India: Tech-ing On Corruption

Scams relating to public procurement and government approvals have generally entailed key individuals exercising discretion in favour of a (generally) undeserving party against a more deserving party. The 2G scam and the coal allocation scam both involved, broadly, allegations of ineligible bidders succeeding. Recent cases on approval to foreign investment applications have raised questions on abuse in relation to grant of approvals. Both scenarios place considerable discretionary powers in favour of individuals and reveal a system where checks and balances failed.

It is important to understand that threat of investigation and even conviction doesn't deter the criminal mind. (Representational image)

Disproportionate discretionary powers with poor checks and balances have brought us to this situation. Despite guidelines from the Supreme Court on exercise of discretionary powers, rules providing for approval from the Cabinet/minister, and threats of investigation and conviction, the canker of corruption flourishes unabated. While the government has tried legislative and policy measures, these have clearly not made a difference to corruption in India. In light of the failure of legislative measures, it may be time to think of a new approach—the use of technology.

It is important to understand that threat of investigation and even conviction doesn't deter the criminal mind. Imminent death (including a curse!) didn't deter Ravana, and it didn't deter Professor Moriarty. Clearly, it didn't deter Ramalinga Raju or Raj Rajaratnam.

It is important to note that these transactions engendering corrupt practices aren't limited to million dollars' worth of investments in India and possible government contracts. At the end of the day, discretionary power which a government servant holds over the common citizen is what facilitates touts, middlemen and bribes in even the most mundane and routine transactions such as getting a telephone connection, passport, driving licence etc.

Looking at the issue with a different perspective, indicative answers were given by the ministry of finance's own suggestion to make tax administration smoother for tax payers and minimise harassment of honest tax payers. An amendment was made to the Income Tax Act, 1961 to eliminate interaction between the assessing officer and the taxpayer. The amendment provides for eliminating the interface between the Assessing Officer and the assessee in the course of proceedings to the extent technologically feasible (S. 143(3A)).

An electronic interface between a government servant and the citizen will ensure that all communications are in writing and that everything is official about it. The benefits of such a scheme is seen in the Passport Office where an online appointment system and document uploading measure reduces discretionary powers and arbitrariness. The ministry of corporate affairs, too, has created an online platform which enables persons to incorporate a company from the comfort of their living room.

In the context of a more complex transaction, like foreign investment approval, most government approvals can be gotten merely by submission of an application through an online platform where an applicant registers with the relevant government agency. Generally, applicants do not get a hearing before taking a decision—whether it is before an authority under the state government or a body such as erstwhile Foreign Investment Promotion Board.

An extreme form of such an application (applied in some examinations) is keeping the identity of an applicant anonymous to ensure that there are no allegations of favouritism or discrimination. Such a measure would significantly minimise—if not completely eliminate, scope for corrupt activities in transactions relating to approval and government permission. Some transport offices are using censors in driving tests —eliminating possibility of abuse by inspectors.

Even without drastic use of technology, such as distributed ledgers for tracking integrity of documents, biometrics for tracking approvals, digital signatures and private keys for authenticating documents, using electronic interface is a small measure to root out corruption. Online trackers that helps applicants ascertain their status—independently and in relation to other comparable applicants— will also ensure there isn't any arbitrariness in the decisions. Without violating the identity rights of individuals and using only an application number, applicants will be able to ascertain if they have been unfairly treated or the application is unreasonable delayed.

Given that most government departments and offices are not dealing with issues related to national security, all senior government officers and ministers (central and state governments), should share their appointment schedule online to ensure transparency. Transparency and greater accountability of state officials demand that meetings between corporates and public servants are made transparent and official. The law does not prohibit companies (or any class of citizens) from meeting with legislative representatives, ministers or senior officers in the government and make representations. However, in the interest of transparency and for the greater common good, it is imperative that the people of India are aware of all the people their elected representatives and the bureaucrats are meeting with.

An oft-repeated complaint about electronic documents is the absence of a physical record. However, they do provide a digital footprint, essential for an ex-post investigation. The use of biometrics, where relevant, will tie users to transactions. Measures as simple as CCTVs and network logs will track access to documents.

Corruption will not be solved through only legislation. With a little bit of help from technology and some ingenuity, law enforcement agencies may be able to stay one step ahead of the criminal. These measures will supplement the existing measures and with more such measures, corruption in India can be substantially minimised.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions