It is most shocking to see that inspite of so many scams being unearthed one after the other and all parties repeatedly asserting their firm determination to fight against it with full courage yet no effort has been made of any kind since the last more than 70 years to insert mandatory death or life term for corruption which has been ruining our nation beyond repair! The latest PNB scam involving diamond merchant Nirav Modi in which more than Rs 11,400 crore have been siphoned off only demonstrates that to what extent corruption has permeated deep inside our society. It took place with the full complicity of several top bank officials.
Earlier also we saw how Vijay Mallya made a complete mockery of our legal system and after siphoning off more than Rs 9000 crore escaped easily to England and has been enjoying life there since then! Now Centre has employed best lawyers after paying them heavily to fight the case in a protracted legal battle to bring him back! Why was he allowed to escape so easily?
Why was he not arrested immediately after his involvement was noticed in siphoning off the Rs 9000 crore of money? Why are looters and corrupt allowed to so easily escape from India along with their entire family to stay in luxurious five star hotels abroad? Why no effort is made to stop them from fleeing India? Does this not indicate complicity of the worst order in which politicians play the key role especially those holding key positions in the Centre?
Why no change has been effected in our corruption laws which actually encourage corruption by displaying extraordinary softness in dealing with them? Why all parties are firmly united that as long as democracy exists in India there will be no changes made in our corruption laws? Should we be proud of it?
It is most shocking and most hurting to see that this so-called Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 displays so much of extraordinary, senseless and unwarranted leniency in sentencing towards those corrupt who siphon off crores and crores of rupees and yet are not punished with mandatory death sentence. As if this is not enough, those corrupt are not even punished with mandatory life term! As if still this is not enough, those corrupt are not even punishable with mandatory thirty or forty years!
Even now this is not enough! Those corrupt are not even punishable with mandatory twenty or twenty five years! Even now this is not enough! Those corrupt are not even punishable with mandatory fourteen years!
The leniency saga still does not end! Those corrupt who commit for the first time any corrupt act are not punishable even with mandatory ten years! They can be punishable maximum up to seven years as specified in Section 12 which covers Section 7 and Section 11! Here also the Judge has the discretion bomb to use anytime where he can prefer to give him not seven years in jail but to a term of not less than three years as is the statutory requirement as provided in Section 7! Section 11 is even more lenient and under it the maximum punishment that can be awarded to a public servant for obtaining valuable thing without consideration from person concerned in proceeding or business transacted by such public servant is just five years and as if this is not enough the minimum can be reduced up to six months again by the Judge using the “discretion bomb”!
It is only when a person habitually commits an offence under Sections 8, 9 and 12 that a person can be convicted up to 10 years in jail along with fine but here again the Judge by using the same “discretion bomb” can again reduce the jail term to not less than five years! As if this is not enough, Section 13 which punishes a public servant for indulging in criminal misconduct again makes sure that “discretion bomb” is available with Judge and punishment maximum can be awarded only up to ten years but minimum can be reduced up to four years! What is this?
Should it be called “The Prevention of Corruption Act” or should it be called “The Abetment of Corruption Act”? I really fail to understand that why so much of leniency in sentencing corrupt is displayed in this so called “The Prevention of Corruption Act”! It makes a complete mockery of our country! Time and again we see how valuable lives are lost by either building collapsing or fire in a building and no safety norms being followed but just because the palms of few corrupt public officials are greased properly, no action is taken on the ground against those who violate laws with impunity! Even if they get caught, still they escape with just few years punishment after being directly responsible for the killing of many innocent people! How can this be termed as fair? How can this be allowed to continue?
Why under Section 19 of this Act has previous sanction been made mandatory for prosecution? Why should the accused be given the benefit to be out in the open for a long period till the time sanction is given? Will the accused not use the extended time to manipulate evidence in his own favour and destroy evidence that incriminates him strongly in any scam? Why should those public servant accused of corruption not be immediately taken to task?
