The Parliament on July 24, 2018 passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2018 to enhance transparency and accountability of the government.
The Bill amends various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988
Provisions of the Bill
• The Bill introduces the offence of giving a bribe as a direct offence. However, a person who is compelled to give a bribe will not be charged with the offence, if he reports the matter to law enforcement authorities within seven days.
• The Bill makes specific provisions related to giving a bribe to a public servant, and giving a bribe by a commercial organisation.
• The Bill redefines criminal misconduct to only cover misappropriation of property and possession of disproportionate assets. It does not cover circumstances where the public official: (i) uses illegal means, (ii) abuses his position, or (iii) disregards public interest and obtains a valuable thing or reward for himself or another person.
• The Bill modifies the definitions and penalties for offences related to taking a bribe, being a habitual offender and abetting an offence.
• It introduces the powers and procedures for the attachment and forfeiture of property of public servants accused of corruption.
• The Bill adds the provision for prior sanction to prosecute former officials. The Act only provided for the prior sanction to prosecute serving public officials.
• It deletes the provision that protects a bribe giver from prosecution, for any statement made by him during a corruption trial. This may prevent bribe givers from appearing as witnesses in court.
• Under the Act, a person is proven guilty for the offences of taking a bribe, being a habitual offender or abetting an offence. The Bill amends this provision to only cover the offence of taking a bribe.
• It provides more stringent punishment for the offences of bribery, both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker. It provides for seven years of imprisonment or a fine or both for the bribe givers.
Key takeaways from the Bill
The amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was necessitated from the obligation of India to review the existing provisions of the Act so as to bring it in line with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
This led to the introduction of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 in the Rajya Sabha in August 2013. However, it could not be passed as the Bill contemplates an important paradigm shift in defining offences relating to bribery.
Later, the views of the Law Commission of India were sought on the proposed amendments. The Bill incorporates the recommendations given by the 20th Law Commission headed by Justice (retd) AP Shah in its 254th Report.
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