We’re all for anti-corruption drives. But we’re simultaneously impressed and mildly alarmed by the one that the state of Bihar has begun early into the Nitish Kumar government’s second term.
On the receipt of an order from a special court, the Bihar government will seize property belonging to officials accused of corruption even before charges are proved. The government then plans to immediately install a school in the seized property, according to Janata Dal-United party spokesman Nihrora Prasad Yadav, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
So far an order has been issued to seize the property of a motor vehicles department official, Mr. Yadav said Monday.
Asked what proof they need to begin proceedings to seize an official’s assets, Mr. Yadav said this: “If you earn 10,000 rupees ($222) and you have a 10-crore (100 million rupees, $2.2 million) property, you must be stealing from somewhere, right?”
If in a court case the official is able to prove the assets aren’t from ill-gotten gains, he’ll get his property back with “5 or 6%” interest, said Mr. Yadav. The aim is both to punish and deter “so that people who are thinking of stealing become frightened.”
The state is also in the process of setting up a publicly accessible web site with details of the personal assets of state assembly members, including Chief Minister Kumar.
“If your assets go up, you’ll have to explain,” said Mr. Yadav.
But can it stick? It seems a little un-nerving to live in a place where your property can be seized and held until litigation is finished. Isn’t it possible that an official’s assets come from family wealth?