Comment Pieces

Frequently Asked Questions on Prevention of Corruption Act

Posted on July 30, 2014

Prevention of Corruption Act 1988


1. What is the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988?

The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is a law enacted by the Indian Parliament to prevent and fight corruption by public servants.

2. Who is a public servant?

The definition is broad and is not restricted to government employees only. It includes any person employed by the Government of India (GoI) or the State Government, a local authority such as municipalities and panchayats, a corporation or authority established by GoI or the State Government, judges, Vice Chancellors and employees of universities, chairpersons, members and employees of Service Commissions, in short any person who holds an office by which he is required to perform any public duty.

3. What is “public duty”?

“Public duty" means a duty in the discharge of which the State, the public or the community at large has an interest.

4. How is corruption defined?

Acts of corruption are described as taking gratification other than legal remuneration in the performance of an official act.

5. What is “legal remuneration”?

A public servant may demand money for work or services rendered only in accordance with the law e.g fees prescribed by law for registration of property sale, motor vehicle registration, etc.

6. Does gratification mean money?

It includes but is not restricted to taking or asking for money.

7. How is the process of taking gratification described?

It is described in Section 7. There are 4 important issues here:

A. Bribe taker: Anyone who is or expecting to be a public servant

B. Action: Accepts/obtains or agrees to accept/attempts to obtain gratification

C.  For: himself or any other person

D. Service provided for bribe:  Gratification taken as a motive or reward to do/not to do any official act or for showing/not showing in the exercise of his official functions, favour/disfavor to any person or providing/attempting to provide any service/disservice to any person, with the Central Government or any State Government or Parliament or the Legislature of any State or with any local authority, corporation or Government company).

8. What is meant by taking gratification as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act?

A public servant may ask for/take gratification to do an official act e.g. take a bribe for issuing a driving license and also for not doing any official act e.g. taking gratification for not taking action to evict and fine a person who has encroached on public land.

9. What is meant by taking gratification “for showing or forbearing to show, in the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavour to any person “.

A public servant may take gratification for giving undeserved preferential treatment to a person and in the process show disfavor to others. E.g. Tenders are invited for the construction of a bridge and according to the rules, the contract should be awarded to the lowest tender. Company X has offered the lowest tender and is also an experienced and reputed firm. The public servant awards the contract to Company Y which has quoted a high rate and has practically no experience in construction because this company has offered him gratification. Favour has been shown to one firm and disfavor to all the other firms that offered competitive bids lower than that of Company Y.

10. What is the punishment for those found guilty of offences under section 7?

A person found guilty under this Act for the offences listed in Section 7 can be imprisoned for a period of not less than 6 months and not more than 5 years. A fine may also be imposed.

11. Would a person who takes gratification to influence, by corrupt or illegal means, a public servant to commit the offences listed in Section 7 (see Q 7 D) also be punished under this Act?

Yes. The punishment is the same as in the answer to Q 10.

12. Would a person who takes gratification to use his personal influence with a public servant to commit the offences mentioned in Q6C be punished under this Act?


13. What is meant by “criminal misconduct” by a public servant?

This is described in Section 13 and includes a person taking gratification (see Q 7), who habitually accepts/asks to procure valuable articles free or at low cost in return for official favours, who misappropriates/allows others to misappropriate public assets and resources and who has money and/or property disproportionate to known sources of income.

14. What is the punishment?

The punishment shall be imprisonment for a period not less than 1 year and up to 7 years and may include a fine.

15. Who are the authorities who may investigate?

GoI, states and Union Territories have designated police officers who may investigate but usually it shall be an officer of the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police/ Deputy Superintendent of Police.

16. Can a bribe giver who cooperates with the investigation be prosecuted for abetment?

A person who gives a statement in a proceeding against a public servant that he paid or offered to pay a bribe will not be prosecuted as an abettor.

17. Can a public servant be prosecuted without the prior permission of his employer?

The previous sanction of the GoI is required for Central Government employees, of the State Government concerned for state government employees, and in the case of any other public servant the sanction of the authority empowered to remove him from office is required to prosecute a public servant for offences committed under sections 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 of the Act. This provides safeguards against criminal prosecution on the basis of false or malicious complaints against public servants.

18. Can the Government refuse to give permission to prosecute a public servant?

The Government may refuse permission if it is convinced, after careful perusal of the facts, that the case has no merit.

19. Which courts can try cases under this Act?

The Central/State Governments may appoint Special Judges to try offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

20. How can a citizen seek redress against corrupt public servants?

If the public servant is a Central Government employee then the citizen can contact the anti-corruption branch of the local Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) office. If the public servant is under the purview of the state government then the citizen can file a petition before the Lok Ayukta/Vigilance Commission.

NOTE: If you wish to learn more about the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 then you may find this link useful:

-- The answers to the FAQs have been authored by Dr Malati Das and Dr S.T. Ramesh, our experts.