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Manmohan wants graft cases pursued vigorously

Special Correspondent

Says Government intended to bring in a Public Services Bill


  • Spells out seven-point strategy
  • For evolving system that protects an honest mistake

    NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the Government intended to bring in a Public Services Bill before Parliament to protect whistleblowers and to define a code of ethics and management.

    "The Billwill have the overall objective of developing public services as a professional, politically neutral, merit-based and accountable instrument for promoting good governance and better delivery of services to all our citizens."

    Dr. Singh was addressing the 16th biennial conference of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the State Anti-Corruption Bureaux.

    Favouring an aggressive pursuit of corruption cases at the highest level, he spelt out a seven-point comprehensive strategy to reduce the scope for corruption, while at the same time providing space for individual initiative and action.

    Dr. Singh asked the CBI and other anti-corruption agencies to take a broader view of individual cases and make a distinction between a "bona fide mistake" and a deliberate "wrong-doing." He called for putting in place a system that protected an honest mistake. "Life is full of uncertainty and in this environment, honest mistakes are unavoidable."

    The strategy, unveiled by Dr. Singh, included undertaking reforms in the tax system, an area of high corruption; modernising the justice delivery system to cut down delays; eliminating all discretionary controls; reforming civil and defence procurement systems and decentralising administration and delivery of justice.

    Deterrence

    "The anti-corruption machinery should create deterrence against corruption by aggressively pursuing cases of high-level corruption to their logical end. Rapid, fair and accurate investigation of allegations of corruption against public servants at all levels should remain a priority."

    Referring to Hindi movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Dr. Singh said he was touched by the ordeal of a senior citizen trying to get his pension without having to pay a bribe.

    "In stripping his clothes as an act of protest, this pensioner was stripping our system, exposing the ugly nakedness of the self-aggrandisement of those who man our institutions of governance."

    Abolishing the licence-permit raj and reducing the extent of discretionary controls had made a major dent on corruption. "However, I am aware that many controls still remain and need to be either abolished or made transparent and non-discretionary."

    "In the final analysis, however, there is no better protection against corruption in public life and in public services than an alert civil society. Our Government has empowered civil society through the Right to Information Act. However, it is public-minded individuals, non-governmental organisations and the media who have to take the initiative to mobilise people against corruption."

    CBI chief's plea

    CBI Director Vijay Shanker said while the agency took about a year or two to complete investigations in over 90 per cent of cases, it took 10 to 20 years for courts to complete trials.

    "More than 6,000 anti-corruption cases charge sheeted by the CBI are pending in courts. Hence, more special courts should be set up for speedy disposal of anti-corruption cases."

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