(Study Material for IPS LCE) National Security: Incorrigible Corruption By Dr. N. Dilip Kumar (IPS)

Important Materials on National
Security for IPS LCE Examination

Topic: Incorrigible Corruption

By:  Dr. N. Dilip Kumar (IPS)
Courtesy: Ministry of Home Affairs

Abstract

Corruption warps a man with wealth and equips him with
various escape routes. The systems and rules come to his rescue, and he knows
how to use them to avoid getting caught, and how to wriggle out if he gets
caught. Detection itself is difficult, If detected, process of justice can be
delayed, purchased, obstructed; witnesses won over, and Senior Advocates and
Prosecutors can even influence the system by foul means for willy-nilly helping
him. Since the trial takes ages, his name is not sullied, as “he is still not
convicted” and is allowed to use this advantage to worm up again to a warm
place.

Introduction

When it is considered brazenly normal that official decisions
and actions are influenced by the glitter of gratifying gifts and not by the
merits of mundane matters, defining corruption seems the least relevant. More
so, when, dizzy with the agony, caused by this omnipresent virus, the society
has already reconciled to it as a grim reality of a common, intractable and
incurable affliction. From death certificates, disposal of dead bodies, to
surgeries and supplies of medicines; from normal traffic challans to
registration of FIRs, investigations to trial and jail; from ration cards to
land records; from parking to hawking; from permissions for constructions to
prevent demolitions; from purchases, processing of files, clearance of cheques
to developmental works and welfare schemes; varieties of NOCs; and tax
assessments; and even in administrative matters— from appointments and
promotions to transfers and punishments— you name any Government activity,
without a gratis nothing moves. With exceptions being very rare, the society is
stupefied. Corruption warps a man with wealth and equips him with various escape
routes. The systems and rules come to his rescue, and he knows how to use them
to avoid getting caught, and how to wriggle out if he gets caught.

Detection itself is difficult, If detected, process of justice can be delayed,
purchased, obstructed; witnesses won over, and Senior Advocates and Prosecutors
can even influence the system by foul means for willy-nilly helping him. Since
the trial takes ages, his name is not sullied, as “he is still not convicted”
and is allowed to use this advantage to worm up again to a warm place. While
uninhibited corruption is, therefore, used undauntedly for assuaging his
avarice, society is (un)scrupulously silent.

While the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand and a few others have been able to
contain corruption, we are still unable to understand, let alone control this
menace, though we are signatories to the UN Convention with regard to
corruption. In place of a spirited action, we only continue to believe in
ritualistic motions, gurgling out statistics, or churning our brains at frequent
conferences, which are crudely described by some as places of resultless
intellectual shadow-boxing. Therefore, we do not even raise eyebrows when public
servants insincerely follow the annual ritual of taking the grand pledge in a
chorus:
“We, the public servants of India, do hereby solemnly pledge that we shall
continuously strive to bring about integrity and transparency in all spheres of
our activities. We also pledge that we shall work unstintingly for eradication
of corruption in all spheres of life …”, though we know fully well that it is
broken the very next moment. It is, therefore, no surprise that all efforts made
through vigilance and watch, penal processes and pledges, could not even prevent
the spread of this virulent virus, leave aside its eradication. Though the road
ahead looks fizzy without a salubrious solution to celebrate, there may still be
some ways and means. Perhaps, Joseph Pulitzer rightly said -“There Is not a
crime, not a dodge, not a trick, not a swindle, not a vice, which does not live
by secrecy. Get these things out in the open, describe them, attack them,
ridicule them in the Press and sooner or later, public opinion will sweep them
away.”

By taking a cue from these words, and putting in quarantine the afflicted people
through social boycotts and administering them the bitter medicine of fear of
social stigma, additionally, we may succeed in combating this age-old disease,
Society also has to change its attitude.

The Age-old Virus

Like the transmigrating soul of an individual, the millennia-old virus of
corruption has been evolving and erupting in new virulent forms, with effective
mutations from time to time and resisting all the medications invented and
administered. History is replete with many known instances. We are all familiar
with the efforts made by Chanakya in controlling corruption as recorded in his
Arthashastra, in which he compared a public servant with a fish stating that it
is difficult to know if the fish in the water is drinking it or is just
sleeping. Similarly, the story of an incorrigibly corrupt courtier of Akbar, who
found another ingenious way to extract bribes when he was finally abandoned to
count waves of the river Yamuna, is oft-repeated. He would stop the transiting
ship for disturbing his duty of counting of waves and would thereby create an
alibi for reaching a compromise with a bribe. During the British days, the
impeachment motions against Warren Hastings and Robert Clive for their
indulgence in corrupt activities, as also the efforts of the East India Company
in defining misdemeanours of public servants and prescribing punishments for
them, are familiar episodes.
Subsequently, while the call for “Quit India” reaching its crescendo was
engaging the Government on the one hand and the Second World War sapping its
strength simultaneously on the other, there were operatives actively siphoning
off funds and exploiting the scarcities for making quick money. Now, as foretold
by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the country is witnessing unending squabbling for the
crumbs of power by unscrupulous elements. Whereas, for attaining freedom for
selfgovernance, emotionally propelled by ethical values, people made many
sacrifices; those in governance, unashamedly fuelled by unethical avarice, are
making huge personal gains. The ageold virus has travelled a great distance of
time.

A Corrupt Gentleman! The Dichotomy!

