in gam­bling on Lot­tery, prior to the ban is­sued by the AIADMK gov­ern­ment. N. Su­galc­hand Jain, a prom­i­nent In­dus­tri­al­ist, based in Chen­nai, re­gret­ted that the lot­tery busi­ness had be­come ob­so­lete in Tamil Nadu, and if the State Gov­ern­ment, in­tends re­viv­ing it, he will not hes­i­tate to go back to his favourite trade. A few other busi­ness­men also share his opin­ion, and make no-holds-barred in ad­mit­ting that trad­ing in Lot­tery was like a sort of gam­bling, as it had pro­vided them an op­por­tu­nity to mint money.

The bu­reau­cratic bungling and red-tapism had also proved to be a damp­ener for the cit­i­zens in get­ting their task ful­filed. The bribery in the form of gam­bling pre­vails ev­ery­where with widenet­work in al­most ev­ery pro­fes­sion. There is a say­ing that even in any civil court; a per­son can­not ex­pect a sim­ple form to be filled-in with­out favour­ing its clerk or a typ­ist. It will be a her­culean task to by-pass a record-clerk in a reg­is­tra­tion of­fice, whether it is mar­riage or for realestate pur­poses, with­out cater­ing to their greed. It was a cus­tom­ary trend, and the peo­ple have re­signed to their fate and ac­cepted it as part-and-par­cel of their life. The chronic prob­lem, how­ever, is that, bribery per­co­lates deep down the cor­ri­dor in the cesspool of pol­i­tics, as well as at the cor­po­rate sec­tor, apart from ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and tin­sel world.

It has vir­tu­ally not left any pro­fes­sion un­touched. In the melee, the sharks es­cape and only the small­fries get no­ticed when the gam­bling takes place. More­over, the po­lit­i­cal par­ties are not shy of adopt­ing and de­fend­ing un­fair means, by ad­vo­cat­ing time and again that in a demo­cratic set-up like

In­dia, cor­rup­tions, scan­dals and gam­bling are in­evitable.

The former Chief Jus­tice of In­dia’s view is noth­ing new, as even Indira Gandhi dur­ing her ten­ure as the Prime Min­is­ter, had men­tioned, al­beit in­di­rectly, that the preva­lence of small-level cor­rup­tion is part and par­cel of ev­ery so­ci­ety. Not

It has vir­tu­ally not left any pro­fes­sion un­touched. In the melee, the sharks es­cape and only the small-fries get no­ticed when the gam­bling takes place. More­over, the po­lit­i­cal par­ties are not shy of adopt­ing and de­fend­ing un­fair means, by ad­vo­cat­ing time and again that in a demo­cratic set-up like In­dia, cor­rup­tions, scan­dals and gam­bling are in­evitable.

for noth­ing, she had not both­ered to raise an alarm over cor­rup­tion and gam­bling, as the cen­tre of at­trac­tion then was the comic state­ment made by the then Defence Min­is­ter J. Jagji­van Ram, “I have for­got­ten to pay” on his fail­ure to de­clare the in­come-tax re­turn worth Rs ten lakhs( a huge amount in 1970s). The har­ried Prime Min­is­ter had has­tened to de­fend him on this sen­si­tive is­sue. When the former CPI(M) MP, Jy­otir­moy

Basu pointed out the ul­te­rior mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the State Bank of In­dia cashier Na­gar­wala, hand­ing over Rs 60 lakhs to a mes­sen­ger for merely men­tion­ing the name of the then Prime Min­is­ter in early 1970s, the peo­ple sensed that there was some­thing fishy some­where. The op­po­si­tion par­ties raised a hue and cry in Par­lia­ment over the un­savoury episode, but the grave is­sue died a slow death af­ter some time. Gone were the days when the first Prime Min­is­ter of the na­tion, Pan­dit Jawa­har­lal Nehru, had asked his Fi­nance Min­is­ter T.T. Kr­ish­na­machari to sub­mit his res­ig­na­tion, even though Mun­dra, who was ac­cused by the late Feroze Gandhi in the scan­dal re­vealed that he had only paid money to a cashier in State Bank and T.T.K. was in no way con­nected with it. In spite of the fact, Nehru had asked the then Union Fi­nance Min­is­ter to put in his pa­pers on moral grounds. The then Rail­way Min­is­ter Lal Ba­haduri Shas­tri, too, re­signed on tak­ing moral re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in-fa­mous rail ac­ci­dent at Dhaunshkodi, near Rameswaram, in­stead of ma­nip­u­lat­ing to save his po­si­tion. How­ever, such in­stances are at the barest min­i­mum.

