Parliament passed Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2018 on July 24 to enhance transparency and accountability of the government but some of the provisions of the bill are drawing criticism on social media. Let’s check out what has changed since after the amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988.
PROVISIONS OF THE ANTI-CORRUPTION BILL
The provisions can be divided into 5 categories:
1. Bribery (undue advantage defined as gratification other than legal remuneration) Earlier, there were no specific provisions except as abetment but under the amendment giving a bribe is now an offence, punishable by a 7-year prison term except when one is forced to give a bribe. However, it should be reported within 7 days.
2. Criminal misconduct Earlier, criminal misconduct used to cover offences including taking bribe habitually, getting anything free or at a concession, obtaining pecuniary advantage for oneself or for another without public interest.
Under the amendment to the act, criminal misconduct will now include only two offences (already mentioned above):
misappropriating of property entrusted to the banker
amassing assets disproportionate to known sources of income
3. Pre-investigation approval Now, a police officer will need prior approval of relevant authority or government to begin investigation. However, the same does not apply when the accused is caught red-handed.
4. Sanction for prosecution A sanction is needed for prosecuting former officials for offences done while in office. The decision on sanction request is to be made under three months which may be extended by a month. Centre may notify about the guidelines.
5. Forfeiture of property This section was introduced for the Special Court to attach and confiscate property, which was earlier done under a 1944 ordinance through civil courts.
PREVENTION OF CORRUPTION BILL (AMENDMENT) 2013 AS A RELIEF FOR BANKERS
Rajya Sabha had already passed the bill on July 19, 2018, in the Monsoon Session and has now got the Lower House’s nod to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The criminal misconduct provision is intended to protect public servants from being wrongly prosecuted for official decisions. Under it, bankers cannot be pulled under the corruption law unless they have accumulated assets more than what they could have obtained with their steady income, or have misappropriated assets entrusted to them The amendment comes at a time when the bankers are facing intense scrutiny for their lending decisions which have resulted in NPAs. Bankers have argued for a long time that they should not be prosecuted for lending decisions they made honestly. The amendment also intends to empower the public to refuse to give a bribe with provisions of punishment for those who willingly offer bribe to the government officials Earlier, sanction was required under the Prevention of Corruption Act for serving officers only, but now, sanctions for IPC offences cover both serving and retired officers Forfeiture of property is believed to help avoid a fresh procedure to confiscate property obtained through corruption and to enable court conducting trial to do so itself People are not particularly happy about the pre-investigation approval rule. Also, there was no similar provision in the Act, but a rule similar to it was struck down by Supreme Court.