India remains high on the list of countries across the globe with perceived government corruption. Yet with recent elections, changes in governance, emerging anti-corruption groups and legislative actions, hope for India’s government exists. There are many strides for progress as seen in these 10 facts about corruption in India.
10 Facts About Corruption in India
- Corruption Index: According to the Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index (2018), India has remained at a score of 41 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) over past years, ranking 78 out of 180 countries in perceived corruption. The index ranks countries by their perceived level of public sector corruption according to experts and qualified business people. The corruption index, in accordance with these 10 facts about corruption in India, reveals that despite some progress, the continued failure of most countries to control corruption has only furthered the crisis in democracy around the world.
- Elections: As India’s election polls closed May 23, 2019, candidates spent a total 600 billion rupees ($8.7 billion) on publicity, logistics and, in some cases, distribution of cash for votes. Yet, the Election Commission ordered that each candidate not exceed 7 million rupees. N Bhaskara Rao, chairman of Centre for Media Studies, says, “Mother of all corruption lies in the spiraling election expenditure.” Rao estimated that expenditures in the 2024 general election could exceed 1 trillion rupees.
- The Prevention of Corruption Act: The Prevention of Corruption Act, an attempted anti-corruption regulation, was originally passed by Parliament in 1988. The Act has been brought before the Supreme Court for amendment twice since 1997 for regulation failures, most recently in 2018. PCA 2018 brought about significant changes, including making bribery a specific offense inducing corporate criminal liability, a fixed two-year timeline for the conclusion of a trial and stricter punishments for bribery offenses. However, a new provision now requires government approval before any inquiry or investigation can be conducted by Central Bureau Investigation into the public officials in question. The single directive bars investigative protocols and extends previous legislation (Central Vigilance Act of 2003) to protect officials of all ranks from corruption investigations. The single directive provision has been challenged in the Supreme Court of India and awaits judgment.
- The Companies Act 2013: The Companies Act of 2013 provides provisions to prevent corruption and fraud in the corporate sector. This includes requiring statutory auditors to disclose any instances of fraud, corruption or bribery committed by company employees, increasing penalties for fraud offenses, vesting increased powers to arrest with the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), establishing vigilance mechanisms and audit committees and increased responsibilities for independent directors. The Act was amended in 2017, modifying the existing penalty provisions for corporate fraud to tailor penalties to the seriousness and monetary value of the offense.
- The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013: This Act accords powers to the nodal ombudsman, independent and impartial officials, to investigate corruption cases in the public sector in the central and state governments, Lokpal and Lokayukta respectively. The Act also applies to the whole of India by granting powers to the Lokpal, an anti-corruption ombudsman authority, to investigate and prosecute PCA offenses by a foreign company doing business in India. The Act was amended in 2016 to require public servants to report their liabilities and assets, as well as those of their spouses and dependents to relevant authorities.
- The Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011: This Act protects whistleblowers in regards to the disclosure of corruption acts, willful misuse of power or of the commission of a criminal offense by a public servant. However, although the Act has been passed it has not yet been brought into effect by the government, awaiting further amendment, according to the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. One such amendment introduced was the 2015 Bill, aiming to prohibit reporting of corruption-related disclosures by a whistleblower unless it meets specific criteria denoted by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
- The Commonwealth Games Fraud: In 2010 allegations emerged against the Commonwealth Games. The Central Vigilance Commission cited a $1.8 billion misappropriation of funds, costing almost 18 times the Commonwealth Games’ budget. It was estimated that only half the allotted amount was spent on the Indian sportspersons the funds were dedicated to. Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Commonwealth Games’ organizing committee, and other officials were charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery for the purpose of cheating and were charged under sections of the PCA. The scam led to the resignation of multiple government officials.
- 2G Spectrum Telecom Scam: Later in 2010, a massive telecom scam implicating former Telecom minister Andimuthu Raja along with 14 others, ranked as the world’s second-largest abuse of executive power by the Time magazine. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the scam cost a loss of an estimated $39 billion to the Indian national exchequer. The scam was a combination of three cases, two registered by the CBI and one filed by Enforcement Directorate, in which 2G, second-generation licensure for mobile networks, was giving throwaway prices instead of carrying free and fair auctions. Raja denied all charges and was arrested on charges of cheating, forgery and conspiracy.
- “Coalgate” Scandal: The coal scam of 2012 followed a report made by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India which showed the inefficient and potentially illegal allocation of coal blocks between 2004 and 2009. The coal blocks were to be allocated via competitive bidding. However, the former UPA-2 regime did not abide and accusations ranged from malicious avenues in securing allocation, overstating net worth, nondisclosure of prior allocation and hoarding rather than the development of allocated resources. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, former secretary H.C. Gupta, former joint secretary in Coal Ministry K.S. Kropha and former director of Coal Ministry K.C. Samaria were found guilty. They were sentenced under the PCA and Indian Penal Code. A dozen companies were also cited in the CVC investigation. An estimated $34 billion was lost.
- CVC, SFIO and the Supreme Court: Recently, the CVC has taken action to advise all central government departments on quicker disposal of pending corruption cases. The authority has created an online complaint management system where individuals can file complaints in this regard. The SFIO has also taken proactive action in increasing the pace of its investigations, completing 87 investigations during 2016 and 2017, as compared to only 225 investigations completed in previous years since its formation in 2003. The Supreme Court has worked to expand the breadth of the definition of ‘public servant,’ defined in the PCA of 1988, to further include all officials of private banks, bringing them under the scope of anti-corruption laws.
These 10 facts about corruption in India are indicative of progress and further efforts needed for anti-corruption efforts in India. In a landslide victory, the 2019 general election reinstated incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who touts an anti-corruption platform focusing on good governance and economic growth. Since 2011, a number of anticorruption parties have emerged following the introduction of the India Against Corruption movement, including the Aam Aadmi Party led by activist Arvin Kejriwal. These efforts, in combination with the actions and guidance of anti-corruption entities, can help curb corrupt governance in India.
– Julia Kemner