Alumni Short
Jindal Global University’s Raj Kumar Discusses Corruption and Human Rights Ithaca, NEW YORK, May 2, 2016

India ranked eighty-fifth in Transparency International’s 2015 Global Corruption Report. Corruption in India is pervasive and has largely confounded efforts to combat it, according to Raj Kumar, who visited the Law School on April 12. He was there to present a lecture, "Is Corruption Undermining Democracy in India: How Can Law and Human Rights Help?" sponsored by the Berger International Legal Studies Program and the International Human Rights Clinic.

India ranked eighty-fifth in Transparency International’s 2015 Global Corruption Report. Corruption in India is pervasive and has largely confounded efforts to combat it, according to Raj Kumar, who visited the Law School on April 12. He was there to present a lecture, "Is Corruption Undermining Democracy in India: How Can Law and Human Rights Help?" sponsored by the Berger International Legal Studies Program and the International Human Rights Clinic.

“This is a time of great ferment in the Indian legal profession and Indian higher education, just as it is in the United States, and Raj is really at the center of both of these,” observed Eduardo Peñalver, Allan R. Tessler Dean and professor of law, in his introduction to Kumar’s lecture. Peñalver delivered his own lecture at JGU in January. “In light of our many similarities and shared values,” he said at the April 12 event, “I think we in the United States have a stake in the success or failure of the rule of law and democracy in India. There’s a great deal we can learn from the Indian legal experience and a great deal India can learn from ours. And there’s no one more qualified to enlighten us about the topic of the rule of law in India than Raj Kumar.”

Kumar began his lecture with an overview of corruption in India. He noted that, while the rule of law exists as a normative framework in the country, the ability of institutions to maintain it is limited. One challenge, he said, is the politicization of anticorruption measures: those in power use anticorruption enforcement as a weapon against predecessors and rivals. He also observed that corruption disproportionately affects the poor.

“One of the reasons why we want to recognize many forms of corruption as violations of human rights is that they have a deleterious impact on the ability of people to achieve their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights,” he said. “Corruption not only creates opportunities for discrimination but also affects the availability of such resources as education and medical treatment; in some cases, it can even threaten the right to life.”

In addressing the way forward for India, Kumar stressed the importance of a stand-alone, autonomous anticorruption institution, as well as new legislative reforms and the continued ability of citizens to exercise their right to information. He concluded, “The heart of the fight against corruption ought to be the recognition that corruption violates human rights, and the response to that violation also ought to be based upon the need for empowering citizens.”

The lecture was followed by a Q&A, which touched on topics including social-norm approaches to fighting corruption, the applicability of the human-rights approach to different levels of corruption, and the ways in which an anticorruption institution can be protected from the very corruption it seeks to eradicate. Kumar observed that he had witnessed the elimination of corruption in two sectors in India during his lifetime: the train industry and consumer access to telecommunications—developments due, respectively, to technological advances and to privatization. He argued that, though not achieved through laws or enforcement institutions, both were examples of how transparency and citizen empowerment are crucial to overcoming corruption.