“Plun­der with­out de­tec­tion”

The el­derly states­man and former Swatan­tara Party chief, C. Ra­jagopalachari (Ra­jaji) once de­scribed the Public Works Depart­ment as “Plun­der with­out De­tec­tion”. There was much up­roar over his bash­ing of the gov­ern­ment depart­ment then, but the re­al­ity was glar­ingly ev­i­dent, when the DMK Gov­ern­ment led by M. Karunanidhi in early 1970s, found it dif­fi­cult to weather the strin­gent crit­i­cism over ‘Shakti Pipes’ and

‘Veer­anam Scan­dals’. When the former state chief min­is­ter M.G. Ra­machan­dran had asked for ac­count­ing de­tail, he was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously ex­pelled from the party by top­brasses in 1972. In­ter­est­ingly, it was MGR, as the Trea­surer of the DMK ear­lier, had de­fended the party with a con­stant query to the public dur­ing his po­lit­i­cal meet­ings, “Thimukavil oozhal irukki­ratha?” (Do you find cor­rup­tion charges in

DMK?) He will, in turn, elicit re­ply from the huge gath­er­ing, “Il­lai, Il­lai” (No, no) Iron­i­cally, it was MGR, who ex­posed the cor­rup­tion scan­dals and gam­bling in the DMK gov­ern­ment, af­ter he floated the Anna Dravida

Mun­netra Kazhagam (ADMK) and sub­se­quently rechris­tened it as ‘All In­dia Anna Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam’. (AIADMK). The peo­ple in gen­eral, then viewed the ram­pant cor­rup­tion in the state gov­ern­ment as noth­ing else than gam­bling es­sayed by politi­cians in con­nivance with the un­scrupu­lous traders and ed­u­ca­tion­ists. A sec­tion of DMK sup­port­ers were quick enough to de­fend their party and rea­soned that the gov­ern­ment led by M. Karunanidhi, had ini­ti­ated mean­ing­ful mea­sures for the growth and wel­fare of peo­ple in the long-run, and it was quite nat­u­ral for any gov­ern­ment to in­dulge in cor­rup­tion.

The bu­reau­crats were also blamed for the mush­room­ing cor­rup­tion, es­pe­cially at the po­lit­i­cal level. Some sus­pected IAS and IPS of­fi­cers were ei­ther sus­pended or trans­ferred to in­con­se­quen­tial places. The former Union Min­is­ter Sukh Ram blamed his Per­sonal As­sis­tant for steal­ing part of his prop­erty by us­ing his sig­na­ture, as he did not go through the con­text of the let­ter by re­ly­ing on the ver­sion of his PA. Sources close to the AIADMK opine that dur­ing the ten­ure of MGR, some of the party mem­bers, and more so, his trusted lieu­tenants, had pur­chased lands, much be­low the nor­mal rate and con­verted them as schools, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

At­tempt to curb cor­rup­tion

The former AIADMK min­is­ter, H.V. Hande, rued that de­spite MGR’s at­tempts to curb cor­rup­tion in the party and in the gov­ern­ment, he had to re­main im­mune to it, when some party mem­bers were in­ter­ested in mak­ing money by grant­ing af­fil­i­a­tions to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in early 1980s, with­out prop­erly as­sess­ing their mer­its and de-mer­its.

Even the former Prime Min­is­ter Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee had threat­ened to re­sign, when the Op­po­si­tion par­ties traded cor­rup­tion charges against his fos­ter son-in-law for the in­vest­ment of some Mu­tual Funds-re­lated shares in com­pa­nies that have no cred­i­ble stand­ing. It was left to the then Deputy Prime Min­is­ter L.K. Ad­vani to per­suade the ir­re­press­ible Va­j­payee to change his de­ci­sion.

A few po­lit­i­cal ex­perts in­form that the Direc­torate of Anti Vig­i­lance Bureau of­ten roll-out the fig­ures of cor­rup­tion-charges, in­volv­ing small-time fringe el­e­ments for a pal­try-sum. For in­stance, a seizure of Rs 100 to Rs 500 would be pub­li­cised by the depart­ment con­cerned to the fore, whereas it is hard to find in their list, the traplaid by them to catch red­handed the big-time of­fend­ers with huge sums in their kitty.

It is of­ten the case of leav­ing the ele­phant go scot­free to make the mouse as a vic­tim, as the old-adage would re­mind us. Some banks, es­pe­cially, the public sec­tor, are not will­ing to en­cour­age sav­ings bank ac­count hold­ers, as they do not fetch them enough de­posits. On the con­trary, they go out of the way to en­ter­tain the cur­rent ac­count hold­ers, even if they come to know about their fic­ti­tious deal­ings later.

