Integrity is one of the most important and oft-cited of virtue terms. The concept of integrity has to do with perceived consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcome. When used as a virtue term, “integrity” refers to a quality of a person’s character. Some people see integrity as the quality of having a sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one’s actions. Persons of integrity do not just act consistently with their endorsements, they stand for something: they stand up for their best judgement within a community of people trying to discover what in life is worth doing. Some commentators stress the idea of integrity as personal honesty: acting according to one’s beliefs and values at all times. Speaking about integrity can emphasize the “wholeness” or “intactness” of a moral stance or attitude. Some of the wholeness may also emphasize commitment and authenticity. In the context of accountability, integrity serves as a measure of willingness to adjust value system to maintain or improve its consistency when an expected result appears incongruent with observed outcome. Some regard integrity as a virtue in that they see accountability and moral responsibility as necessary tools for maintaining such consistency.
The Legal Framework
The assessment of the legal and institutional anti-corruption framework points to a combination of robust institutions and lack of accountability in key areas. Some institutions such as the Supreme Court or the Election Commission have taken a stronger stance to combat malpractice in recent years, while key pieces of legislation such as the RTI Act promote greater bureaucratic transparency, granting citizens access to public records. Important mechanisms are –
Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (POCA) is India’s principal legislation against corruption. Its main thrust is to prohibit public servants from accepting or soliciting illegal gratification in the discharge of their official functions. In addition, bribe-givers and intermediaries may be held liable under POCA for bribing public officials. However, prosecution under POCA requires prior approval of high authorities which severely limits its usefulness particularly where there is collusive activity within government branches.
In addition to POCA’s prohibitions, various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provide criminal punishment for public servants who disobey relevant laws or procedures, frame incorrect or improper documents, unlawfully engage in trade, or abuse their position or discretion.
The Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 seeks to prevent money laundering including laundering of property through corruption and provides for confiscation of such a property. It mainly targets banks, financial institutions and intermediaries such stock market intermediaries. They must maintain records of all transactions exceeding Rs 10 lakhs. Later amendment has also brought non-profit organizations under PMLA. They have been the typical conduits for terror organizations. The Enforcement Directorate recently began action to attach properties of DMK-controlled Kalaignar TV under the PMLA to recover Rs 215 crore in connection with the 2G scam for which DMK MP Kanimozhi is in jail along with A Raja.
The 2005 Right to Information (RTI) Act represents one of the country’s most critical achievements in the fight against corruption. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a “public authority” which is required to reply within 30 days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize its records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information for easy citizen access. This act provides citizens with a mechanism to control public spending. Many ani-corruption activists have been using the RTI to expose corruption. Lack of legal protection against whistleblowers, however, puts them in risky situation and many RTI activists have lost their lives in last six years.
There are various bodies in place for implementing anti-corruption policies and raising awareness on corruption issues. At the federal level, key institutions include the Supreme Court, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Office of the Controller & Auditor General (C&AG), and the Chief Information Commission (CIC). At the Sate level, there are local anti-corruption bureaus such as the Anti-corruption Bureau of Maharashtra.
In recent years, the Supreme Court has taken a stronger stance against corruption. It has challenged the powers of states in several instances. For example, in 2007 in Uttar Pradesh, it challenged the state governor’s powers to pardon politically connected individuals based on arbitrary considerations. In other instances, judges have taken on a stronger role in responding to public interest litigation over official corruption and environmental issues.
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is the apex watchdog agency established in 1964. The CVC can investigate complaints against high level public officials at the central level; not at the state level. In 2005-09, CVC slapped penalties on 13,061 CASES (average 2612 per year). It Oversees and supervises vigilance and anti-corruption work in all central government ministries, departments and PSUs. All group A officers (joint secretary and above) come under its ambit.
Limitation: Needs prior sanction to prosecute. Cannot probe officials below Jt Secy level until government refers case. Limited staff, normally on deputation.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the prime investigating agency of the central government and is generally referred to as a credible and respected institution in the country. It is placed under the Ministry of Personnel, Pensions & Grievances and consists of three divisions: the Anti-Corruption Division, the Special Crimes Division and the Economic Offenses Division. The Supreme and High Courts can instruct the CBI to conduct investigations. It investigates offenses by central government and PSU employees. States too can seek help. Also probes criminal cases.
Limitation: Cannot probe or frame charges on its own. Cases have to be referred. Is under government control and not autonomous.
The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C & AG) is the apex auditing body. The C & AG has produced several reports on state departments such as railways, public sector enterprise, and tax administration. These reports have revealed many financial irregularities, suggesting a lack of monitoring of public expenses, poor targeting and corrupt practices in many branches of government. The most recent example is its report on Commonwealth Games that nailed the corrupt organizing committee members. It audits accounts of all government departments/ ministries/PSUs. Look into discrepancies of expenses made by government/departments government controlled companies. Submits reports to Parliament that are then referred to the Public Accounts Committee.
Limitation: Limited to audits and accounts. Cannot probe corruption as defined by the Prevention of Corruption Act; has powers only to recommend; no investigative or prosecution powers.
The Chief Information Commission (CIC) was established in 2005 and came into operation in 2006. It has delivered decisions instructing government, courts, universities, police, and ministries on how to share information of public interest. State information commissions have also been opened, thus giving practical shape to the 2005 Right to Information (RTI) Act. Of India’s 28 states, 26 have officially constituted information commissions to implement the RTI Act.
Pending Anti-Corruption Legislation
Important pieces of anti-corruption legislation have been pending for years, including the Corrupt Public Servants Bill, the Lok Pal Bill, which is supposed to address corruption in high offices, including the office of the Prime Minister, and the Judge Inquiry Bill designed to introduce an inquiry mechanism for allegations and complaints against members of the judiciary.