Corruption benefits only a small group of people and that too for a little while. It does not benefit society as a whole. It happens when people are greedy and consider themselves above the law. Therefore we need additional laws in place to keep these evil practices in check.
Often the case is that people do not know the law. There are laws for so many different things – for protecting forests, for education, for business, for traffic and so on. Moreover, these laws are written in a style that is not easy to understand. When people do not know the law or understand what it means, it becomes easy for corruption to creep in.
For example, you might see a lot of development in your own city. Buildings are sprouting up in every empty space. Are these constructions legal? Do they follow building standards laid down by the government? If not, then how has the local government allowed them to come up? And if someone wants to know these details, how will they find out? Someone who is doing something wrong is not going to come out and admit it.
RIGHT TO INFORMATION (RTI) ACT
Every citizen has a right to know what their government is up to. It is for this reason that the RTI Act – Right to Information Act was formulated in 2005. The RTI Act enables a common citizen to go into any government office and ask for any piece of information regarding issues in their city.
This means that everything officials say is of public record. It ensures that government officials follow the law and are held accountable for their actions.
Under the RTI Act, you can go and ask if it is legal to construct on the vacant land next to my house – and the local officials will have to give you documents that show what can be done on that land. Under the RTI, a tribal can ask to see proof that his tribal area is protected and is not being deforested.
Apart from the RTI Act, the Indian government has a number of other anti-corruption laws to safeguard the rights and interests of the citizens.
The oldest anti corruption act is the Indian Penal Code or IPC, formulated in 1860. It is applicable to government servants such as officials in government offices, military officers, police personnel and judges. If these people are corrupt i.e they do things that are harmful to the public, they can lose their property, go to jail or be dismissed from service.
The Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 identified more public servants like the chairman, treasurer and secretary of a housing society. Public servants could also be penalised for nepotism- using their influence to benefit a single person rather than the entire society. E.g. if I am the Chariman of a housing society and I allow my friend, a gym instructor, to construct a gym on the children’s playground, I can be taken to court. I have allowed a personal favour and ignored the larger interest of the society.
The Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 punishes a public servant who has received money or property from a criminal activity. E.g. a bank manager who steals money from his own bank and uses it to buy a beach house or send his child abroad to study.
Anti corruption laws protect citizens from the misuse of government by public servants. It is then the duty of the citizens to educate themselves about these laws and use them to benefit all.
Divide your class into 4 teams. Each team may select any one anti corruption act. As homework they must find out about people who were punished under that act.
- Write the answers to these questions and bring them to class to discuss with everyone–
- Who was caught?
- What did he do wrong?
- How was he caught?
- What was his punishment?
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