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Seeking the wrong solution

Seeking the wrong solution
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First Published: Sun, Apr 20 2008. 11 01 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Apr 20 2008. 11 01 PM IST
The Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India agree that more courts need to be created to handle corruption cases. This is unlikely to solve the problem. Even if the huge backlog of such cases is disposed of by courts, it will be a palliative measure at best. The root cause lies elsewhere.
If one looks at the number of pending cases, it looks that more courts are the answer. At the end of 2007, the cases brought forward for trial by the anti-corruption division of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) numbered 6,673. This had increased since 2005 when 4,942 such cases were under trial at the end of that year. So, more courts do seem to be the answer. If a case results in conviction, it serves to deter others from corruption.
This is a deceptive argument. Under the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003, a number of cases are brought before CVC for departmental action and advice of the commission. In an ideal situation, the commission’s recommendations should end the matter. The errant employee should be punished. His department punishing him would have a far greater deterrent value for his peers than a prolonged wait for a judicial verdict that is liable to be appealed against.
Unfortunately, these figures tell a different story. In 2006, CVC received 4,798 such cases. The number of cases in which penalties were imposed by the departments concerned that received CVC’s advice was 2,442, or just 51% of the cases received. Since 2002, rarely has this figure crossed the 52% mark. Long delays in getting clarifications from various departments, dithering in granting sanctions for prosecution and time wasted in issuing charge sheets are regular occurrences. Officials getting off the hook on “technical grounds” is common. The key to handle the problem is tightening the procedural aspects of anti-corruption laws. Why should a competently tried case be subject to a number of appeals?
With a large number of laws and layers of administrative functionaries, the scope of official “discretion” is immense. Viewed from this angle, the law has lost its deterrent function. In most cases these laws are well-nigh impossible to monitor and enforce, something that opens a new chapter in corrupt practices.
Will more courts help tackle corruption? Write to us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Apr 20 2008. 11 01 PM IST