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In the pre-independence period, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was the main tool to combat corruption in public life. The Code had a chapter on ‘Offences by Public Servants’.

Sections 161 to 165 provided the legal framework to prosecute corrupt public servants. At that time the need for a special law to deal with corruption was not felt.

The Second World War created shortages which gave opportunity to unscrupulous elements to exploit the situation leading to large scale corruption in public life.

This situation continued even after the war. The lawmakers concerned about this menace, felt that drastic legislative measures need to be taken. Hence the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 was enacted to fight the evils of bribery and corruption.                    LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN INDIA

The Prevention of Corruption Act 1947:

  • This Act did not redefine nor expand the definition of offences related to corruption, already existing in the IPC. Similarly, it also adopted the same definition of ‘Public Servant’ as in the IPC38.
  • However the law defined a new offence – ‘Criminal misconduct in discharge of official duty’ – for which enhanced punishment (minimum 1 year to maximum 7 years) was stipulated.
  • In order to shift the burden of proof in certain cases to the accused, it was provided that whenever it was proved that a public servant had accepted any gratification, it shall be presumed that the public servant accepted such a gratification as a motive or reward under Section 161 of IPC.
  • In order to prevent harassment to honest officers, it was mandated that no court shall take cognizance of offences punishable under Sections 161,164 and 165 without the permission of the authority.
  • Competent to remove the charged public servant.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1952 :

  • brought some changes in laws relating to corruption. The punishment specified under Section 165 of IPC was enhanced to three years instead of the existing two years.
  • Also a new Section 165A was inserted in the IPC, which made abetting of offences, defined in Sections 161 and 165 of IPC, an offence.                    LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN INDIA
  • It was also stipulated that all corruption related offences should be tried only by special judges.

The anti-corruption laws underwent comprehensive amendments in 1964:

  • The definition of ‘Public Servant’ under the IPC was expanded. The Cr.P.C. was amended to provide in camera trial if either party or the court so desires.
  • The presumption which was available under Section 4 of The Prevention of Corruption Act, was extended to include offences defined under Sections 5(1) and 5(2).
  • The definition of ‘criminal misconduct’ was expanded and possession of assets disproportionate to the known sources of income of a public servant, was made an offence.
  • Section 5(A) was amended so as to empower the State Governments to authorize officers of the rank of Inspectors of Police to investigate cases under the Act (earlier, this could be done only with the approval of the Magistrate (The Santhanam Committee recommended this).
  • Police officers, competent to investigate cases under the Act, were empowered to inspect bankers’ records, if they had reasons to suspect commission of an offence under the Act

The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 received Presidential assent on 9th September, 1988:

  • It consolidates the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952 and some provisions of IPC. Besides, it has certain provisions intended to effectively combat corruption among public servants.

The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, lists offences of bribery and other related offences and the penalties from Sections 7 to 15.                          LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN INDIA

These offences broadly cover acceptance of illegal gratification as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act, or favouring or disfavouring any person.

Obtaining a valuable thing without consideration or inadequate consideration; and criminal misconduct involving receiving gratification, misappropriation, obtaining any pecuniary advantage to any person without any public interest, or being in possession of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his known sources of income.

Attempts to commit such offences and abetment’ are also listed as offences, in keeping with the principles usually applied in criminal law. The accent is thus on consideration, gratification of all kinds and pecuniary advantage.




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