“Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey or
the poison that finds itself at the tip of the tongue,
so it is impossible for a Government servant not to eat
up at least a bit of the King’s Revenue”
Much before Anna Hazare came onto the scene, the issue of eradication of corruption has been engaging the minds of the people of India. In fact the issue is as old as the Democracy. Nay as old as civilization itself. The story of ‘Noah’s Ark’ tells how God annihilated his whole creation, because the man had become corrupt. Attempts were made from the very beginning of our Republic, to devise ways and means to contain corruptions.
However, as the voice for prevention of corruption increased, so too did corruption. It increased in geometric proportions. ‘Transparency International’, the international body which keeps a watch on corruption worldwide, grades countries on a corruption scale of 0 to 10. India has been occupying a ‘Place a Disgrace’ in their list of corrupt Countries. In the corruption Perception Index (2010) India ranks 87among 178 Countries and its Integrity score is 3.3. One may compare this with Singapore whose Integrity score of 9.3 is the highest and Pakistan’s 2.3 the lowest. Almost 2/3 of 178 countries on the Integrity list have scored less than 5. This shows that corruption is worldwide, and is spreading like an epidemic. It has entered almost every sphere of our activity. It is eating into our sinews. It manifests through Black Money and runs a parallel economy. Swiss Banking Association Report (2006) states that, “India has more black money than the rest of the world combined”.
India enacted the Commission of Inquiries Act in 1952. In 1966 Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Moraji Desai had proposed a two tier Ombudsman structure at National and State levels. Lok Pal Bills were introduced in Lok Sabha in 1968 and 2005. India passed its historic Prevention of Corruption Act in 1988. The scope and ambit of this Act is wide and far. It empowers the police to act against the smallest to the highest public functionaries as well as office bearers of any NGO which gets even an infinitesimal grant from the Government exchequer. In fact it is a draconian Act which empowers the law enforcing agencies to hold at ransom the entire elected machinery. A crusader with a Hitlarian tendency can in fact turn this free country into a huge prison without any Emergency powers under the Indian Constitution. A. Raja and others have been prosecuted under the provision of this Act.
The absence of Lok Pal or Lok Ayukta does not prevent the Government from acting against corruption. The Indian Penal Code has been on the Statute Book for long. Its provisions are routinely evoked in Corruption matters in addition to the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Yet public perception, is and perhaps rightly so, that the Government lacks the political will to combat corruption.
Ombudsman, an office which is synonymous with the office of Lok Pal or Lok Ayukta in many respects exists in many European countries. Ombudsman or Lok Pal or Lok Ayukta are in an actual sense Guardians of the People who protect them from the avarices of the men in Public office. However, European countries which boast of this Institution are themselves beneficiaries of corruption in developing countries. Luxemburg, Sweden, Denmark and some countries in the Caribbean, the Panamas as well as pinhead size island countries like St. Kitts have a Banking system known for their secrecy clauses.
No country in the world has so far succeeded in breaking this secrecy code except perhaps Julian Assange who recently published classified information about secret account holders from Asian and African countries.
The Supreme Court of India is presently hearing a PIL on corruption. The Government of India has, it appears, submitted a list of secret Accounts to the Supreme Court, but has refused to divulge the names on a specious plea of absence of double Taxation Treaty with the Governments of the countries where such Bank Accounts have been held.
The issue of corruption and money laundering assumed centre stage after Al Qaeda’s the bombing of the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001. It has been a fact that ill gotten Money is not only used for personal aggrandizement but also for financing nefarious activities including arson and cross border terrorism. Under invoicing and over invoicing of goods and services in domestic as well as International trade is a huge source of Black Money. Black Money thrives in a congenial political atmosphere which promotes and supports and draws its sustenance out of it. Even a billon Lok Pals or Lok Ayukta will not be able to bury this monster unless there is a worldwide movement against black money.