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Corruption is the enemy of democracy

  • Published at 01:46 pm April 18th, 2018
Corruption is the enemy of democracy

Bangladesh has scored 28 on a scale of 0-100, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017 released by Transparency International (TI) on February 21. The CPI was launched in 1995, and it provides international comparison of countries by perceived prevalence of corruption understood in terms of abuse of entrusted power.

It is a survey of surveys (13 in 2017) conducted by reputed international organizations. Bangladesh’s score in CPI 2017 is two points higher than that of 2016. In a list of 180 countries, Bangladesh is ranked 17th from below, which is two steps higher than in 2016. We were, earlier, placed at the bottom of the list for five successive years from 2001-2005.

Bangladesh remains well below the global average of 43, indicating moderate success in controlling corruption. Among the eight South Asian countries, Bangladesh continues to be the second worst performer after Afghanistan.

Transparency International Bangladesh once prepared a report alleging that Bangladeshi legislators are involved in corruption, and the said report was based on surveys conducted by the Bangladeshi chapter of the international corruption watchdog and claims that the Bangladeshi lawmakers unfairly used their power to influence government decisions.

The report claimed that three-quarters of the total number of the members of parliament (MPs) are involved in financial kickbacks, such as taking bribes to influence the recruitment of teachers and other government employees, and controlling educational institutions.

The report stated that 75.5% of the accused MPs drew off funds which were meant for public sector development. 70.6% of the surveyed parliamentarians were involved in “criminal activities” like financial embezzlement, illegal take-over of state properties, and murder.

Following this, the lawmakers of that time in Bangladesh sought a ban on the operation of the anti-corruption watchdog in the country.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif -- dismissed from his post over corruption allegations last year -- from holding public office for life. A five-member bench of the country’s apex court unanimously ruled on Friday that anyone disqualified under a constitutional clause requiring legislators to be “honest and trustworthy” would be considered banned for life.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Nawaz Sharif case declared that, having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE, in his nomination papers filed for the general elections held in 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), and having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not honest in terms of Section 99(f) of ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, and therefore, he is disqualified to be a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament).

We must always remember our constitutional commitments and uphold democracy, as for us, there is no acceptable alternative to democracy, other than better democracy

Following this judgement, a civil appeal case was filed in the Pakistan Supreme Court, where a crucial question was raised as to whether the incapacity imposed by Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution upon a person interested to contest an election to a seat in the national assembly or senate (parliament), is of perpetual effect if there is a declaration against him by a court to the effect that he lacks sagacity or righteousness or is profligate or is dishonest or is not ameen (untrustworthy).

The court concluded that the incapacity created for failing to meet the qualifications under Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution imposes a permanent bar, which remains in effect so long as the declaratory judgment supporting the conclusion of one of the delinquent kinds of conduct under Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution remains in effect.

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, in its Part V, Chapter I, Article 66 provides the qualifications and disqualifications for election to parliament. Said article specifically states that a person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of parliament who has been on conviction for a criminal offense involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.

Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition 27-A, assigns the following meaning to the said expression: “Moral turpitude.” It says that moral turpitude “is a vague term, and its meaning depends to some extent on the state of public morals; it is anything that is done contrary to justice, honesty, principle, or good morals; an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man; it implies something immoral in itself, regardless of fact whether it is punishable by law.”

Therefore, anything which is done contrary to the good principles of morality is within the circuit of above expression.

In fact, any act which runs contrary to justice, honesty, good moral values, established judicial norms of a society, falls within the scope of above expression.

Releasing the CPI 2017 findings in the head office of TIB in Dhaka on February 22, 2018, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, urged the government to take stern measures against the corrupt: “The prospect of doing better in CPI will depend on their application and enforcement. Corruption must be a punishable offense not only on paper, but also in practice without fear or favour.”

Pointing to alarming outcome from further analysis of the index, which indicates that countries with the lowest protections for press and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption, Dr Zaman said it also applies to Bangladesh.

He stressed that strong political will to fight corruption is a must, and institutions of accountability and rule of law must be allowed to function independently and effectively, free from partisan influence.

He also said that conducive environment must be created for people at large, particularly media, civil society, and NGOs to raise and strengthen the demand for accountability.

It is also important to note that to prevent wide-spread corruption, effective investigation plays the larger role in deterring corruption and thus, investigators are needed to be sufficiently efficient and skilled with updating knowledge.

Professor Dr Sumaiya Khair, adviser-executive management at TIB said, effective investigation of corruption is must to prevent corruption where investigators play meaningful role.

Our overall objective should be to strengthen democratic institutions and bring qualitative changes to political space to improve governance.

We must always remember our constitutional commitments and uphold democracy, as for us, there is no acceptable alternative to democracy, other than better democracy.

Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed is Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and a research assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA).

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