• The amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 have been recently adopted by both Houses of Parliament.
What are the following matters included in amendment?
• The amendment liberates honest officials.
• As per the present law, Public servants are held corrupt for taking a financial advantage “without any public interest”.
• In this process, the foundational principle of criminal law, mens rea or the intention to commit the crime is not considered.
• This led to prosecution of many honest officials even when they gained nothing and merely exercised their power in good faith.
• This discouraged bold decision-making and had an impact on governance.
• “Criminal misconduct” of public servants now covers
• misappropriation of property and
• possession of assets disproportionate to income.
• Moreover, the officer’s intention to acquire such assets has be proved.
What are the provisions about punishment?
• The amendment has made the citizens punishable for offering a bribe to a public servant.
• This has brought the law in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption.
• It punishes bribe givers for the first time, with a provision to jail them for up to seven years.
• The only exception is when a citizen is forced to give a bribe and reports to a law enforcement authority within seven days.
• This would encourage citizens to refuse to pay a bribe.
• The amendment also introduces the prior approval to start an investigation.
• This means investigating agencies will have to get prior sanction of the appropriate authority in government to probe officials, including retired ones.
• Though Public servants need to be protected against unfair prosecution, a genuine anticorruption action needs legislative measures.
• Creation of an ombudsman in the form of a Lokpal or Lokayukta, assurance of time-bound services to citizens, whistle-blower protection.