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CPI leader criticises working paper on legalising bribes

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Taking objection to a working paper on the Ministry of Finance website arguing that paying bribes in certain cases be made legal to encourage whistle blowing and forcing the bribe takers to face action, the Communist Party of India on Saturday urged the Government to withdraw it.

“I am alarmed by a recent proposal of the Chief Economic Adviser [Government of India], whereby paying bribes would be made legal. This proposal, made by Professor Kaushik Basu in a paper posted on the Finance Ministry's website (“Why, for a Class of Bribes, the Act of Giving a Bribe Should be Treated as Legal''), is dangerous and unethical. It is especially objectionable at a time when the entire nation is concerned about the spread of corruption,'' party MP D. Raja said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sought to know from Dr. Singh whether he endorses the suggestion.

Mr. Raja said the proposal applies to a particular class of bribes, called “harassment bribes” by the author. These are bribes paid for something one is entitled to. Prof. Basu argues that if paying harassment bribes were made legal, bribe-givers would have an incentive to blow the whistle. Knowing this, bribe-takers would hesitate to accept bribes. He concludes that making it legal to pay bribes would “cause a sharp decline in the incidence of bribery.”

“Whatever the merits of this reasoning as an economic argument, making it legal to pay bribes would enhance the moral acceptance of corruption in Indian society. As Kaushik Basu himself observes, “if we want to really get at corruption, what we need to build up are values of honesty and integrity in society.'' Making it legal to pay bribes would undermine these values of honesty and integrity. Indeed, it would make people who don't pay bribes look like fools.

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