A US Congress-mandated report, released on Thursday by Secretary of State John Kerry, concludes that corruption is endemic in India and spread across all levels of government, and even in the judiciary.
"Corruption was widespread," said the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. It added that though the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the Indian government does not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity.
"Corruption was present at all levels of government. The Central Bureau of Investigation registered 583 cases of corruption between the months of January and November. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) received 7,224 cases in 2012. Of those, 5,528 were received in 2012 and an additional 1,696 remained from 2011. The commission recommended action on 5,720 cases," the report said.
"The CVC operates a toll-free hotline to lodge complaints and a web portal to share information. NGOs noted that bribes typically were paid to expedite services, such as police protection, school admission, water supply, or government assistance," it said.
Indian civil society organisations drew public attention to corruption throughout the year, including through public demonstrations and websites that featured individual stories of corruption, it added.
The government designated chief vigilance officers to address public complaints and grievances in the banking, insurance, and other sectors serviced by private, public, and corporate bodies.
Parliament passed a bill in December establishing the Lokpal as the ombudsman organisation to investigate allegations of government corruption, the report goes on to say.
The state department said many government-run programmes to alleviate poverty and provide employment suffered from poor implementation and corruption.
Pointing to specific instances, it said after obtaining government documents under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a petitioner alleged misappropriation of funds in the Maharashtra tribal development department.
On 13 June, the Bombay High Court ordered that a special team be formed to investigate an alleged fraud in which money meant for tribal welfare was used for other purposes, it said.
A case against several suspects, including Tiruvannamalai municipality councillor K V N Venkatesan - connected to the July 2012 killing of social activist Rajamohan Chandra, who had filed public-interest litigation cases against government officials, politicians, and realtors suspected of corruption and land grabbing - awaited trial at year's end.
In December last, a commission probing the role of state chief ministers and other officials in the 2012 Adarsh housing scam involving improper allocations of apartments reserved for veterans and war widows submitted its report to the Maharashtra legislative assembly, but the Maharashtra state government rejected the report.
The trial of former telecommunications minister A Raja and M K Kanimozhi, a member of the upper house of parliament, accused of taking bribes in the rigged sale of the 2G mobile telephone spectrum in 2008, did not conclude by year's end, the state department said.
On 7 August, Justice R A Mehta refused to become the Gujarat Lokayukta, the state anti-corruption ombudsman authority, even after the Supreme Court upheld his appointment, and remarked that the state government would not support his investigations.
The Gujarat government sought to amend the Gujarat Lokayukta Act in April, to curtail the primacy of the governor and chief justice of the high court in the ombudsman's appointment and subject the appointing powers only to the chief minister's decision.
The governor refused to sign the bill. The state department said the law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence, although "judicial corruption" was widespread.
"The judicial system remained seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often delaying or denying justice. In August, law minister Kapil Sibal stated that there were three vacancies on the Supreme Court and 275 vacancies on the high courts," it said.
"Vacancies in the subordinate judiciary were also alarming, with more than 3,700 positions to be filled in the states. The law minister attributed lengthening delays of cases in courts to the vacancies."