It is a dichotomy that on the one hand, there are demands and expectations of
honesty in public, while on the other, those who swindle the Public Exchequer
and extort from the public in the name of governance are admired and virtually
worshipped. Conspicuously, society is conspiring with the corrupt by treating
them as its nouveau nobles. Big-wigs involved in big scams like Animal
Husbandry, JMM bribery, Cash for Questions, Taj Corridor, etc., and in various
Disproportionate Assets Cases, unabashedly continue in active public life, since
the society salutes them with all smartness instead of stigmatizing and singing
sayonara for them.
One does not even ponder over the fact that for acquiring illegal wealth, such
‘Noble’ souls have to commit a number of serious crimes like criminal
misappropriation, criminal breach of trust, frauds, perjury, cheating, forgery,
offences under Corruption Act, conspiracy, tax violations of various kinds, like
stamp duties, income tax, sometimes Customs Act, so on and so forth. It is not a
hyperbole to say that the nouveau nobles are the most dangerous criminals,
living as parasites on public money and aiming for EI Dorado all for themselves.
If we are to follow the laws of the USA, these persons would get such a
cumulative punishment that they would never come out of jail in their lifetime.
But, in our country, befitting the dangerous dichotomy, a number of such nobles,
who should have been found secure in the confines of jails, are enjoying the
security of black cats at a great public expense.

Voluntary Vigilantism v. Winking Vigil

Further, there is a glaring discriminative justice by the society. If a poor
man, mostly due to compulsions of hunger and squalling poverty and sickness at
home, is caught committing a petty crime, he may be meted out the roughest
treatment by the very same person who loots the treasury silently. Even though
the loss is petty, he can incite the mob for giving the criminal a
lynch-justice.

As against this voluntary vigilantism, there is not even a winking vigil against
the corrupt. Instead, there is complicity and compliance for various reasons.
Sadly, such people are always found on the podia sermonising on eroding ethics
and corrosive corruption in the society. Instead of feeling ashamed of shaking
hands with such persons, we tend to queue up for this “grand” event. Even the
venerated Godmen or Bhagwans honour them with a prominent place in the front
rows and publicly shower them with special blessings by presenting gold rings
produced from thin air, while blessing the common man with the cheapest ash or ‘bhibhuti’.
A sanguine sage worth his robes, would use his talisman of tapasya to change the
treacherous traits of his ‘corrupt’ clients; or would at least command such
bolshoi ‘bhakts’ to reform themselves before they enter the portals of his
sanctified premises.

Comparisons are odious. But, it will be an eye-opener if one makes the
incomparable comparison of the loss to society through conventional crime and
through corruption. It is common knowledge that even a small increase in
property offences in a place results into a huge uproar, questions in the
assembly, calling of explanations from the police and rolling of heads, though
the total loss may not be more than a few lakhs, and all the offences may have
been committed by a few gangs for beating hunger and sickness in their families.
Moreover, it is the experience of any Police Officer that, given a chance of
honourable livelihood, most of these criminals, barring a few recidivists, would
not indulge in these shameless acts. Yet, for the society, they are criminals.

As against these crimes committed due to dire needs, we find a surprisingly
large section of the society, driven by avarice, adopting foul means for easy
money through the abuse of power and authority vested with them. Quietly, a
public servant may work out a kickback of some crores of rupees in one single
deal by colluding with a contractor. Or, he may simply extort in every single
case and accumulate his collections. He may also take his fixed percentage of
bribe in every developmental work. The loss to the country in terms of
development is unimaginable. Corruption intervenes in investment, both foreign
and domestic, and hampers our efforts to be a global economic power. Yet, we do
not mind.

Furthermore, the dichotomy in treating the “corrupt” as ‘Nobles’, tragically,
confuses young minds. They do not realize that no honest public servant can ever
construct multi-crore complexes, and that such vulgar display of wealth is only
a disgraceful manifestation of the extent of infection of corruption, shameless
swindling of public wealth, and the number of crimes he had committed, though
unpunished, during his career. He is only exposing his salacious sagacity in
building his ephemeral empire which, in all certainty, will end up in
litigations among his progeny. They commit crimes against the society. Yet, they
are not antisocial! They swindle the wealth of the nation and may endanger the
security of the country. Yet, they are not antinational! For the society, they
are honourable gentlemen! They are the nouveau nobles! This disgraceful
dichotomy of discriminative treatment by the precocious society eludes a fair
explanation.

Efforts Galore

Government is not devoid of concerned and conscientious people. Indeed, for a
tangible flight against this menace, serious efforts have been repeatedly made,
almost once in every two decades. During the Second World War period, when some
cases of amassing wealth through ill-gotten means were detected, a Criminal Law
Ordinance, 1944, was promulgated to attach such wealth and also to declare
illegal the transactions of transfers of such wealth. Delhi Special Police
Establishment came into existence as an enforcing agency. In the same breath,
the Prevention of Corruption Act was enacted in 1947. However, all the initial
efforts drew a blank, and by the time of the China War, corruption among the
political class had reached an alarming level (as per the standards of the
day!), compelling the Government of India to appoint a Committee under K.
Santhanam, MP, for suggesting ways and means to tackle it.

In addition to various suggestions, the Committee emphatically recommended
amendment to the definition of the expression “Public Servant” in Section 21 of
the Indian Penal Code so as to include Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries
and also said, “Next to the Ministers, the integrity of MPs and MLAs will be a
great factor in creating a favourable social climate against corruption…”

In furtherance of the recommendations of the Santhanam Committee, the Prevention
of Corruption Act, the IPC, the Cr.P.C. and other related Acts were amended. The
Administrative Reforms Committee had been appointed to find out ways and means
to eliminate administrative delays and other factors, which lead to corrupt
practices. Finally, in the year 1964, Anti-Corruption Laws (Amendment) Act was
passed, which considered overcoming the shortcomings in:

  • Prevention of Corruption Act 1947;

  • The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1952;

  • The IPC, 1860;

  • The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898;

  • Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946; and

  • Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 1944, in order to make them more effective
    and to ensure more speedy trial of cases.

This enactment was followed by two more amending Acts:

(i) Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1966 and
(ii) Anti-Corruption Laws (Amendment) Act, 1967.

The high-profile agency of CBI also took shape in this laborious exercise.