Sources close to the bank­ing sec­tor point out that, when the com­pany man­age­ments are will­ing to park the monthly salaries and other al­lowances of their em­ploy­ees in their bank ac­counts, the bank man­agers are aware that their clients are not spoon-

The former AIADMK min­is­ter H.V. Hande rued that de­spite MGR’s at­tempts to curb cor­rup­tion in the party and in the gov­ern­ment, he had to re­main im­mune to it, when some party mem­bers were in­ter­ested in mak­ing money by grant­ing af­fil­i­a­tions to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in early 1980s, with­out prop­erly as­sess­ing their mer­its and de-mer­its.

feed­ing them. It is a clear in­di­ca­tion that the banks are ex­pected to go out of the way to favour their clients, when­ever the sit­u­a­tion war­ranted.

No won­der, the non­per­form­ing as­sets and the re­serve-for-doubt­ful debts, if not bad debts, con­front the bankers. If the share­mar­ket bro­ker Har­shad Me­hta scan­dal, in­volv­ing State Bank of In­dia, rocked the Narasimha Rao gov­ern­ment in early 1990s, the in­dus­tri­al­ist Ni­rav Modi, dis­played an­other Hou­dini Act, through Pun­jab Na­tional Bank fi­asco in the re­cent bank scan­dal.

An of­fi­cial of a pri­vate bank dis­closed that they do not en­ter­tain the open­ing of ac­counts from lawyers, jour­nal­ists and cops, as they will make the life of the bank mis­er­able. When the of­fi­cial con­cerned was asked, as to why the peo­ple from le­gal, me­dia and po­lice pro­fes­sions cre­ate prob­lem for them, as long as the banks deal­ings with their clients are per­fectly al­right, the of­fi­cial evaded the an­swer.

His stoic si­lence made it clear that his bank should not be tar­geted, even when their shoddy deal­ings are ex­posed to the public. Ob­vi­ously, the con­cerned bank wanted to have the best of both the sum­mer and win­ter un­der one-roof. A re­tired bank of­fi­cer, who pre­ferred to speak on a con­di­tion of anonymity, said that dur­ing the de­mon­eti­sa­tion ex­er­cise, some banks had in­dulged in vir­tual gam­bling by ex­tend­ing the favour in the form of huge money to their long-term clients in an unau­tho­rised man­ner.

In a right di­rec­tion

The Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi is per­haps right in urg­ing the Char­tered Ac­coun­tants to work for the na­tion and not for their clients. There is no dis­put­ing the fact, but as an au­di­tor would like us to know, how it is pos­si­ble for him to work for the coun­try only, with­out look­ing into the in­ter­ests of his or her client. Af­ter, it is the ques­tion of sur­vival first and the ac­cel­er­a­tion comes next. A renowned au­di­tor Ra­maswamy has said that it is dif­fi­cult for any au­di­tor or the au­dit firm to un­ravel the un­der-writ­ing deal­ings of his client, as the Char­tered Ac­coun­tant is ex­pected to fin­ish off the duty as­signed to him and not to ques­tion the busi­ness in­ter­ests of any or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Like in any other pro­fes­sion, if a com­pany thinks that the au­di­tor or the au­dit firm ex­ceeds their limit, it does not take much time for the or­gan­i­sa­tion to re­place them with some other au­dit firm. In this mush­room­ing com­pe­ti­tion, the au­dit firms are not ready to sac­ri­fice their clients.

For in­stance, even if the au­di­tors have the right to ask the en­trepreneurs to pro­duce their per­sonal check books, they are wary of ask­ing them, says an au­di­tor Ra­ma­lingam, be­fore adding, when it has been de­cided to re­place “cer­ti­fied

Like in any other pro­fes­sion, if a com­pany thinks that the au­di­tor or the au­dit firm ex­ceeds their limit, it does not take much time for the or­gan­i­sa­tion to re­place them with some other au­dit firm. In this mush­room­ing com­pe­ti­tion, the au­dit firms are not ready to sac­ri­fice their clients. For in­stance, even if the au­di­tors have the right to ask the en­trepreneurs to pro­duce their per­sonal check books, they are wary of ask­ing them, says an au­di­tor Ra­ma­lingam.

to the best of my knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion with the mere one-liner, “cer­ti­fied”, it is an ac­cepted fact that ev­ery­thing is fine with the client. Im­por­tantly, the au­dit­ing has been done to stream­line the ac­count­ing process, and to in­form the man­age­ment, if any staff mem­ber adopts un­scrupu­lous method.

