Friday, September 14, 2012

How a Sub Registrar Officer does corruption

I have been following the India Against Corruption movement for the past 6 months. This movement inspired me to blog about my experience with the Sub Registrar Office in Pune, India where I witnessed corruption happening in the first hand.

The Right To Information act has made it a little difficult for corruption to go unnoticed. However, one of the biggest contributor to corruption is public ignorance. Let me spell out the details of how the events unfolded and explain this point.

I was trying to give my Father the Power Of Attorney so that he could do transactions on my behalf in Pune. In order to do that, one has to type up a 5-6 page document that states, in legal jargon, that you are giving the other person the right to act on your behalf. There are many templates floating around that are used for this. Since one of my distant relations happens to have a few lawyers on his staff, we approached them for some legal advice. Naturally, they got us the template, we filled in the blanks, and now we had a document ready.

This document really doesn't mean a lot until it has been registered by the State Department of Registration and Stamps.

Now, we knew that we had to get this document registered. So we asked the lawyers at our disposal how to proceed. And this is where our ignorance got the best of us. The lawyers immediately referred us to their "agent" who "knows" the process and will "get things done" for us. Obviously for a nominal fee!

The Department of Registration and Stamps has a website and there they have instructions on what is required to get your documents registered. If the lawyers, would have pointed us to this link, we would have been saved.

Anyway, we contacted the agent and asked him what was a good time to meet him and setup the "terms" of our transaction. It was decided that we should come to the Sub Registrar Office where he "works" the next day and he will have our job done within a few hours. As the ignorant fools we were, we fell for it.

So, this is how it works. This "agent" is sometimes a lawyer by education. We are not talking about the cream of the crop here, definitely. This guy has managed to get the LLB degree and is using a little miscommunication and a little bribery to get an "edge". So what is the "edge" you ask? Let me elaborate.

The department website allows you to make an online appointment for your business at the office. Once you have a token, you are expected to appear, with all documents and personnel, 30 minutes before your time of appointment and the rest will take care of itself. The Sub Registrar Officer, however, has the authority to book time-slots from his terminal. And this is how he can provide an "edge" to the "agents". For some money in cash, he hands out time-slots to the "agents". The "agents" now sell those time-slots to their customers by telling them when they should come to the office and be gone once complete. The reason the "agent" has an LLB degree is that you can substitute one lawyer in lieu of two witnesses for the registration. Nowhere on the website does it say that it is okay to bring in one lawyer instead of two witnesses. This "one lawyer" clause is written on a board in the Sub Registrar Office.

So, by selling appointments, that are available online for free, the Sub Registrar Officer is able to make a few bucks on the side.

It is not often that people go to the Sub Registrar Office. So, the attitude they have is that might as well pay a few extra rupees and be done with it. However, from my experience, I did not get any "edge" and it would have been much better if I would have used the website.

The lesson(s) I learnt from this experience is/are:
  • Check the government websites on what is needed for your work.
  • Don't follow the crowd by approaching an "agent".
  • Right To Information Act is a very powerful tool, use it to your advantage
What experiences have you had that would allow other's to not fall into such ignorance traps?

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