A step towards fighting corruption

Why in News?

  • Supreme Court’s judgment of December 2022 on the matter of corruption.


  • In the Neeraj Dutta v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) judgment (December 2022), the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court (SC) condemned corruption among public servants. It also lowered the amount of evidence required to convict persons charged with corruption.
  • The judgment was appreciated by many, who desire probity in public administration and demand deterrent penalties for criminal activities. 
  • The SC in several decisions of the past have given equally strong decisions, but still, the extent of corruption in public life stands undiminished.

Details on the ruling of the case:

  • The apex court has debunked the myth that absolute proof of guilt alone would be required to convict an offender. 
  • The court has further ruled that in case of prosecution witnesses turning hostile, a conviction would be ordered if all the circumstantial evidence marshalled by the prosecution and produced before the court points to the guilt of the accused. This step would help in ensuring integrity in public services, specifically in the ‘superior’ services like the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service.
  • There are two crucial aspects to getting rid of corruption in bureaucracy: 
  • The severity of the law and its efficient application
  • The strength of public opinion, which is required to carry forward the campaign for a clean public life
  • There is always a demand for strict penalties like the death sentence. It should be noted that deterrence also works only up to a point. Moreover, it is a disregarded fact that the stricter the penalties, the higher will be the quantum of proof required by the courts. This reality probably convinced the SC to lower the bar for the quantum of evidence required to convict persons charged with corruption.
  • The Court has also set the standard of ‘preponderance of probability’ in effect. It should be noted that it is usually not acceptable in criminal trials. The requirement of only conclusive proof (proof that does not leave an iota of doubt) has now been diluted. This implies that infirmities like the non-availability of the complainant (due to death or non-traceability) would not be absolutely rejected.
  • This will also apply to cases where prosecution witnesses turn hostile, either due to inducement or intimidation.

Concerns associated with corruption:

  • The nexus between offender and victim has become a part of the ethos. In several instances, general citizens themselves are willing to offer bribes to the public servant.
  • It is also argued that the misdeeds of public servants are partly attributable to political corruption. In many states, acute unemployment has also resulted in the involvement of the applicant, the public servant, and politicians in illegal rackets that demand bribes in return for job positions.
  • Moreover, in certain places, the fundamental rights of the citizens and services like construction and registration of property cannot be availed without bribing the administrative and political hierarchy.
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