The last few months saw a number of allegations of corruption in issues such as contracts for the Commonwealth Games, allocation of  2G Spectrum, and the building of the Adarsh housing society.  Professor Kaushik Basu, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Finance, has proposed a modification in order to make the anti-corruption law in the country more effective.  The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 penalizes both bribe giving and taking.  Bribe giving is punishable under the Act with imprisonment ranging between six months to five years.  He argues that bribe giving should be legalized. Professor Basu distinguishes “harassment bribes”, which he defines as “bribes that people often have to give to get what they are legally entitled to” from the remaining, “Non-Harassment Bribes” which would involve illegal benefits accruing to the bribe giver at a potential cost to the public interest.  He argues that legalization of harassment bribes would reduce the nexus between the giver (victim) and the taker of a bribe. Giving complete immunity to the bribe-giver would ensure higher reporting and co-operation of the giver in bringing to justice the bribe taker. The present law acts as a deterrent to reporting of bribery. Courts have also highlighted this issue. The High Court of Delhi in the Bharadwaaj Media Case (2007) observed that a “bribe giver is normally on the mercy of the officials and babus who compel him to pay bribe even for lawful work.The Court further observed that “Instead of expressing gratefulness to the persons who expose corruption, if the institutions start taking action against those who expose corruption, corruption is bound to progress day and night.”  It can be inferred from the judgement that steps ought to be taken to provide protection to those exposing bribery. The proposed legalization of bribe-giving may result in increased reporting of bribery and co-operation of the victim during prosecution. The fear that a bribe giver may report the public official could reduce corruption, at least in terms of harassment bribes. However, this proposal may reduce the stigma attached to bribe-giving and result in corrosion of morality. Much of the recent debate around corruption and the Lok Pal Bill revolve around effective prosecution. This paper looks at the incentive structure for reporting bribe-giving, and merits public debate.

Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today.  No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power.  Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha.  This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha.  Trust votes are used to examine this support.  The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.  

So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed.  Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced.  The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.  

Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament

 image

Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.

The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023.  A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members.   The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion.  The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced.  This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction.  Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha.  In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction.  On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.

Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha