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'Every case of helplessness is a result of a corrupt act'

January 23, 2012 12:08 IST

'In our society... a corrupt man is not a social outcast. He is most of the time a hero, a leader,' says Supreme Court Judge Justice A K Ganguly.

I really feel honoured to be before you in connection with the book release on a topic of great social relevance (Corruption and Human Rights in India).

If I may say so, Professor Raj Kumar could not have timed it better. It reminds us of the great cricketers -- the Indian cricketers -- they have a great sense of timing. I think Professor Raj Kumar has done the same thing. He has traced the history relating to corruption in society right from Kautilya down to this latter day ongoing debate on the Lokpal Bill.

Well, I am still a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court where I have some restraints of the office. But as a student of law, I really feel that there is no substance in the debate that the prime minister should be kept outside the Bill.

If the Lokpal Bill is meant for introducing scrutiny in the affairs of those who are holding public office, nobody will dispute the position that the prime minister is holding a public office. Anyone holding a public office cannot shy away from public scrutiny.

As far as I know from newspaper reports, the prime minister himself is willing to come under scrutiny. The more attempt is made to take him out of the purview of the Bill, the entire effort will become more and more suspect. That is my view as a student of law.

Now, the debate which is going on today on eliminating corruption is a debate which is made, if I may say so, without proper appreciation of the ground realities. Now, what is corruption? Professor Raj Kumar has attempted to define it. At the same time, he says it is difficult; it is incapable of a precise definition.

Corruption is an attitude of life. It is a particular mental frame. A perverted mental frame. Corruption has a very strong presence in our social life.

At every stage, there is an element of corruption. Every case of helplessness is a result of a corrupt act on the part of somebody else. And the voiceless people. They hardly count. The legal framework which is there under our laws does not touch them.

Corruption is very deep-rooted. In our society, a corrupt man is unfortunately offered a successful life. Let us accept this as the position. A corrupt man is not a social outcast. He is most of the time a hero, a leader.

The law is called the Prevention of Corruption Act. To my mind, and I am not talking as a judge, it is apt to call it the Preservation of Corruption Act. There is a very important provision in this Act. Unless there is a sanction you cannot proceed against the corrupt official.

Who is to give this sanction to prosecute? It is said that if this protection is not given, the courts will be flooded with frivolous cases of corruption. So we are not being sincere about eliminating corruption.

Look at the effect of corruption. Today the right to development is considered as a basic human right. Corruption means what? An undue advantage. What is due to me is denied to me. There is a recurrent theme in our Constitution. The theme is Constitutional governance.

Article 37 says the Directive Principles are not enforceable by the courts, but are fundamental in the governance of the State. Then the Fundamental Duties. The Constitution has emphasised that if you want to make the Constitutional promise, this country must proceed on the basis of Constitutional governance, which is not only your right, but also your duty.

Therefore, I have the feeling that if the act of corruption is unconstitutional per se, whenever somebody is acting in a corrupt way, it has to be tackled very seriously. But who is to do that?

I am happy that Professor Raj Kumar has also talked about corruption in the judiciary. He has referred to recent cases of impeachment. But in the next edition, he may kindly correct that Justice P D Dinakaran is not from the Sikkim high court, but basically from the Madras high court. Both the learned judges referred to, I cannot defend them. I feel sorry for them.

If the judges of the high court today are accused of these kind of things, then what will happen to the elimination of corruption? Even then I appreciate the candour and the courage with which Professor Raj Kumar has attempted this book. This is a very valiant effort.

Supreme Court Judge Justice A K Ganguly delivered this speech at the release of the book Corruption and Human Rights in India by Professor C Raj Kumar, vice-chancellor, O P Jindal Global University.

Justice A K Ganguly