Anti-corruption law: Panel examining 'shield' for corrupt officials gets extension

Posted on March 08, 2016 from Delhi, National ι Report #74767

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel examining an anti-corruption amendment bill that seeks inclusion of a provision for prior sanction to be obtained by the CBI or police before initiating action against corrupt officials, serving and retired, has got extension till April end. 

Article Courtesy: PTI

The Select Committee of Rajya Sabha headed by BJP MP Anil Madhav Dave is examining the bill to amend Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. 

"The Committee has got extension to submit its report by April 29," Dave said. 

The proposed legislation has a provision that "no police officer shall conduct investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant" under the PC Act, where the alleged offence is relatable to any recommendation made or decision taken by such public servant in the discharge of his official function or duties without the previous approval of Lokpal (for central government staff) and Lokayuktas (for those working under state governments). 

The Centre is yet to set up the institution of Lokpal and Lokayuktas--as mandated under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. 

Earlier, the Supreme Court had in 2014 held as invalid and unconstitutional a legal provision which makes obtaining sanction of competent authority mandatory for CBI to probe a corruption case against an officer of Joint Secretary rank or above, saying it has the propensity of shielding the corrupt. 

In its verdict on validity of Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which protects senior bureaucrats from being investigated in corruption cases without prior approval of the central government, the apex court had said "the corrupt public servants, higher or lower in rank, are the birds of same feather and have to be dealt with equally". The DSPE Act governs functioning of the CBI. 

However, there is no need for prior permission in case of arrest of person on the spot while accepting bribe. 

The new changes, recommended by the government last year through official amendments in the bill, make it mandatory for a police officer or an agency like CBI to refer any corruption complaint first to Lokpal or Lokayuktas, as the case may be, thus restraining them from taking any action on it. 

Dave, BJP's Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, said the Select Committee has sought comments from states, union territories, NGOs and other stakeholders on various provisions of the bill by this month-end. "We will be submitting our report by April 29," he told PTI. 

The bill also seeks to punish both bribe giver and taker. At present, there is no law in the country to punish bribe givers. 

It provides for issue of guidelines for commercial organisations to prevent persons associated with them from bribing a public servant. In this regard, it is pertinent to mention that the Central Vigilance Commission is probing a case involving US retail giant Wal-Mart and confectionery major Mondelez India Ltd against certain government employees for alleged corruption. 

The bill also has provisions for the attachment and forfeiture of property of public servants accused of corruption. The PC (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 19, 2013 during the UPA rule. However, it was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its report to the Upper House on February 6 2014 but the Bill could not be passed. 

On April 29 last year, the Union Cabinet gave its approval to amend the PC Act by pursuing the amendment bill after moving official amendments. 

It was on December 7 last year sent to the Select Committee for examination and report. 

Article Courtesy: PTI