The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC sounds graft alarm

New Delhi, Nov. 16 (PTI): Concerned by the spread of corruption, the Supreme Court has said the adage “every man has a price” was a little generalised but not far from truth.

This observation came from a bench of Justices Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Passayat while allowing an appeal of the Andhra Pradesh government challenging a high court order that acquitted a public servant in a corruption case.

The apex court said the anti-corruption laws have failed to achieve the desired results as they “do not appear to have curbed the growth of corruption”.

There is no scope for any leniency in a bribery case, the court said. “Avarice is a common frailty of mankind, and while Robert Walpole’s observation that every man has a price may be a little generalised, yet it cannot be gainsaid that it is not far from truth.”

Justice Passayat, writing the judgment for the bench, said: “The tentacles of corruption are spreading fast in the society, corroding the moral fibre and consequentially in most cases the economic structure of the country.” It has assumed alarming proportion in recent times, he said, adding that the object of the Prevention of Corruption Act enacted in the year of Independence was to nip the propensity for being corrupt in the bud.

But “the growth of corruption has to a great extent frustrated the purpose for which the act was enacted, and both the act and its successor act in 1988 do not appear to have curbed the growth of corruption and to have achieved the intended results”, the court said.

“When corruption was sought to be eliminated from the polity, all possible stringent measures are to be adopted within the bounds of law.” This was the reason why Parliament fixed a minimum sentence of one year in corruption cases, added Justice Passayat.

The bench said the courts have been empowered to reduce the period of imprisonment below one year only when there are special reasons, which must be recorded by the court. “Such legislative insistence is reflection of Parliament’s resolve to meet corruption with a very strong hand and to give signals of deterrence as the most pivotal feature of sentencing of corrupt public servants.”

All public servants are warned through such a legislative measure that the corrupt have to face very serious consequences, Justice Passayat said. If long pendency of a case becomes the special reason for reducing the sentence, then all corrupt public servants would deliberately delay the proceedings, he added.

“Increasing the fine after reducing the imprisonment to a nominal period can also defeat the purpose as the corrupt public servant could easily raise the fine amount through the same means.”

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