Columns

A firm no to corruption

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on November 14, 2013

The apex court’s ruling on a PIL reduces political pressure on bureaucrats.





The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on a PIL submitted by a group of senior bureaucrats is another step in the right direction in the battle against corruption.

The Court ruled that officials must enjoy a predictable, fixed tenure of office and that all oral instructions given by ministers must be on file so that specific responsibility for any action taken can be pinpointed.

Bold steps

There is hope now that honest officers can do their jobs without fear of backlash from politicians in the shape of sudden transfers, of which examples abound. Further, ministers cannot avoid responsibility for any government measure they have initiated but regarding which they have left no written footprint. As the apex court said (as reported), “written directions are of the utmost importance if oral orders are subjected to the rigorous test of the Right to Information Act, as verbal directions defeat the object of the transparency law and give rise to favouritism and corruption”.

The latest measure should be seen along with the July Supreme Court direction on members of legislatures losing their membership following conviction in specific cases. Both are bold steps in challenging corruption, and the nation expects that they will have a wholesome impact on the prevailing situation.

One long struggle

But having said this, the point to ponder over is whether such measures can really have any lasting beneficial impact on governance in view of the stranglehold that corrupt behaviour on the part of politicians and officials has on public life today. As a measure of the strength of the forces arrayed on the side of corruption, one need only cite the long struggle the two measures directed by the Supreme Court last week have faced over the past half a century. As the petitioners to the Supreme Court themselves have said, there was nothing new in the reforms sought by them, these having been culled “from the Santhanam Committee report in 1962, the Jha Commission report in 1986, and the Hota Committee report in 2004”.

The Supreme Court has done its job. The question to ask is whether good politicians and bureaucrats will do theirs to give a fresh lease of life to good governance, which has been on the decline since the nation achieved Independence.

A former Cabinet Secretary, who led the group of 82 bureaucrats who filed the PIL, is reported to have said: “We approached the Supreme Court as the morale of the bureaucracy was at its lowest ebb. Civil servants were not doing the job expected of them under the Constitution. Civil servants are the implementing agency of all policy decisions. But they had lost their morale. We petitioners know where the shoe pinches.”

The point is: do the erring politicians find bureaucrats willing to play their game, officers who are only concerned with pushing their own career prospects even at the expense of personal probity and clean governance? The suspicion is that the black sheep among politicians and bureaucrats today outnumber the good people.

The chances, therefore, are that despite what the Supreme Court has ordered, the corrupt will quickly find ways and means of overcoming the “setback” and continuing with their nefarious activities. The task set out for the Khemkas of the administration, therefore, is to make as much noise as possible whenever they spot an “irregularity” in the revised scheme of things so that the inexorable march of corruption is disrupted, even if just a bit.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on November 14, 2013
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Related

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor