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PM on corruption: ‘Big fish’ must not escape punishment

Asking CBI and state anti- corruption officials to aggressively pursue “high level corruption”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the perception that “big fish” escape punishment must change and they should act swiftly and without fear.

Opening a conference of CBI and state anti-corruption bureaux here, he said there was no single remedy for fighting corruption which has to be combated at many levels, one of which was making existing systems less discretionary.

“High-level corruption should be pursued aggressively. There is a pervasive feeling that while petty cases get tackled quickly, the big fish escape punishment. This has to change,” Singh said.

The Prime Minister said while quick investigation was important and necessary, it was not sufficient to bring the guilty to book.

“Trials should be conducted expeditiously and judgements delivered quickly. To begin with the aim should be to conclude the trial in two years so that punishment could be given to the offenders within a period of three years or so,” he said.

Singh said the government has recently decided to set up 71 new CBI courts and expected them to function as model courts, hold day-to-day proceedings and avoid unnecessary adjournments.

The Prime Minister said the world respects Indian democracy, its plural and secular values, independent judiciary, free press, its commitment to freedom and peace and its pursuit of equitable and inclusive growth.

“But pervasive corruption in our country tarnishes our image. It also discourages investors, who expect fair treatment and transparent dealings. As the country grows and integrates with the world economy, corruption continues to be an impediment to harnessing the best technology and resources,” he said.

Singh said the urgent need to combat corruption cannot be over emphasised as it distorts the rule of law and weakens institutions.

“It hurts our economic growth in a variety of ways apart from hindering our efforts to build a just, fair and equitable society,” he said.

The Prime Minister said there is a constant refrain in public discourse that much of what the government provides never reaches the intended beneficiaries — whether it is subsidised food grains for the poor, loans, fertilisers or seeds on concessional terms for small and marginal farmers or the benefit of employment programmes for the unemployed.

“This should be a matter of serious concern for all of us collectively,” he said.

Singh said there was no single remedy for fighting corruption and battle against it has to be fought at many levels.

“The design of development programmes should provide for more transparency and accountability. Systems and procedures which are opaque, complicated, centralised and discretionary are a fertile breeding ground for the evil of corruption. They should be made more transparent, simple, decentralised and less discretionary,” he said.

The two-day 17th biennial conference of CBI, state anti-corruption bureaux and vigilance agencies is being attended by their heads from all states and Union Territories.

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