‘New anti-corruption law must for speedy decisions’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 23, 2018

Battling graft Finance Minister Arun Jaitely with CBI Director Anil Sinha during the 16th D.P.Kohli Memorial Lecture on “Economic Challenges for an Aspirational India” in New Delhi Monday KAMAL NARANG

Need to differentiate between erroneous decision and corrupt decision: Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 has failed the test of differentiating between a genuine error in decision-making and an act of corruption because of its vague terminology.

“I think the 1988 Act fails that test. I think in the 1988 Act, phrases like corrupt means, public interest, pecuniary advantage, valuable thing, personal interests are vague and capable of more than one construction,” he said, while delivering DP Kohli memorial lecture organised by the CBI here on Monday.

He said the Act was conceived in the pre-liberalisation era and since the scenario has changed since 1991, there is need for quick decision-making.

“Can there be decision-making where every decision maker is on the defensive, cautious of what... if a decision is wrong?” Jaitley said.

Meanwhile, a senior Government official said the Centre is also ready to move an amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 to make a clear difference between a corrupt decision and a genuine error.

This will facilitate faster decision by bureaucrats.

Climate of fear

“We are sitting on ₹27,000 crore as no officer is willing to sign files for selling residual stake in Hindustan Zinc.

“The officers are afraid of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, as it does not differentiate between erroneous decision and corrupt decision,” the official said.

During 2000-02, the government went for strategic sale in Hindustan Zinc, but officials involved in the sale that time are now facing allegations of selling shares at a lower price.

The government is hoping the situation will change with the amendment.

“The proposal for the amendment has been approved after Cabinet nod and will be tabled in Parliament,” he said, indicating that this will happen during ongoing session. The plan is to amend the Section 13 of the Act, which defines what constitutes criminal misconduct by a public servant and specifies penal provisions that include jail up to seven years against such persons.

Based on the UK Bribery Act, 2010, the proposed amendment aims to clarify that every wrong decision is not intended for wrongdoings.

Jaitley said judicial supervision of corruption cases has hindered the process of economic decision-making as investigators try to make a case even in instances of genuine error of judgement.

Earlier the concept was that investigation was a police function and courts did not interfere in that, he said, adding that “now, courts supervise the investigation and that puts the investigator on the defensive, who tries to follow a ‘Golden-Rule’ of making a case against an accused.

“If the accused is lucky, he or she may get a fair trial. This has actually hindered the whole process of economic decision-making.”

Land Bill

Jaitley also called for passage of Land Bill to meet the ‘most serious challenge’ in agriculture.

“Let us not forget that more than half of the 60 per cent of the population dependent on agriculture are landless. And therefore unless alternative jobs are provided, this figure will not come down and that is precisely the reason for which each of the proposed changes have been introduced in the Land Bill, 2015,” he said.

Agriculture challenge

He said that agriculture is facing the most serious challenge.

While 60 per cent of India’s population is dependent upon 15 per cent of income generated in GDP, the other 40 per cent share balance 85 per cent, he said, while blaming the present status quo of agriculture and rural India related polices for the current situation.

He emphasised the need for both increasing the income and lowering the number of people dependent on farming.

Published on April 27, 2015

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