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UN Anti-Sleaze Convention:INDIA FAILS TO LEGISLATE, by Dr. P. K. Vasudeva,15 June 2011 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 15 June 2011

UN Anti-Sleaze Convention


By Dr. P. K. Vasudeva


As India grapples with the mammoth scourge of corruption and the Government drags its feet on the Lokpal Bill, New Delhi stands out as one of the few countries in the world that have not acceded to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

Remember, this Convention, which came into force on 14 December 2005 and signed by 140 countries, has not been fully ratified by India. More scandalous is the fact that New Delhi continues to tom-tom it has ratified the Convention but this cannot be treated as ratified as the Convention’s Articles make it mandatory for legislations to be brought in.

True, the Government announced the ratification of the UNCAC on 12 May last which would help in dealing with the problem of black money and corruption through legislative and administrative measures. Whereby it would help the Government seize illicit money and assets. "I have been informed that India has completed the process of ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption," asserted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The completion of this ratification process has been under active consideration since September 2010 by a Group of Ministers which is overseeing the ratification process,” he added.

According to the UN Convention, each member country shall "consider adopting appropriate legislative and administrative measures, consistent with the objectives of this Convention and in accordance with the fundamental principles of its domestic law, to prescribe criteria concerning candidature for and election to public office."

It also prescribes disciplinary or other measures against public officials who violate the codes or standards established in accordance with the articles of Convention.

Needless to say, the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development welcomed India’s announcement that it had ratified the UNCAC. Building upon India becoming a member of the Task Force in January 2011, the ratification comes as part of a broader effort by New Delhi to tackle corruption and stem the flow of illicit capital flight estimated at about $19 billion per year, the Task Force said in a statement.

Importantly, the Task Force while welcoming India’s partial ratification wondered why New Delhi has not yet brought its domestic laws in line with the international Convention. Pointing out that nearly six years had elapsed and India still had no legislation in place it underscored the Union Government’s lack of interest in making India less prone to corruption due to proper lack of legislation.

According to the UNCAC 51-59 Articles, the agreement on asset recovery is a major breakthrough and is also the reason why many developing countries have signed the UNCAC.

Undoubtedly, asset recovery is an important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth. Reaching an agreement on this Chapter involved intensive negotiations, as the needs of countries seeking illicit assets had to be reconciled with the legal and procedural safeguards of the countries whose assistance was sought.

Countries from which return was likely to be sought, on the other hand, had concerns about the language that might have compromised basic human rights and procedural protections associated with criminal liability and freezing, seizure, forfeiture and return of such assets.

The UNCAC’s ratification would only be complete when legislations are passed in the Parliament that asset-recovery of the stashed wealth and property outside the country would be declared public property under the Convention’s 51-59 Articles.

This is a particularly important issue for many developing countries like India, where corruption has plundered national wealth, and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of the poor and down-trodden. Indeed, Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev’s demand is in line with the Convention on asset recovery and declaration of ill-gotten wealth as public property.

Plainly, acceding to the Convention would have made it easier for India to repatriate the billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth that have been stashed overseas. Given that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has found himself in complex negotiations with Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Germany to bring back looted assets.

Under Article 51 of the Convention, return of assets to countries of origin is a fundamental principle. But legislation has to be enacted in the Parliament to this effect as demanded by civil society.

This is not all. An entire chapter of the Convention is dedicated to prevention, with measures directed at both the public and private sectors. These include model preventive policies, such as the establishment of anti-corruption bodies and enhanced transparency in financing of election campaigns and political parties.

Further, States must endeavour to ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards. Public servants would have to be subject to codes of conduct, requirements for financial and other disclosures and appropriate disciplinary measures.

Scandalously, so far no Bill has been placed in Parliament, to include the Prime Minister, his Cabinet colleagues, Parliamentarians, bureaucrats and judiciary for action under the Convention. Bluntly, the Jan Lokpal Bill under consideration by a committee comprising five Ministers and civil society members should be in line with the UN Convention.

Moreover, according to Articles 41-45, the Convention criminalises not only basic corruption such as bribery and embezzlement of public funds but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption.

States the UNCAC: “offences committed in support of corruption, including money-laundering and obstructing justice, are also dealt with. Convention offences also deal with the problematic areas of private sector corruption.” Undeniably, India’s legislation should also include public and private sector honchos.

Notwithstanding Team Anna Hazare insisting on the inclusion of Prime Minister, MPs, bureaucrats and judiciary in the Jan Lokpal Bill in keeping with the UNCAC the Government refuses to relent. For obvious reasons.

Team Hazare also wants the Lokpal to be a Constitutional authority like the Chief Election Commissioner and Controller and Auditor General of India at the Centre and a Lokayukta in every State.

Clearly, Anna Hazare’s job of Anna is tough, very tough. First, there will be many hurdles to overcome in formulating the Bill and second, getting it passed by Parliament by 15th August 2011. Even as the Government  tries every trick to delay the Bill as much as possible for one reason or the other.

But let us hope that with the support of the aam aadmi and Team Hazare’s resolute determination the Jan Lokpal Bill will see the light of the day and India can say goodbye to corruption.  ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)






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