Kautilya on Administrative Corruption

The Arthashastra of Kautilya, a minister in the Kingdom of Chandragupta Maurya provides an elaborate description of the problem of corruption. 

As per Kautilya’s view on corruption, honesty as a virtue is not permanent and any person, howsoever honest, may turn to unfair means in order to make easy gains. Therefore, Kautilya prescribes strict vigil over office holders of various departments. Moreover, he also maintains that ascertaining the act of corruption is extremely difficult. As per Kautilya, the process of generation of revenue by officials is akin to “honey or posion on the tip of the tongue which becomes impossible not to taste”. Along the same lines, he compared the process of keeping a vigil on corruption to fish in water wherein it is extremely difficult to ascertain “whether the fish is just swimming in the water or drinking it at the same time”.

As per Kautilya:

  • Too much personal interaction among officials in high positions leads to compromised departmental goals and thus corruption.
  • Corruption in the administrative systems can be curbed by promoting professionalism at work and a healthy interactive work environment across the hierarchy.
  • In the matters of investigation of corruption, all accused must be separately interrogated and punishments must be given to all those responsible. Moreover, he prescribed that a public proclamation must be made inviting all people affected from such act of corruption to claim compensation.

Summarized from article by: Tarun Kumar, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis