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Dealing with the Corrupt

One of the disconcerting aspects of a corrupt system is that now and then it has to wake up to the duty of letting the public know what action is being taken against corrupt officers. This is bound to be a stupendous task (if not an impossible one) in a scenario where corrupt officers far outnumber the clean ones. Therefore, when inconvenient questions are raised in Parliament or any of the legislative assemblies about what is being done about corrupt officers, the minister concerned is obliged to provide a list of the officers against whom action has been initiated for corrupt practices. In a country like India and more particularly in a State like Assam, a list of corrupt officers is bound to be a very long one if it has to a reliable one. A more manageable list is one of the corrupt government officers against whom some action was initiated and punishment given. This is so because even in a thoroughly corrupt system, the government seldom initiates action against all corrupt officers. The general trend in corrupt systems is to pick out those against whom very senior bureaucrats or ministers have a grudge for some reason or the other. Recently, Assam’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary had to inform the Assam Assembly (in reply to a written query by MLA Pranab Kalita) that the Assam government had registered cases against 16 IPS officers and two IAS officers serving in the State, in connection with various offences. However, the actual position is that cases have been registered against two IAS officers and six IPS officers and departmental proceedings have been initiated against 10 other IPS officers.
What needs to be well appreciated is that even in a very corrupt system, some action against corrupt practices will have to be sustained. Otherwise there will be no system left. However, there is quite some difference between registered cases and departmental proceedings. Registered cases go up before a court where an IAS or IPS officer is unlikely to find the fraternal consideration that can be expected from brother officers handling departmental proceedings. Common experience indicates that the brother officer who is entrusted with the departmental proceedings is often even willing to forsake patriotic duty in such cases in favour of the fraternal obligation felt for a brother officer. There is also another facet of departmental proceedings that should not be overlooked. In a thoroughly corrupt system, how many senior officers can one expect to find who have themselves never been indicted of similar offences in the past? The other common experience is that people never get to know of what eventually happened to officers facing such departmental proceedings. And since we all know how difficult it is to dismiss IAS or IPS officers given the rules that govern their service security, it is hardly surprising that they rarely worry about departmental proceedings. Given the extent of corrupt practices in government departments, what ought to surprise everyone is that there are not similar cases or departmental proceedings against many more officers. In fact, the very limited number of such cases could very well lead people to suspect that charges have been drawn up against some officers not so much because of offences committed, but rather because they fell out of favour with their superiors.