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The proposed Ordinance to fight Corruption

January 5, 2011

The Government of India is now talking of passing an ordinance to fast-track cases of corruption. One would like to believe that this Government is serious about fighting the menace of corruption. But is this really true? If one were to go by the previous actions of the Government, one would be justifiably skeptical.

What I am referring to is the event of December 23rd, 2008. Many would not even have given a second thought to the fact that the Parliament, under the UPA-1 Government, passed 17 acts in 12 minutes. One of the acts was to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act. Two significant changes were made to this act. In the unamended version of the act, a Public Servant was deemed to be corrupt if his actions in office caused a loss to the public exchequer or undue gains for any private parties. This portion of the act was completely removed. Another feature of the act before the amendment was to do with assets disproportionate to the known sources of income. Earlier, the burden of proving that the corrupt person had the sources of income to acquire the assets in question was with the person accused of corruption. Now the present amendment shifted this burden of proof to the investigation agency. These two changes meant that it was going to be that much more difficult to prosecute public servants accused of corruption. Thankfully, the amendments could not be passed through the Rajya Sabha and with the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha, they did not come into effect.

With amendments like these, one cannot be convinced that the present Government is really serious about tackling corruption with the determination and intent that it deserves. And when you look at the way it has handled the Common Wealth Games mess, the Nira Radia tapes issue and the 2G spectrum scam, one is not sure whether this ordinance is also just another political stunt to avoid the heat, and deflect public opinion from the important adaptive work that all of us need to do.

Balu

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