Administrative reform should be AAP’s focus, not sting operations.
By campaigning on an anti-corruption plank and vowing to cleanse government, the AAP struck a chord with the middle class and youth. But the promise to deliver corruption-free governance must be based on an appreciation of the root causes of corruption. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s approach to the problem has been impulsive at best.
Kejriwal has spent more than a decade in government service. He should know how and why corruption exists. He must be aware of former central vigilance commissioner N.Vittal’s tireless advocacy for adopting preventive measures and improving systems to tackle corruption. In this context, it’s unfortunate that after taking oath as CM, Kejriwal told people not to refuse paying a bribe when it is demanded, but to encourage the demand so that the bribe-seeker can be caught in the act. For him, the solution to a corruption-free government lies in catching officials by entrapment rather than removing the root cause of the malaise.
Tackling corruption by encouraging people to conduct stings may be a thrilling prospect for some. The recent suspension and transfer of some Delhi Jal Board officials after a sting operation by a news channel may have some impact. But officials who are prone to corruption will not vanish just because of stings. They will lie low till the air clears and ultimately resurface if the system continues to allow them to make money.
Before we examine the desirability of sting operations, it’s worth understanding the procedures that are followed by anti-corruption bureaus (ACBs), vigilance bureaus and the CBI in “trap” cases. The ACBs subject complaints about officials demanding bribes to verification processes. It’s only after the authenticity of the complaint has been established that the process for laying the trap is initiated. Even though the law does not demand it, bureaus insist on verification to ensure that unscrupulous complainants do not misuse the anti-corruption machinery to settle personal scores. These days, bureaus use forensic analysis of voice samples, authentication of video recording etc to corroborate evidence.
In contrast, sting operations presuppose that the entire range of issues for which people approach government is solvable within the existing framework of rules. Persons advocating stings to counter corruption are oblivious to the fact that for every bribe taker there is a giver. Also, a sting is entrapment and its legality is still nebulous. There are several doubts about their admissibility as evidence. This being the case, the vigilance department of the police will have to further investigate stings carried out by members of the public, which will only result in a waste of man hours and resources. In fact, courts have frowned upon “chance traps” laid by ACBs without establishing the demand for a bribe.
Experience shows that often bribe continued…