Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill that seeks to punish bribe-givers with imprisonment for up to a maximum seven years.
The Lok Sabha passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill with a voice vote after a nearly four-hour debate that saw the BJP and the Congress trade barbs about corrupt practices during the UPA and the current NDA regimes respectively.
“We want to make the Prevention of Corruption Act more stringent and also provide enough safeguards for honest officers to discharge their duties without fear,” Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha.
The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha last week.
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.
Replying to the debate, Singh said bowing to the demand by members, provisions would be made in the rules to increase the seven-day time limit for reporting demand of bribe by a public servant.
According to the amendments, investigators will now have to take prior permission from the appropriate authorities while pursuing allegations of bribery against public servants, including those who are working in commercial organisations.
“Earlier, this protection was available only for officers of the joint secretary rank and above, but not all public servants will be covered,” Singh said.
The minister said the bill also provides safeguards to officers who perform their duties with honesty.
“We have brought amendments so that an honest performing officer does not get intimidated or his initiatives get killed,” he said.
According to the provisions of the bill, criminal misconduct will now include only two offences — misappropriation of property entrusted to you as well as amassing assets disproportionate to known sources of income. Earlier, the Act also defined criminal misconduct to cover offences including abuse of position, use of illegal means and disregard of public interest.
The bill also has provisions to ensure completion of trials in such cases within a period of two years from the date of filing of the case.