How can corruption be ever prevented by treating corrupt so leniently? We all saw how Lalu Yadav was jailed for just 3.5 years for his role in the fodder scam! He has the option now to appeal in the High Court and then in the Supreme Court. It take many years for the court to be decided at the lower level. This scam happened about 20 years back and decision is coming now! Now it will be fought in higher courts! Then many years get consumed in the higher courts! Finally by the time the case is decided completely in Supreme Court by that time the accused will either die a natural death or by that time would have spent his prime years enjoying life!
All this has to end if India is really serious to control corruption. Only death or life or minimum 20 years in prison must be awarded to all those who indulge in corrupt practice of any kind! What the law currently prescribes is just nothing! It must be enhanced drastically if India really wants to march ahead!
There is no other Act in our country of which I am so ashamed! It is this “The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988” which really makes me hang my head in shame! What was the intention of the lawmakers when they enacted this Act? Didn’t they realize that it will simply fail to deter potential offenders from indulging in it because of so much of leniency? Didn’t they realize that it will further encourage potential offenders to make tones and tones of money and even if they are caught they will come out in jail in just few years and would be required to pay a sum of just few lakhs as we see repeatedly in various judgments as we saw in Lalu’s case also!
It is precisely because of this that corruption is increasing manifold in our country since last few decades and we are steadily rising high in the corruption index! Even smaller and lesser developed countries rank better than us! What is most worst is that no party ever demands the radical changes that are so badly needed in this so called “The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988”! Can on earth there be anything more shameful than this?
I feel very happy when I time and again hear our PM Narendra Modi reiterating his government’s firm resolve in fighting corruption! But when will this translate into action? When will Centre step on the gas to initiate tremendous changes in this ‘The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988’ by which any public servant indulging in corruption would have to either face gallows or at least life imprisonment or at least 20 years in prison?
It is all up to the Centre to take the bull by the horns and initiate radical changes so that corruption can be brought under firm check in our country! Let us hope that Centre acts soon in this regard! The earlier this is done, the better it shall be in controlling corruption and in the so called “war against corruption” proclaimed by PM Modi before riding to power in 2014 in Centre!
But if Centre itself wants the status quo to continue then we shall certainly see no changes forthcoming in this badly drafted “The Prevention of Corruption Act”! For repeated offenders the punishment must be either death or life term! The ball is in Centre’s court!
Centre must now display political will to make radical changes in this Act which is continuing in more or less the same form in which it was enacted 30 years back! Centre must stop coughing lame excuses to not do anything in this regard! Why has Centre led by PM Narendra Modi not acted decisively on this front even after being in power for nearly 4 years? Does it not want that corruption which is hindering our country from progressing ahead in many ways be swiftly checkmated by taking the most strictest action against those who indulge in corruption?
It must act strongly if it really wants to stand vindicated in the eyes of the public of being really serious enough to wage war against corruption and of making sure that corrupt are not able to make a mockery of our law by coming out of the jail in just a few years time at the most! Corruption is worse than terrorism because without firing a single round of bullet and without getting training from any hostile country like Pakistan, the corrupt is able to kill many innocents by caring a damn for the quality of material used in constructing roads, highways, food etc and mint thousands of crores of rupees and still escape with just a few years in jail and a few lakh as fine as compared to a terrorist who is shot dead by our security forces sooner or later! Thanks to this ‘The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988’!
Still even after 30 years of being enacted we see no major changes being made in it except some cosmetic changes! What does this imply? That all parties want status quo to continue!
All said and done, no political party wants that corruption should be ever checked to any extent in our country no matter how much public posturing they may do on this! This alone explains that why we see no changes being made in our corruption laws which displays unwarranted leniency which only encourages corrupt to further commit corruption because even the repeater offender is punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 with just 10 years in prison ! Most ridiculous and depressing! Not surprising that we figure among the most corrupt countries in the world! Yet no attempt is made of any kind to address it once and for all by making the necessary changes in our corruption laws and making it mandatory to punish those indulging in corruption with either death or life term! How shameful!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate