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Analyzing Corruption in India from a Legal Lens

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on May 9, 2023

Corruption is a persistent issue in India that affects society, politics, and the economy. Despite efforts to address the problem, corruption scandals continue to make headlines, and it remains deeply ingrained in many aspects of public life. Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index 2022 ranks India 85th out of 180 countries, indicating a high level of corruption. The impact of corruption on various sectors, including healthcare, education, law enforcement, judicial administration, public procurement, and land administration, is well-documented.

Corruption takes many forms in India, such as bribery, favoritism, embezzlement, and abuse of power. Studies suggest that if corruption levels were to match those in Scandinavian countries, India's GDP could grow by an additional 1.5%. Corruption undermines democracy by eroding trust in public institutions and reducing the effectiveness of policies and projects.

India has implemented anti-corruption legislation and established agencies to investigate and punish unethical behavior. However, these laws and institutions face challenges such as political interference, inadequate resources, and inefficient judicial processes. Consequently, corruption continues to persist in India, and high-profile corruption scandals are frequently reported.

This article aims to look at the legal aspects of corruption in India in the following manner:

  • Forms of Corruption
  • Legal Framework
  • Implementation and Challenges

Forms of Corruption

Corruption is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that can take various forms. It refers to the exploitation of power or influence for personal gain, often at the expense of the public interest. In India, corruption can manifest itself in various ways, including bribery, nepotism, embezzlement, and abuse of power.

  • Bribery: involves offering or accepting something valuable in exchange for an illegal favor or benefit. This could include paying or accepting a bribe to obtain a license or contract or overlooking a violation of laws or regulations. Bribery is a prevalent form of corruption in India that can lead to inefficient resource allocation and unfair competition.
  • Nepotism: refers to the practice of showing favouritism to family or close associates in decisions related to hiring, promotions, or other areas. This could include assigning critical positions to family members or awarding contracts to companies owned by relatives or friends. Nepotism undermines meritocracy by selecting less qualified individuals, reducing service quality, and eroding public trust.
  • Embezzlement: involves misusing funds or assets for personal gain. This could include diverting public funds to personal accounts or using company resources for personal benefit. Embezzlement and theft are forms of corruption that can have severe economic consequences since they reduce the availability of resources for public services and infrastructure.
  • Abuse of power: involves using official authority or position for personal gain or manipulation of the system. This could include misusing power to avoid legal consequences or suppress political dissent. Abuse of power is a severe form of corruption that can undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions, leading to reduced accountability and transparency.

Laws, institutions, and processes for preventing and punishing corrupt activity comprise India’s legal framework for combating corruption. Among the most prominent legislative mechanisms designed to prevent and punish corruption in the country are the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988, the Central Vigilance Commission, and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013.

The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988

The Prevention of Corruption Act[1] is a comprehensive piece of legislation that criminalizes bribery, unlawful gratification, and misuse of public office. The statute defines a public servant as anyone who occupies a public office and imposes harsh penalties, including jail, for corrupt activities. The statute also calls for the formation of special tribunals to accelerate cases involving corruption.

The Central Vigilance Commission

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)[2] was established by the Government of India in 1964 as an independent statutory organization to combat government corruption and promote openness. The commission is in charge of advising and assisting central government agencies with vigilance, corruption prevention, and integrity. Furthermore, it has the authority to investigate allegations of malfeasance against public officials and make appropriate recommendations.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013

Another key piece of legislation aimed at combating corruption in India is the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013.[3] The Lokpal Act establishes an impartial anti-corruption ombudsman to investigate charges of wrongdoing against public authorities. The act also calls for the formation of state-level Lokayuktas to investigate charges of wrongdoing against state-level public officials.

These laws and institutions are meant to deter and punish corrupt behaviour in India by encouraging openness, accountability, and good governance. The Central Vigilance Commission and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, both enacted in 2013, provide for independent oversight and investigation of corruption claims against public officials, whilst the Prevention of Corruption Act, enacted in 1988, calls for harsh penalties for corrupt conduct. In addition to these, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions[4] have the responsibility of formulating and drafting policies regardingthe prevention of corruption and maintaining integrity in public administration.

Implementation and Challenges

Despite having a strong legal framework in place to combat corruption, India faces significant challenges in effectively implementing this framework.

  • Political Interference: One of the most significant challenges to India's anti-corruption efforts is political interference. Some corrupt politicians use their power and influence to obstruct investigations and convictions of corrupt officials. This can include pressuring law enforcement authorities to drop charges or interfering with the judiciary's functioning.
  • Lack of Resources: Insufficient funding and manpower can hinder anti-corruption agencies' ability to investigate and prosecute cases. This may lead to an inability to pursue difficult cases or conduct thorough investigations, resulting in cases being dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
  • Inadequate Judicial Processes: Weak legal processes and delays in the justice system are also significant obstacles in India's fight against corruption. The backlog of cases and slow trials can make it difficult to hold corrupt officials accountable, eroding public trust in the legal system. Furthermore, corruption within the judiciary has been a major issue, with some judges accused of accepting bribes and engaging in corrupt practices.
  • Lack of Public Awareness and Participation: The lack of public awareness and participation can make it challenging to hold corrupt officials accountable. The general public must be aware of their rights and the role they can play in preventing corruption, such as reporting instances of wrongdoing and participating in anti-corruption activities.
  • Pervasiveness: Corruption is widespread in many areas of society, including politics, business, and government. As corrupt practices are often deeply rooted in the system, eradicating them can be challenging. To address corruption at all levels, a comprehensive effort is necessary, including institutional and policy reforms.
  • Lack of Political Will: Some politicians have been accused of corrupt practices, indicating a lack of political will to implement anti-corruption measures. This can lead to a lack of accountability and reduce the effectiveness of anti-corruption initiatives.
  • Limited International Cooperation: Limited international cooperation can be a challenge in the fight against corruption. Corrupt officials often use offshore accounts and complex financial structures to conceal their illegal income, and international collaboration is critical to track down and seize these assets.

Despite these challenges, notable achievements in India’s fight against corruption have occurred, such as the CBI’s successful prosecution of high-profile corruption cases and the establishment of Lokpal and Lokayuktas. However, the fight against corruption in India has a long way to go, and overcoming these roadblocks will be critical to making progress.


In conclusion, corruption is a major issue in India, with the legal framework and anti-corruption institutions facing several challenges. Stronger enforcement mechanisms, increased transparency, and increased public awareness and participation are required to combat this problem. Despite some successes in prosecuting corrupt officials and establishing anti-corruption institutions, India still has a long way to go in combating corruption effectively. By tackling these difficulties and implementing more effective legal measures, India may progress towards a more transparent and accountable society.


How does corruption affect the Indian economy?

Corruption has a significant impact on the Indian economy, both directly and indirectly. It can lead to unnecessary government spending, resource misallocation, and less competition, all of which stifle economic development. Corruption hinders foreign investment because it raises the risk of doing business in the country. Furthermore, corruption can exacerbate social and economic inequality by allowing well-connected or wealthy individuals to obtain advantages and opportunities not available to others.

What are the legal measures to combat corruption in India?

The Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988, the Central Vigilance Commission and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013 primarily comprise India's anti-corruption legal framework. The goal of these laws and institutions is to discourage and punish corrupt behavior.

What can be done to effectively tackle corruption in India?

To address corruption effectively in India, stronger enforcement measures, better transparency, and increased public awareness and engagement are required. This could include strengthening anti-corruption institutions, increasing transparency in government and business, and empowering the public to report corruption and participate in anti-corruption initiatives.





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