Editorial Analysis || Layers of protection : on changes in anti-corruption law

• 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.

Conclusion

• 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.

Link: https://tt93a.app.goo.gl/pP6ESpkykKVavq1w6

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