Corruption is the flavour of the month in the run-up to the elections.
Every election in India has a ﬂavour which political people call issue. I call it a ﬂavour because if it’s really an issue then political parties will obviously have a plan to solve it. Most of time, it’s very superﬁcial and that’s why without even believing in that issue, all parties portray themselves as champions of the issue.
Undoubtedly, the flavour of this election is corruption. However this is not the ﬁrst time an election has been fought on the issue of corruption. Though leaders are claiming that they have the will to ﬁght corruption, strangely enough no one seems to have laid a plan.It is a sad history that government after government has hardly taken any steps to control corruption. Political parties always banked on short memory of the public. It seems that every scandal has a shelf life – be it Bofors, 2G or CWG.
As per the dictionary corruption is “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery”. In India, we have all had a brush with corruption in our everyday lives. My ﬁrst brush with corruption was 37 back when I was forced to sleep on ﬂoor by the train TT in spite of having a valid reservation as he claimed that my name did not exist in reservation list. He made some 10 Rupees from a willing passenger and I got a lifetime experience. Over the years, the growth of corruption has certainly taken over inflation.
The only answer suggested by the political parties to fight corruption is the appointment of Lokpal. While it’s a welcome step, the past experience of Karnataka does not pronounce high hopes. The problem lies in our own will because instead of strengthening our existing institutions, we are creating newer institutions. But why have we not been able to control corruption? Or we have not tried enough? Not too difficult to answer as long as we focus on two old sayings: “The bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle”, Peter Drucker; ‘Ek hi saadhe sab sadhe, sab saadhe sab jaye” (Taking care of one main thing can take care of several other things automatically), Sant Kabir.The maturity of any society is judged by its ability to deliver quick justice. And justice delayed is justice denied. I consider our judicial system our bottleneck and every offender most often than not takes advantage of it.
With a mere glance on developed economies one can observe that the rate of corruption I low there because of their ability to deliver justice quickly. The rate of corruption in any country is inversely proportional to the time taken by its judicial system in delivering justice. The courts have been the biggest bottleneck. Every case, ﬁnally lands in the court and in the absence of any deterrent for being convicted soon, the accused roam free. This does not create fear in the mind of the offender and de-motivates anyone from ﬁghting corruption.
Consider this: India has nearly 16,000 judges delivering justice to 120 crore people – too few to deal with current cases and highly inadequate to deal with pending cases. India has the highest number of pending cases in the world totaling 3.2 crore and the Supreme Court alone accounts for 66,000 cases. According to an estimate, it will take about 300 years by the existing system to deliver justice to these pending cases, provided there are no new cases registered.
Unless we reform the functioning of the judiciary, all our efforts in ﬁghting corruption will continue to fail. The country will continue to discover scam after scam and those involved may get convicted after 20 years. Murder and rapes cases will take the entire lifetime of the involved families and the accused will roam free. Those in power will continue to commit crimes knowing full well that either they will not be caught or will manage to delay court judgements in their lifetime. l need not quote examples of such delays as we can all see the same in our families as well as in newspapers. It is more difficult to ﬁnd examples of convictions on charges of corruption soon enough to deter society.
Here is what needs doing:
Courts should adopt a system of time bound delivery of justice. The maximum time taken should not be more than two years to start with. The system of adjournments should become strict; and only granted in exceptional cases.The government should set up new courts and number of judges should be tripled at least. Technology should be deployed extensively for remote hearing on video conference.
Without strengthening the judicial system we will continue to face violence and corruption every day. Any party with serious intentions to fight corruption should prioritize judicial reforms in its manifesto. Anyone listening!