Comment Pieces

Let us blame the bribe-giver!

Posted on January 16, 2014

There is one way to shut down all the noise about bribes. Make the bribe payer equally culpable of the crime. Now, not only will he be afraid of vindictive action from the bureaucracy for speaking out, the very act of him paying a bribe is a criminal act under the law and he can be proceeded against.

Speaking at an International conference on Coalition Against Corruption - COCO, 2014  held at Bangalore, Ms Swati Ramanathan, co-founder Janaagraha said that the new amendment to the Prevention Of Corruption Act was biased against the bribe giver as it is likely to penalise him as much as the bribe taker. It was confusing two entirely different scenarios; one where bribes are given to access services, which are in the realm of the rights of a citizen, and those where a preferential treatment was being given to a bribe-giver.

Ms Swati said that if the new Amendment comes into force, it might hinder the reporting of huge amounts of bribes that are being collected in the 'retail corruption' segment.

Participants in the international conference also felt that penalising the bribe giver along with the bribe taker, would hinder the reporting process. 

One wonders why such a clause finds a place in the new Act. But it is a sentiment that has been echoed for long by many in the officialdom. There will be no bribes if there is no bribe giver, goes the argument. So the bribe giver and the bribe taker are equally culpable. No room for such niceties on why the bribe was paid in the first place.

Knowing the Indian bureaucracy and the lower levels of the Indian judiciary, we can be rest assured that such a clause in the Act will be misused to no end. Those who are brave enough to speak out against corruption will first be made to run around courts for paying the bribe. 

The government and bureaucracy should understand that the crowd sourcing of anonymous corruption reports is an international movement and it is in their interests to listen to what the citizens are saying against the daily harassment faced by them. Such a crowd-sourcing works best when there is no fear of threatening calls or legal action. 

By refusing to listen to legitimate grievances told in an anonymous way, the government is losing its ear to the ground, and we all know what happens when the establishment of the day loses its touch with the people.

By Venkatesh Kannaiah