Disillusionment & Hurdles

Though, all these efforts set the systems in motion and created machineries and
mechanisms to mount a counter-attack on corruption that was already brimming
with confidence over its successful penetrations, another two decades were more
than adequate for the fighting machinery to get completely overwhelmed with the
deluge of corruption. There was total disillusionment and it was realized that
social and political conditions of India had undergone a considerable change
from bad to worse and the menace of corruption and bribery was uncontrollable.
The laws and the machineries were lagging behind when the virus was forging
ahead in its new forms and mutations, with a more vigorous penetrating power.
There were no speedy trials for teaching the ‘corrupt’ strong lessons, and
instead, the judicial drags came up as a heavy hurdle. Therefore, the Prevention
of Corruption Act, 1988, was enacted with all the best of intentions and
abilities of the Legislators. Various vigilance machineries of the Central
Government and its agencies, and the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Agencies of
State Governments and their agencies, had already been created from time to
time. Finally, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was also established as a
statutory authority. They have all been trying their hands in this mighty war,
but with only occasional successes in a few cases, and prominently unsuccessful
in causing any major dent to the malicious systems.

Any Redemption?

Unfortunately, the laws and the machineries have proved to be a mismatch in the
fight against this pernicious virus. All their efforts were stultified and
stymied by the virus that has replicated from over the years, penetrating all
the vital organs of the body of the Government, leaving honesty a little space.
Originally, Section 5, the premier part of the P.C. Act of 1947, was intended
only for a period of ‘three years’, with the optimistic belief that corruption
could be controlled within that period. But, with the feeble attempts not
resulting in any success, it was substituted with the words ‘five years’ in
1950, and again, with the words ‘ten years’ in 1952. Ultimately, when the
realization of the real monstrous potential of the fast-spreading disease dawned
on the policy-makers, the Section had to be made permanent in 1957, with a
fight-to-finish strategy. But it was found that, like the job reservation
policy, ten years of persistent efforts and even the subsequent steadfast
campaigns still did not produce any results. By the sixties, the situation was
considered to be very grave warranting new solutions again. However, after a
thorough assessment, while recommending various measures, Santhanam came out
with a really redeeming declaration that most of the bureaucracy was not at all
corrupt, and that they would certainly be able to take care of the few corrupt
elements among the politicians. Parliament obliged by taking action on the
recommendations of Santhanam Committee. But, in the course of time, even these
efforts also belied the expectations and the onslaught of corruption, became
much more virulent, prompting Rajiv Gandhi to remark in the eighties that not
even fifteen paise per rupee were reaching the defined place of development.
Thus, after another quarter of a century, the country was compelled to enact a
more potent Act in the present form in 1988. Another two decades have passed by
and yet, the results are still eluding the society. The Act is systematically
being made impotent by the Omnipotent, and now Omnipresent, Nobles.

Licence Raj & Committed Bureauerany

All those who are familiar with the administrative history of the country,
vouchsafe for the fact that, in the severe downhill slide of probity, the onset
of emergency was the landmark year. The concept of bureaucracy as ‘committed’ to
the Government and not to the Constitution emerged, dividing them into “my
officer”, and “his officer” by the powers-that-be. There has also been a great
awakening among the political class about their own powers and their potential
in making quick riches with strong allegiance of ‘committed’ bureaucracy. The
Licence Raj and the ‘committed’ bureaucracy set the new culture of corruption in
motion. As a result, in place of a cathartic ‘change’ foreseen by Santhanam,
corruption has only catalysed the proliferation of ‘committed’ bureaucrats.

Further, with the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ of transfers, and victimization,
dangerously dangled and unscrupulously employed by those in authority, truly
honest bureaucrats have become an endangered category. And, with the powers of
the executive usuriously usurped by the policy-makers, subtly slashing initially
and crudely crushing in course of time, the erectile strength of the steel of
bureaucracy has eroded to give place to the might of malleability. Thus,
bureaucrat guiding the political authority in following the rules for governance
is a thing of the past; diktats of the political authority now act as
determinants of the matrix of governance. As a consequence, evaporation of the
Rule of Law has steadily become an effervescent reality and the
constitutionally- created institution of the Executive has only become a
precarious precipice. A new order has emerged, in which political and
bureaucratic corruptions have become complementary to each other. Many scandals
have surfaced. And, quite many have never seen the light of the day.

Election & Corruption

Though the reasons are many, perhaps, expensive elections are one of the real
causes ·of political corruption, The corporate sector has had a big role in this
regard; yet, it is the criminalization of politics that has totally exacerbated
the situation, since criminalization and corruption are intricately intertwined.
Undoubtedly, with the induction of criminals into the system, corruption has
become the norm in governance by decimating the glorious values and allegiance
to law prescribed by the Constitution. While people launder illegal money with
the aid of layering systems, criminals launder themselves with the aid of
politics. Finding it an authentic route to respectability, criminals and cronies
are joining the jay-walk in droves. In addition, in connivance with those in
power, touts and henchmen create extra centres of power for collective looting
and collective sharing. The marshy mangroves of criminals have, thus,
proliferated in the governing systems. This dangerous degeneration has been
emphatically exposed when the nexus between the corrupt politicians,
bureaucracy, businessmen and the criminals was clearly brought out in the Hawala
scam and the Vohra Committee report. After all, a corrupt public servant is also
a criminal. With both the junior and senior public servants drawing their
immunity and protection from the same source of power, everyone turns a Nelson’s
eye towards the other wrongdoer. The moral authority to curb corruption thus
waning, they close ranks and tacitly agree for collective looting. Percentages
are fixed as commissions as per the rank and role of an employee, like in the
engineering Sections. Perhaps, for them, such collective action is a new culture
and a new order, not a crime.
Further, even though the Heads of Departments are primarily accountable for
controlling delinquencies within their departments, they weirdly watch the
degeneration and Ioot, either due to complicity or cowardice. Their eerie
silence is mysterious. Even if criminal cases are made in dozens, no action is
taken against the HoD and the charge of vicarious responsibility is only invoked
for selective victimization. Under these circumstances, the invasion of
corruption is far and wide, and deep, as can now be gauged with the yardstick of
the ratings of Transparency International, the Berlin-based International NGO.
Their Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of 1998 ranked India at 66 in the list
of 85 countries.