Lawyers

They too, are in a sim­i­lar predica­ment like the au­di­tors, as they also can­not af­ford to lose their clients. In the olden days, the flag­ship com­pany was eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able. But, in this glob­alised and com­put­er­ized-era, the closely-held com­pa­nies are rul­ing the roost, says an ob­server of the in­dus­trial sce­nario. For in­stance, a pro­pri­etor of an or­gan­i­sa­tion is not di­rectly con­nected with his other umpteen com­pa­nies, called as sub­sidiaries in the past, but he is the over­all supremo.

More­over, he might also be hold­ing the be­nami prop­er­ties of a politi­cian or some other renowned per­son­al­ity. The sce­nario is much worse in ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. With the cap­i­ta­tion fee, con­spic­u­ous by its pres­ence, it gives enough scope for in­dulging in horse­trad­ing and gam­bling for the peo­ple, who are in no way con­nected with the aca­demic sce­nario. It has be­come a reg­u­lar fea­ture now for most of the em­ploy­ers to float their char­i­ta­ble trusts to avoid pay­ment of in­come tax. Con­stant touch with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials also help the own­ers of com­pa­nies and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, as the com­mon in­ter­est ne­ces­si­tates them to brush up their pre­tend­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the world sur­rounded by par­al­lel ed­u­ca­tion, par­al­lel gov­er­nance, if not par­al­lel econ­omy.

With con­stant elec­tions do­ing rounds, it helps out the vested in­ter­ests in al­most all pro­fes­sions to go for a hand-in-glove deal with the gov­ern­ment. With the rapid in­crease in the num­ber of po­lit­i­cal out­fits af­ter the de­mon­eti­sa­tion, it be­comes eas­ier for the peo­ple with black money to pump in their re­sources at these out­fits, with­out wor­ry­ing about their tax prob­lem. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, the peo­ple, who are in­volved in petty crime, feel that, if cor­rupt in­dus­tri­al­ists like Mallya and Ni­rav Modi, could have their way, af­ter in­dulging in mas­sive gam­bling-likecor­rup­tion, their of­fences are only peanuts. They are sel­dom aware that small drop makes an ocean and their petty of­fences would be equated on a mas­sive scale, in­dulged in by some vested in­ter­ests. The film­world is no dif­fer­ent, as like the politi­cians and in­dus­tri­al­ists, their money is also parked in banks at Switzer­land and var­i­ous other places. The paid-news in Me­dia has been do­ing the round for some time, with un-truth and ex­ag­ger­ated news ver­sion of the ‘Face Book’ and ‘Twit­ter’, keep the read­ers in quandary.

Un­der the cir­cum­stances, it is worth­while to pon­der about the sug­ges­tions of the former Jus­tice

Balakr­ish­nan to fa­cil­i­tate the process for le­galised cor­rup­tion. It is im­per­a­tive to gauge his frus­tra­tion, al­though not ex­pressed can­didly, as when the film­go­ers are ready to buy their tick­ets in black-mar­ket; there is no point in ap­por­tion­ing the blame on the touts, who take the ad­van­tage to make ex­tra­money. Sim­i­lar is the prob­lem en­mesh­ing in other fields. As long as the peo­ple ready to dish out ex­tra money vol­un­tar­ily for the ser­vice ren­dered to them, the temp­ta­tion is bound to go up.

Never end­ing

It is a never-end­ing men­ace, as once a per­son be­lieves that he or she is ca­pa­ble of earn­ing more than what they de­serve in an un­wor­thy man­ner, the value for money be­comes ir­rel­e­vant. There is a say­ing that char­ity be­gins at home, but when the en­tire coun­try is af­flicted with gam­bling and bribery charges and do not feel ac­count­able or re­spon­si­ble to their as­signed job, it is time for the gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the prob­lem crip­pling the have-nots.

Is it not time to re­mind the peo­ple about the fa­mous line from the late Tamil lyri­cist Pat­tukot­tai Kalyana Sun­daram, in the song, “Thiru­danai Parthu Thirun­davit­tal Thirut­tai Ozhikka­mudiy­athu”. (Un­less the thief re­alises the folly of steal­ing, it is dif­fi­cult to stop rob­bery). What he im­plied in his as­ser­tion was that, is it not high time to in­dulge in self-in­tro­spec­tion, in­stead of en­sconc­ing in self­cheat­ing?

Bribery per­sists at ev­ery level of deal­ing in In­dia!

C. Ra­jagopalachary once de­scribed Public Works Depart­mentas “plun­der with­out de­tec­tion.”

In the be­gin­ning, MGR and Karunanidhi were the close as­so­ciates in DMK.

The head of two con­sec­u­tive gov­ern­ments in In­dia with the po­lit­i­cal al­liance of UPA and NDA.

Cor­rup­tion is il­le­gal and a crime.

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