Corruption and Human Rights in India: Comparative Perspectives on Transparency and Good Governance

Article excerpt

Corruption is universal. However, countries are differentiated by the way a government responds to potential and actual corruption. Professor Raj Kumar's book demonstrates that the prevention, uncovering and reaction to corruption indicate the strength of a country's public sector and its value of its citizens' human rights. His work makes the connection between the level of corruption and the safeguarding of human rights. An interesting index to consider this connection is Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index ('CPI'), (1) which ranks 183 countries/territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be.2 The CPI ranks the country with the least corrupt public sector as New Zealand; Australia is ranked 8 (with Switzerland); India is ranked 95 (with Kiribati, Swaziland and Tonga); and the most corrupt public sectors are found in North Korea and Somalia. India has a problem with corruption (along with its South Asian neighbours, such as Sir Lanka ranked 86, Bangladesh ranked 120, Pakistan ranked 134 and Nepal ranked 154).

This book analyses the serious problem of corruption in India and the impact of this problem on the rule of law and access to justice. The author's focus is on the human rights implications of corruption. The 'purpose of the study is to provide a new framework for legislative and institutional reforms in India with a view to addressing corruption'. (3) Kumar advocates a broader human rights approach to corruption, rather than relying solely on the criminal law. A human rights approach demands transparency and good governance. Kumar argues that fighting corruption requires legislative and constitutional reform to ensure transparency.

Chapter I introduces the problem or corruption in India. Kumar observes that corruption is not just a law enforcement issue, but rather 'corruption in India is a much more fundamental problem that undermines the very social fabric, and the political and bureaucratic structure, of the Indian society'. (4) Kumar argues that corruption violates human rights, in particular the constitutional rights guaranteed under India's Constitution. He observes that the existing Indian framework for fighting corruption places too much emphasis on the criminal justice system, which is also corrupt. Therefore, he argues that there should be focus on 'the promotion of transparency and accountability in governance'. (5) Such measures recognise that citizens need to be empowered to fight corruption. Kumar views acts of corruption as violations of human rights and such a perspective means that 'more recognition human rights violations Followed by actions that will help in the enforcement of human rights could itself be an effective tool in the light against corruption'. (6)

Chapter 1 provides an overview Of corruption in India and observes that 'corruption affects India at all levels of decision-making'. (7) Kumar identifies the inefficiencies in the Indian legal system, for example the continuance of the colonial immunity from criminal prosecution of public servants without the Central Government's sanction. (8) He identifies the normalisation of corruption and an indifferent judiciary as further constraints to fighting-corruption, introductory chapter also identifies the impact of corruption on human rights, for example, a corrupt police force violates the basic framework of equality and non-discrimination, and this is especially so when a police officer engages in torture or accepts bribes. The implication of corruption for the rule Of law is identified in three stages. (9) First, the disregard and disrespect of the law. Second, corruption is used to violate the law. Third, corruption is used to promote a lack of respect for the rule of law.

Chapter 2 locates corruption within a human rights framework. It examines the effect of corruption on specific human rights (the right to access justice and the right to development). This chapter then examines the effect. …