No Redemption in Sight

In spite of all the efforts there is no redemption. In the wake of the
announcement of the Hon’ble Prime Minister for “Zero Tolerance” of corruption in
1999, N. Vittal, the then CVC, in all sincerity, set a goal for him to see that
before he handed over charge on September 2, 2000, India’s rank improved to at
least 40, if not 30. However, all his efforts were in vain since instead, there
was only a decline in the CPI. By 2002, we were placed at 71 in the list of 102
countries, compared to the rank of 69 out of 90 in the previous survey. Even the
CPI score (in a scale of 10) came down from 2.8 in the previous survey to 2.7 in
2002. As regards those responsible for the state of affairs, Peter Eigen, the
then Chairman of TI said, “Corrupt politics elites in the developing world
working hand-in-hand with greedy business people and unscrupulous investors, are
putting private gain before the welfare of citizens and the economic development
of their countries.” Regarding the disastrous consequences, the then
Vice-Chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz said, “Corruption continues to deny the poor, the
marginalized, and the least educated members of every society the social,
economic and political benefits that should properly accrue to them, and
benefits that are taken for granted in societies that have managed to shake off
the yoke of corruption.”

Though, these remarks aptly apply to lndia as well, we are notoriously
nonchalant, and have no inclination or pride in emulating the good practices in
the countries with a CPl score of higher than 9, like Finland (9.7), Denmark
(9.5), New Zealand (9.5), Iceland (9.4), Singapore (9.3) and Sweden (9.3). ln
the latest ranking of 86 out of 180 countries, we only take solace in the fact
that there are about 100 other countries which are worse in the ratings.

Not surprisingly, the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s call for “Zero Tolerance” of
corruption had no takers even among the Chief Ministers of States ruled by the
same political party, whereas the “zero size” target of Bollywood queen Kareena
Kapoor may have a million followers. It needs real vigorous efforts. But, in
place of a positive corrective action, we find only mercenary machinations of
many Governments in making their machineries of anti-corruption and vigilance
either toothless or using them as tools to browbeat those who oppose their
diktats. Postings in these agencies are converted as PAPs (posting at a
premium), depriving the systems of the moral authority to enforce the law of
anti-corruption. They only promote the principle of selective amnesia and
impartial actions are never solicited. Even in our wildest dreams, we cannot
think of a situation in our country like that in the USA, where Obama invited a
small provincial officer Sgt Crowley to the White House for beer, by calling as
outstanding officer, when the Police Officer off base” in calling the police
action as “stupid” in the episode of a Harvard Professor. Objective commitment
to law in our country is a rarity. On the contrary, the corrupt within the
Government are extremely powerful and can even meddle with law-making itself.
Before the P.C. Act, 1988, came up for enactment, the “Single Directive” was
first subtly introduced through an administrative measure, so that no action
could be initiated against senior Government servants, without prior approval of
the concerned Ministry. A gaping hole was thus created as an escape route for
the “committed” bureaucrats. When the Supreme Court decided against the “Single
Directive” in the PIL in Vineet Narain’s Case, it was again firmly embedded in
the CVC Act through enactment. Vexatious and malicious prosecutions, no doubt,
need to be curbed, particularly against those who are vulnerable in
decision-making. But, at the same time, there should not be any undue protection
for the corrupt.

Similarly, corrupt people with clouts take refuge in the subterfuges carefully
knit into the systems. One glaring subterfuge is the sanction for prosecution
required under the Prevention of Corruption Act. It is beyond anyone’s
comprehension why such a sanction is needed in case of somebody, who is caught
red-handed while taking bribe, or when he accumulates wealth disproportionate to
his known sources of income. Such crimes are committed in his individual
capacity and not in the official discharge of his duties. Moreover, when the
concerned agencies act on the evidence collected, the question of malicious or
vexatious prosecution also does not arise. The systems are indeed so
designed.Thus, the simple sum up is that the genome of recalcitrant corruption
remained intact and the anticipated ‘change’ has not come about. Focus on
punishment as a method has not produced the desired effect. Focus on preventive
vigilance and transparency also has not brought out the desired change. Pledges
and publicity have not added a wee bit to the conscience of the corrupt. CPI has
only deteriorated. And, there is no redemption so far. Perhaps, a pragmatic
proactive approach may be the answer.

A Pragmatic Approach

In our search for new alternatives in this war, the path-breaking approach of
Tehelka comes first in the list. When Tehelka.com opened up a new vista in
March, 2001 with its Operation Westend, it created quite a sensation. This
exposure of potential corruption in an important field like defence purchases,
shocked the people, and rattled the political class. Now, in the BMW case, the
Supreme Court, while upholding the judgement of Delhi High Court convicting the
Counsel for Contempt of Court, appreciated that the NDTV telecast had rendered
valuable service to the important public cause of protecting and salvaging the
purity of course of justice, and exposed the conspiracy to undermine the BMW
trial. Capturing incriminating evidence and exposing the corrupt is the plain
lesson. When technology provides various means to capture concrete evidence to
prove the guilt of the accused with great certainty, anti-corruption agencies
need to utilize its benefit to the fullest, particularly when there are
constraints in enhancing manpower resources and their skills and commitments.
Since Delhi is a corruptionridden State, within the meagre resources available,
some measures have been initiated in the recent past by the ACB. Technology was
put to considerable use. Initially, in order to ward off motivated complaints in
trap cases, voice-recording with the help of mobile phones was introduced in the
beginning of 2008. Only after a convincing recording about the demand, etc. was
available, traps were organized. This introduction of audio, and later,
video-recordings, in the course of time, became a revolutionary measure. In all
traps, and other cases, it served many a purpose:

  • Motivated cases are prevented.

  • Evidence of demand and acceptance, even intimidation and extortion, are
    available through their conversations.

