Dispelling impression of widespread corruption in India, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday asserted that not everyone here is corrupt and asked the regulatory agencies to intervene only when there is a clear case of criminality.
"I am not condoning corruption, but I would appeal to everyone not to believe that everyone is corrupt. You are corrupt, your father is corrupt, your mother is corrupt, your friend is corrupt, that everything you do is corrupt. That is the worst kind of attitude that we can adopt. The self-flagellation is what I protest against," he said.
Chidambaram further said that the belief that "India is the most corrupt nation, that Indians are the most corrupt in the world... is completely wrong."
Speaking at the Golden Jubilee event of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Minister said the regulatory agencies must intervene only in cases of gross violations by companies or when there are clear cases of criminality so that they do not get over burdened.
"Regulator or an armed regulator must intervene and I urge that they do so only on the basis of gross violation or gross excesses or if there is clear case of criminality, he said, adding "We must keep faith in self regulation".
He further said if any non-criminal deviation "shall be investigated/regulated by regulator, that way regulator will simply be over burdened by work and regulation will fail".
Referring to issues concerning corporate ethics, Chidambaram said the companies cannot follow the norms applicable to individuals.
"You can't expect the ethics that we apply to an individual to be the ethics that we apply to a corporate… The only behaviour we should expect of a corporation is to comply with law. The law must clearly say what can be done, what cannot be done and if a corporate complies with the law, think that corporate is ethical," he said.
Chidambaram said corporates cannot be expected to comply with a defective law. "If the law is defective, change the law, but the only behaviour you can ask the corporate to comply with is comply with the law. If the law says, you can do that, and if the law says don't, you cannot do that. And hold the corporate to account very strictly," he said adding there is a need to recognise the role of corporates as wealth creators.
The UPA II has faced a spate of corruption allegations which include 2G spectrum allocation, coal block distribution, Commonwealth Games and Adarsh Housing Society scam.
Referring to the new Companies Act, the Minister stressed on caution while exercising the powers. "While I strongly support the structure of the new Companies Act, I would urge caution in the manner in which powers are exercised.
"I reiterate we must bring self-regulation, we must enforce compliance, need to heed to board of directors and shareholders and only in exceptional cases should regulator intervene to punish gross grave cases of proven criminality," Chidambaram said.
The new Companies Act, which was approved by Parliament last year, has various provisions to protect investor interests and to prevent corporate misdoings.
Later replying to questions, Chidambaram also said, "We have a problem of corruption and we have to deal with it. The belief that India is most corrupt nation is completely wrong."
Image: P Chidambaram