Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

Corruption by a Friend

You are an upright person who believes that corruption is the greatest evil in India. You have been fighting battles against many corrupt officers in the government using RTI, and by filing PIL petitions in the courts.
One day, you meet an old friend who has recently joined a government department which is known for corruption. He invited you for lunch in a five-star hotel. After he had a couple of drinks, he opened up and started talking about corruption in his department. He told you that initially he was extremely hesitant about taking bribe but gradually, after seeing that everyone in the department was taking bribe, he started making money, too. He explained that in his department, everyone has to pay a monthly sum to their superior. If he fails to pay to his boss the monthly bribe, he may be transferred or booked in a fake case.
What should you do?
1. Record the conversation on your mobile phone and report the matter to the CBI.
2. Tell him not to discuss official matters with you.
3. Advise your friend to stop taking bribe and lead an honest life.
Please give reasons for accepting or rejecting each option. Give proper justification for each option.
 
Discussion
 
Corruption is widely prevalent in most government departments in India. Many government officials don’t feel ashamed of being corrupt and often justify it on various grounds. They often speak their heart out before their friends whom they trust. In this case, there is a conflict between the prima facie principles of honesty, promise-keeping and non-maleficence.
 
Let us discuss the different options available to us.
 
1. If you record the conversation and produce it before the CBI as evidence, it is in accordance with the principle of honesty. However, such an act would amount to the violation of the prima facie principle of promise-keeping because you break the trust of your friend. This also violates the principle of non-maleficence because such an action would harm your friend. If you do this once, no friend would ever trust you about sharing his secrets with you. Moreover, CBI can’t do much based on such recorded conversations unless there is evidence to connect bribery in specific cases or accumulation of illegal wealth. He may also claim that he was only trying to impress you or make you jealous. Thus, this is not the right option.
 
2. It may be a good idea to tell him that he must not discuss official matters with you, particularly related to corruption as you can’t tolerate any corrupt person in your life. If you don’t know about corruption, you need not take action against corruption. Hence, you are following the principle of honesty and the principle of promise-keeping. However, this would not be the best option since your friend may face a corruption case in future and get arrested or dismissed from service.
 
3. You can explain to your friend that in the government, officials are protected by law and the Constitution, and no one can force corruption on any government officer. You must try to convince your friend that honesty is the best policy for a happy and peaceful life and advise him to be honest in order to avoid future problems. Such an action would be in accordance with the principle of honesty and beneficence. This is the best ethical option
Corruption by a Friend
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