  • Evidence of bribe already paid under compulsion is retrieved through further
    conversations.

  • Gang operation becomes visible.

  • Even on ‘demand’ we can make cases.

  • Using of the subordinates as linkmen or conduits by senior officers is
    evident.

  • Frauds committed in conspiracy with private persons are clearly brought forth.

Over 50 cases have been registered with the help of the complainants and use of
secret audio and video equipments, and more frequently, mobile phones. Each case
was worked out with a different script suiting the particular situation and
gradually a new specialization of scriptwriting evolved. A few examples are
cited below to highlight the exposure of different modus operandi of the corrupt
operators.

Frauds

Licensing fraud in Transport Department

Touts and Motor Vehicle officers all over Delhi‘ have made a mockery of driving
tests being conducted for issuance of licences. Secret video-recordings made
over a period of one month exposed the farce of the tests. Vehicles moving at
the most two to three inches with driving instructors accompanying in the same
vehicle; coded system of applications being handled by touts and their nexus
with officers; along with the approval and passing of bribes, were all captured.
Instead of the MV Inspector, it was his favourite tout, who was conducting the
farcical operation. In our raids, all the relevant documents along with the
bogus entries, were seized. As many as 12 persons, including the Motor Licensing
Officer, policeman and touts were arrested in the case. Our action and the
attendant publicity compelled the Department to adopt some transparent methods.

Desilting of drains in MCD: Annual desilting of drains to prevent waterlogging
in Delhi is an exercise involving crores of rupees. The Municipal Corporation
pays the contractor based on the tonnage of silt
removed, transported and deposited at the dumping site in the outskirts of the
city. Our secret video-recording established that no desilting had been done,
and instead rubble, etc. from a nearby construction site was lifted on payment
and deposited at the designated dumping site in collusion with
the Engineers of MCD. On one single night, as many as 41 trucks loaded with
rubble were moved from a nearby construction site and deposited at the dumping
yard. The engineers at the weighbridges fraudulently showed in their computer
records the quantum of slit brought by these trucks from
the contracted drains. Thus, the contractor was entitled for payment for the
silt as well as the transportation charges for 25 km per truck. Of course he was
already drawing an amount for removing the rubble from the construction site
from the private party. The entire modus operandi was captured in the recordings
and in our raids bogus documents were seized. The concerned engineers and
beldars as well as the private contractor, who all colluded in the fraud, were
booked. Some corrective measures were later initiated by the MCD.

Social Welfare Department: Funds allocated by the Government for running of
various Homes were being systematically swindled for decades by the officials
and private persons. The funds are meant for destitute women, children, beggars,
lepers and so on. Constant endeavours by some NGOs
to reveal the frauds through complaints, RTI, etc. could not bring about any
change. Even the PILs in the High Court that resulted in certain directives to
the department ended up only with vanishing of records and changing of the modus
operandi. The frauds had been in operation for decades and even involved senior
officers like Joint Secretaries and others and crores of rupees were
misappropriated fraudulently. The administration was impervious. Based on
various inputs from the NGOs and certain audio-recording conducted with their
help, ACB could register three cases. The fraud was busted and it was found that
virtually, a parallel Social Welfare Department was being run by a private
person from his house, where the indents, notings, purchase processes,
quotations from reputed agencies
like Kendriya Bhandar, comparative statements, etc. were all fabricated to
favour certain bogus suppliers by inflating the prices manifold. Generally,
there were no supplies, undersupplies or low-quality supplies. Over a dozen
accused, including two Joint Secretaries, Superintendents, and others were
arrested with clinching evidence and all the fabricated records and recording
systems were seized from the private person. This action of ACB, and extensive
publicity antagonized many Government officials, since the Government was
compelled to replace the decades-old fraudulent systems with relatively better
methods.

Cases registered purely on demand of Bribe

Municipal Corporation of Delhi: In a case of de-sealing of premises, a Deputy
Commissioner of MCD demanded Rs. 2 crore by using his Assistant Engineer as the
middleman. Even though the Supreme Court’s monitoring committee issued desealing
orders, the officials of MCD did not relent. After proper evidence was collected
about the demand, the conspiracy and the official favour that could be done,
etc. through various recordings, the officials were arrested in the case.

Seniors using the Subordinates

Engineers of MCD: Secret audio-recordings conducted with the help of the
complainant contractor clearly revealed the demand of bribe on the part of the
Assistant Engineer for clearing his bills. Similarly, the recording with the
Executive Engineer, who was the authority to clear bills, revealed the nexus of
both the officers and also, interestingly, about the coded language used for the
bribe to be paid. The coded sentence: “Have you started the work?” means whether
the bribe was already paid or not. Both the Engineers were arrested when the
Assistant Engineer accepted Rs. 50,000/- as initial payment on behalf of both of
them.
SHO of Sarita Vihar: Audio-recordings clearly revealed that a Beat Constable and
a Head Constable demanded Rs. 10,000/- from a poor man living in a jhuggi for
his action of pruning a tree, threatening that a case would be registered for
illegal felling and also that they were even paid Rs. 30,000/- earlier by
another party in a similar case. The conversations recorded linked up the share
for the SHO also. The role of the SHO was later confirmed in a separate
recording with him. All of them were arrested after a trap was laid in which the
beat police was caught red-handed, accepting the bribe. The conspiracy was very
clearly evident.

Gang Operation

Slum and JJ Department: In a simple civil dispute about a common wall involving
two neighbours, the JJ Department was also a party for providing their comments
to the court. The Kanungo, who was incharge of the area, went to the defendant’s
house along with three other Kanungos/Patwaris, who had no jurisdiction over
this area, to overawe the defendant and his family with their authority, and
demanded a bribe for giving a favourable report in the Civil Court. The video-
and audio-recordings indicated how this pack of wolfs prowled together to
intimidate a common man. They were caught red-handed accepting the bribe.

