Updated: August 13, 2016 8:15 am
A Parliamentary committee has recommended criminalisation of bribery in the private sector by bringing corporates and their executives under the ambit of a proposed anti-corruption law. It has recommended a maximum jail term of seven years along with a fine, and has also sought punishment for bribe givers. Corruption in private sector is not covered under any existing law in the country.
The Select Committee of Rajya Sabha on Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, has, however, rejected the government’s proposal to include NGOs in the jurisdiction of the proposed law and has also exempted “charitable services”. The report of the panel that examined 19 Sections proposed to be amended in Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, was submitted Friday.
The Bill has proposed to increase liability of a commercial organisation to the extent of making the company’s in-charge guilty of corruption if its agent or employee offers undue advantage or bribe to a public servant. “A commercial organisation shall be guilty of an offence and shall be punishable with fine, if any person associated with the commercial organisation gives or promises to give any undue advantage,” the panel suggests.
It said in case the offence is proved in court to have been committed with consent or connivance of any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the organisation, such individuals shall be liable for imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and up to seven years and a fine.
Bribe-giving is criminalised as an independent offence in the proposed Section 8 of the amendment Bill. It provides that if anyone offers, promises or gives ‘undue advantage’ to any person to induce the public servant to perform public duty improperly, it would constitute a cognizable offence.
“The committee feels that mere offering of bribe may not be appropriate to be an offence unless it is accepted…. The committee, therefore, suggests that the words ‘offer’ may be deleted from proposed Section 8,” the report states. The panel said whoever abets any offence of corruption — whether or not that offence is committed in consequence of that abetment — will be punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than three years and up to seven years and with a fine.
While recommending a ‘shield’ for public servants, the panel suggested mandatory conditions for investigating agencies like CBI, such as securing “previous approval” of the competent authority before conducting any inquiry against a public servant, cutting across ranks from peon to Secretary.
Such approval, however, will not be mandatory in cases involving “arrest of a person on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept any undue advantage for himself or for any other person”. The panel recommended that trial in all corruption cases should be finished in two years. It also recommended provisions for attachment and forfeiture of property and proceeds of corruption.
Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 19, 2013 under the UPA government. It was referred to a Standing Committee that submitted its report on February 6, 2014. The Bill could not be passed then. On April 29 last year, the Cabinet gave its approval to amend the Act by pursuing the amendment Bill after moving official amendments.