Former Karnataka Lokayukta and Supreme Court judge Justice N Santosh Hegde is known for his efforts to curb the corruption menace in the government system. He firmly believes that official transfers should be left to the bureaucracy without any interference by politicians. In an interview to DH’s Vijesh Kamath, Justice Hegde explains how the ‘transfer business’ is turning into a lucrative industry and what can be done to curb the menace.
Is political interference in official transfers and postings the root cause of corruption?
It is one of the many avenues for corruption. There are two types of transfers — lucrative and punitive. The first type is for the corrupt. It goes to the highest bidder or the person who has got high-level contacts. This involves the government servant, the appointing authority and sometimes even a broker. These transfers are made by violating norms and the ill-gotten wealth is shared.
Punitive transfer is awarded to the honest officer who does not succumb to the pressure of his or her political bosses. This officer is transferred sometimes 20 times in as many years and most of the times to the remotest corner of the state. Transfer was the monopoly of departments till around 25 years ago and there was hardly any political interference. However, when transfers started to become a lucrative business, people surrendered to power and political domination took over.
Recently, a minister abruptly transferred 20 to 30 officers. He was accused of doing this for monetary benefit. However, the minister stated that he was acting on the recommendation of MLAs. But why should MLAs interfere? It is clear that people are willing to pay and that there are greedy people.
Is there any comprehensive legislation to govern transfers?
Transfer is purely the domain of the executive. Transfers are made with the aim of providing efficiency in administration and there is no need for a legislation. There have been some Supreme Court directions on transfers of police making it mandatory for states to set up Police Establishment Board. However, this is not being followed. MLAs should understand that they are meant to make laws and serve the people and not to meet their selfish needs.
Who is to be blamed for this mess?
There is no point in blaming any person. The system has changed and there is this mad race for power. It is unfortunate that there is no place for the honest. Today, there is no end to greed and people realise their mistake only when they are caught.
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Why are officers of the All India Services so silent on the issue?
There are two types of officers. Those who oppose corruption are shunted out. Then there are others who feel they have no strength to face the rot in the system and they keep quiet. There is a huge profit in keeping quiet. They also realise that they can seek a cut and keep it.
Were there instances of corruption in transfers in the government during your tenure as Lokayukta?
There are not many as the person who pays a bribe for a favourable transfer does not lodge a complaint, nor does the person who accepts the bribe. Those who do complain — they form a minuscule minority, say 2% — are usually punished by their superiors. They also face the challenge of proving their complaint.
What can be done to curb this menace?
I have a very philosophical approach. I feel that no law can help change the system, but imbibing honesty can. In the 1950s, there was hardly any case of corruption in public life. However, things started deteriorating over the decades. I believe youth can transform the society. We have to teach them to be honest and the system will change.