Retrieval of Evidence of Bribe already paid

Case against policemen in Crime against Women Cell (CAW Cell): In a complaint of
dowry harassment, a bribe of Rs. 15,000/- was already accepted from a person by
applying all kinds of duress on him and his family. But, when there was a demand
of another Rs. 10,000/- from the poor man with the threat that his two children
aged 10 and 12 would also be implicated in the case of dowry harassment, he
approached ACB full of tension and tears. A proper script was given to him, so
that he could enter into dialogues with the officer and others, who were all
involved in the matter. The audiorecordings made were full of evidence. The
culprits shamelessly spoke about the money already accepted, the way it was
shared among themselves, and the requirement of further money. A trap was laid
and all the three officials, including a lady Head Constable who had originally
brokered the deal, were caught.
Case against the Special Staff of North- West District: A case of silver stolen
from a jeweller in another district was handled by them when they stumbled upon
a gang. A number of persons were arrested. But, in the process, some real
culprits were let off and a few other jewellers were nabbed and after taking
substantial amounts of bribes, some were kept out of the case, while the others
were implicated. Apart from demanding and accepting huge amounts of bribe, a
substantial portion of the sliver was swallowed. The recordings done from time
to time revealed the roles of a number of Police Officers, including the ACP,
with regard to raids conduced, amounts illegally collected and false recovery
shown from places that were not even visited, etc. The recordings clearly
indicated the amounts of bribes demanded and accepted overnight on the first day
and subsequent days, and also regarding the illegal detention and torture of
persons over long periods. The intention of the officers was not bonafide, as
revealed from various recordings.

Conspiracy with Private Parties, Advocates, etc.

Crime Branch Inspector: A high-profile Crime Branch Inspector of Deihl Police
was arrested along with a Senior Advocate and other two policemen in a case of
conspiracy, demand and acceptance of bribe. An amount of Rs. 26 lakh passed
hands and it was the Advocate, who was the Police Counsel
for many years, who acted as the conduit for the Inspector. The conversations
were recorded in video- and audio-recordings with the help of the complainant,
whose father was arrested in a murder case by
the same Inspector, allegedly on framed charges. It was for helping him in the
matter of bail and in diluting the charge-sheet that the illegal gratification
was involved. All these accused spent considerable time in jail after their
arrest by ACB.

Case of Sangam Vihar PS: A Journalist was acting as a tout for the Sub-Inspector
of a Chowki and his staff. With the help of the complainant, who was doing a
legal business of scrap from a steel firm, audio-recordings were done to
establish the Iink between the Journalist, the SI and his subordinates. There
was a clear demand for a lump sum payment of Rs. 75,000/- and also for a monthly
of Rs. 4,000/-. Since the complainant’s premises were under seize by the
policemen, he had no option but to make an initial payment of Rs. 60,000/- to
the SI and another Rs. 20,000/- for the staff. The recordings helped us in
retrieving the facts of earlier payments, which were made under duress. They
were caught red-handed while accepting the balance amount of Rs. 15,000/-.

Institutionalized Corruption

Case in New DeIhl Municipal Corporation (NDMC): The help of the complainant, who
was running a small eatery along with his regular floral business, was taken to
conduct over 30 recordings over a period of one month. About 20 persons were the
subjects of the video- and audio-recordings. They included officials of Police,
Labour Department, Health, Sanitation, Water Supply, Enforcement of NDMC, etc,
who were demanding and accepting their monthly illegal gratifications. Failing
such
payments, various kinds of harassments were meted out and goods were confiscated
only to be released later on higher premiums. With very clear evidences
available against 17 persons, all of them were arrested the same day in a single
operation. The arrests and the extensive Media coverage created a very high
impact in the State and the NDMC Administration was rattled.
Traffic Police: Three-wheelers from U.P. are allowed to ply in Delhi very freely
on a monthly payment of good amount of bribes. The local auto-rickshaws are,
however, challaned for petty offences and regular demands are made by the
police. A number of touts operate on behalf of the police. With the help of a
complainant, videoand audio-recordings were made over a period of almost a month
and the racket of institutionalized corruption was exposed. As many as 5
policemen and others were arrested.

A Glimpse of the Underworld of Corruption

Some parts of the transcripts of conversations of the accused persons in a few
cases noted below provide us a glimpse of the underworld of corruption. But, for
the use of technology, it would have been well-nigh impossible to collect such
irrefutable evidences.

Case of Crime Branch

Inspector: “… because of this reason I have helped you much more than what is
required and which cannot be done by others even if you pay rupees fifty lakh.
And, you have paid only a very nominal amount.” “Wherever I have to support you,
I would be keeping quiet in the court.”

Case of Sangam Vihar

Journalist to SI: “Sir, should I pay the amount to Anil (Ct), and would there be
no problem?” SI says that there would be no problem. Complainant to Journalist:
“Sir, I do not have more than Rs. 60,000/- with me. Please manage with this
amount since I cannot produce anymore. Don’t pressurize me further.” The
Journalist says, “No, since the SI agreed only for one lakh he would not take
anything less.” And, he further adds, “Tell me when you will pay the balance
amount? Is it tomorrow, or the day after? Be sure.” SI, who was present, advised
the complainant, “OK, pay it day after tomorrow.”

Engineers’ Case

Complaint to AE: “I will make your payment by taking some loan; as of now I have
some amount and you may take it.” The AE, while refusing to take the money,
comments: “This is only a change, keep it with you.” He adds, “You bring the
total amount along with the previous balance of Rs. 40,000/-.”
Complainant with EE: “Sir, AE was suggesting that I could pay your share also
through him.” The EE then tells the complainant, “You start the work first and
then talk to me.” (Records prove that there was no work pending to be started,
and the complainant confirms that to start the work means to make the payment of
bribe before the cheque is formally cleared for payment.)

Case of Transport Department

Constable narrates his conversation with the SHO, who posted him for the
Transport Beat. He says: “I told him that I paid him lakhs of rupees. When he
asked for details, I explained that I paid him for nineteen months @ Rs.
40,000/-, thus in all rupees eight lakh.” The rate for clearance of a licence
was enhanced from Rs. 200/- to Rs. 500/-. The touts plead with the main tout,
who works for the Inspector and conducts the tests, etc., “We have learnt that
the Inspector is taking Rs. 200/- from some touts, whereas you are collecting Rs.
500/- from us.” The main tout replies that he himself was paying Rs. 500/- per
case since the Inspector would not discriminate in collecting money. He also
says, “Since the MLO does not reduce the amount, the Inspector also cannot….
It is the MLO, who gets the major share.”

NDMC Case

One Enforcement Inspector ‘X’ of NDMC is a very well connected and powerful
officer. Another Inspector speaks to the complainant: “Do the work of ‘X’
first.” When the complainant said, “I paid the amount only on 10th of this
month… it was of last month”, he was advised to make payment to ‘X’ for the
current month within a day or two. The complainant was alerted that in case of
any message from ‘X’, no one would be able to help him. Therefore, “do his work
first”. The inspector ‘X’ to the complainant: “For this month, make the payment
on Monday and later, I will let you know through whom to make the payment in
future.”
One Constable (in the presence of another Constable) tells the complainant: “Pay
us first, then pay the SHO and afterwards pay the Division Officer. Lastly, you
can pay the Head Constable. One can run the shop only this way.” Assistant
Labour Commissioner refused to take Rs. 500, and says: “No. Keep it with you.
What can I do with this money? Forget about it. Even a Chaprasi would not take
this petty amount.”
Case against the Special Staff of NW district Head Constable to the complainant
(brother of arrested person): “Have you brought the full amount.” The
complainant says, “No, I have made arrangement for Rs. 1.25 lakh and am trying
to arrange the remaining seventy-five thousand rupees.”
When he confirmed that he was carrying only rupees ten thousand with him at that
time, the HC responds, “This ten thousand was brought for what purpose? There
was no need to bring this ten thousand. Sahab will object to it and others will
also object to it… As I told you bring the total amount or at least bring 1.25
lakh (what you have arranged).
ACP: “…When this person (brother of the complainant) was brought here, the
silver was not with him…. This man had to be illegally kept for four days with
us since the other accused arrested were already handed over to the PS”… “This
two lakh seventy thousand, which you are mentioning is like this, two lakh were
taken first. Later, Rs. 50,000/- was taken in my name. Twenty thousand more were
taken separately.”

Case against Dy. Commissioner of MCD

Complainant to the DC in the ante-room of his office: “You are like my younger
brother.” DC: “Yes, I am like your younger brother. I told him (AE) to be
reasonable in doing your work. Sit with him for a couple of minutes and work It
out.” As soon as the DC leaves this ante-room, the AE enters with a briefing
from the DC.
Complainant: “How much should be paid initially.”
AE: “If you have to get your work done, there is nothing like initial or final.
Whatever is the settled amount, it has to be paid.” Prior to this, a number of
conversations took place in which a clear demand was made for Rs. 2 crore for
de-sealing, at the rate of Rs. 1 crore per motel, and attempts were made to
scale down from this demand over a period. Subsequently, with the guidance of
ACB, the officials were confronted with all these conversations again and they
had agreed about these developments,which were captured in proper
audio-recordings. Thus, the incriminating conversations, which were not recorded
earlier, were retrieved in the subsequent recordings.

New Methods in Conformity with Law

It is now certain that use of technology is inevitable in order to prove a case
of conspiracy, demand and acceptance, intimidation, extortion, gang operations,
etc. Courts have also endorsed their appreciation of our efforts by invariably
rejecting bails of accused persons based on the convincing CDs and transcripts
produced by us. There is no ambivalence about the admissibility of the evidence
so collected.
The Apex Court in Ziyauddin Burhanuddin Bukhari v. Brijmohan Ramdas Mehta, AIR
1975 SC 1788 case clearly laid down that taperecorded speeches were “documents
as defined by Section 3 of Evidence Act”, which stood on no different footing
than photograph. Tape-recorded conversation is nothing but information stored on
a magnetic Media. In the same case, the Apex Court considered the value and use
of transcripts recorded there at the time of transcription and the evidence of
the makers of transcripts as certainly corroborative, because it goes to confirm
what the tape-record contained. The court also made it clear that such
transcripts can be used by a witness to refresh his memory under Section 159 of
the Evidence Act and their contents can be brought on record by direct oral
evidence in the manner prescribed by Section 160 of the Evidence Act. Thus, the
importance of having a transcript of the taperecorded conversation cannot be
underestimated. The same ensures that the recording is not tampered with
subsequently. As for admissibility of such evidence, conditions were laid by the
Apex Court in the case of Ram Singh v. Col. Ram Singh, AIR 1986 SC3, as under:

  • The voice of the speaker must be duly identified by the maker of the record or
    by others, who recognize his voice. Where the maker has denied the voice, it
    will require very strict proof to determine whether or not it was really the
    voice of the speaker.

  • The accuracy of a tape-recorded statement has to be proved by the maker of the
    record by satisfactory evidence, direct or circumstantial.

  • Every possibility of tampering with or erasure of a part of a tape-recorded
    statement must be ruled out, otherwise it may render the said statement out of
    context and, therefore, inadmissible.

  • The statement must be relevant according to the rules of the Evidence Act.

  • The recorded cassette must be carefully sealed, and kept in safe or official
    custody.

  • The voice of the speaker should be clearly audible and not lost or distorted
    by other sounds or disturbance.

Regarding identification of the taped voice, the court’s directions are that
proper identification of such voice is a sine qua non for the use of such tape
recording. Therefore, the time and place and accuracy of the recording must be
proved by a competent witness and the voice must be properly identified (Yusufalli
Esmail Nagree). Keeping in view the legal guidelines, over a period of one year,
experience was gained and expertise developed to provide the most appropriate
script to the complainant, to elicit and record the most required evidence from
the accused persons, which would meet the needs of trial at a later stage.
Further, new methods were evolved to strengthen the evidence collected.

The CD is played before the accused and Panchas, and the conduct of the accused
is recorded in a Panchnama. Usually, the accused is tense and repents for his
actions. Similarly, the voice in the CD is got identified with the help of
officials, who are in regular touch with the accused. As far as possible,
video-recordings of the proceedings of the Panchnamas are made. Statements of
Panchas are the additional evidences in the case. FSL opinion is sought in all
cases to ascertain that the CD was not tampered with or doctored, and also for
voice identification with the samples taken by them. The process of
investigation has been simplified, since most of the required evidence is
collected even before registration of the FIR.

Success of our Mission

Success in ACB case depends on the quality of evidence collected, and the utmost
secrecy maintained till the time of registration and raids. Use of technology
for recordings gave us ample time for collection of adequate evidence before a
case was registered. Further, since we adopted a method in which only the
complainant and senior officers are privy to the matter until the FIR is
registered, there is no chance of any leakage and the case is invariably
successful. The evidence collected is so indisputably strong that the
prosecution and ACB are very confident of the results of trial, when they are
concluded. We only wish the trials are much faster, so that there is relief from
this ordeal for the prosecuting agency, the victim, society, as well as for the
accused.

A series of cases successfully registered in a range of notoriously corrupt
departments, like the cases of Transport Department, MCD desilting fraud, SHOs,
Crime Branch Inspector and Advocate, 17 persons of NDMC, Deputy Commissioners,
scores of Engineers, Policemen, cases of Social Welfare Department, etc.,
resulting in the arrest of gangs of officials, particularly senior officers and
their cronies, in each case in one go, created enormous impact in these
departments as well as in the public.

Like the mythical Brahmastra, which is employed only against a leader and not
against the foot soldier, the meagre resources of ACB were targeted against the
seniors and gangs for causing the maximum impact. Reduction of lower-level
corruption was only an attendant consequence. Thus, we could replace the system
of sustenance on surrogate statistics with reliance on regal impact. Judiciary
as well as the Print and Electronic Media played a great role In support of the
campaign. While the Judiciary was absolutely firm in rejecting bails, the Media
gave extensive coverage.

Transcripts and, at times, videoclippings were published/telecast with the
objective of creating maximum awareness and deterrence. Since the material
available in the recordings and incorporated in the FIR and sent to the court
was very strong provable evidence about the certainty of the involvement of the
accused, and since no false cases were possible in such a mechanism, the entire
Media took up the cause with great zeal and commitment. If one has to wait for
the final conviction for giving publicity, the impact would never be felt. It
was reported that for the first time, the presence of ACB, Delhi, was strongly
felt and that over five decades of complacent, corruption was rattled and the
systems were shaken. The fear of certainty of possible punishment in view of
innovative recordings, coupled with the intense publicity causing a social
stigma, worked out as the best method of treating deterrence. The credibility of
ACB as an honest professional organization has etched in the minds of the
public. While the honest people were rejoicing, the patrons of corruption were
placed in a piquant situation, and for all the corrupt public servants, ACB was
no longer a nursing nanny, but turned out to be a nasty nightmare.

The rating for good governance soured high for the Government. However, the
corrupt segments and lobbies of such officials in the administration were the
most worried lot, and as expected, they finally succeeded in bringing curbs on
Press interactions and publicity to prevent exposure of the culprits. In order
to kill the spirit of proactivity, they also ensured that no resources were
provided to ACB, being aware that sustained activity is not possible without
Government support. There were adverse comments of some helpless (“committed”)
officials in the administration that the work of ACB was only a publicity stunt.
But, it was common knowledge that the contribution of ACB was due to a genuine
effort with a missionary zeal against many odds and hurdles.
The spirit of the officers, however, remained undaunted. “When I’m not thanked
at all, I am thanked enough; I’ve done my duty and I’ve done no more”, said
Henry Fielding. One has to agree.

Conclusion

Ads and Notices against giving/taking bribes exhibited on premises of Government
offices and the annual ritual of billboard signs and bumper stickers that read
“Anti-Corruption Week” will not suffice. Pledges do not change mindsets. The
insignificant results achieved so far have exposed the total inadequacy of
various methods available with the different agencies dealing with prevention of
corruption. Tehelka exposure has only reiterated it. We need to learn a lesson
from the systems in the village councils in tribal areas like Arunachal Pradesh,
which impose punishments for various offences as per their customary laws. There
the punishment is prompt and is considered as a social stigma. In social life
too, the culprit is debarred from participation in some rites and rituals. The
miserable life led by him works as the biggest deterrence for the other.

Therefore, apart from the methods already in place, it is the proactive element
with the use of technology; and the bitter medicine of social quarantining and
constant exposure of the corrupt, that is essential to bring relief to the
silently suffering public. The agencies of ACBs, Vigilance and CVC need to be
filled up with officers with proven traits of innovation, integrity and
proactivity. PAPs have to stop. Trials should be virtually instant. It goes
without saying that the community’s help is indispensable in the fight against
corruption. But, they will participate in the task wholeheartedly without any
inhibitions only when adequate faith is instilled in them. It is our experience
in Delhi that sincere and genuine proactive efforts were fully endorsed by all
cross-sections of people, since they found a breather and relief for the first
time.

The adage of Edmond Burke, “The one thing necessary to the triumph of evil is
that good men do nothing” applies to the good men in the Government, Media,
Judiciary and Society. To drive the droves of criminals away from governance,
good men have to join in larger droves in the movement. The Nation awaits the
‘anti-corruption brigade’, as a sincere citizen puts it. It is urgent, since
seven decades is too long a period in this combat. Otherwise, corruption will
demolish the confidence of the few unpolluted individuals and the society will
eventually have to pay the penalty. Plato said perfectly, “The penalty for wise
men, who fail to participate in the Government, is to live under the Government
of unwise men.”

Courtesy: Ministry of Home Affairs


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