Layers of protection: on changes in anti-corruption law

 

Layers of protection: on changes in anti-corruption law

Protecting honest public servants is important; so are anti-corruption efforts
The amendments(संशोधन/सुधार) to the Prevention(रोक-थाम/निवारण) of Corruption Act, 1988, adopted(अपनाया गया/गोद लिया) recently by both Houses of Parliament, are a mixed bag. Moves to make changes in this law, aimed at combating(मुकाबला) corruption in government, were initiated(शुरू की/आरंभ करना) during(दौरान/की अवधि में) the UPA’s second term in office and largely centred on the misuse of one provision(प्रावधान/नियम) — Section 13 (1)d. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had criticised(आलोचना की) this section, under which public servants are culpable(अपराधिक/सदोष) for securing(सुरक्षित करना/प्राप्त करना) a pecuniary(आर्थिक) advantage for another “without any public interest”, for ignoring a foundational principle(सिद्धांत/नियम) of criminal law: mens rea. This resulted in many honest officials being prosecuted(अभियुक्त /मुकदमा चलाया) even when they gained nothing and merely(केवल/सादे तौर पर) exercised their power or discretion(निर्णय/विवेक) in favour(पक्ष/तरफ़दारी) of someone. Insofar(जहां तक) as it had a chilling effect on governance and deterred(रोक रखना) bold decision-making, the amended form may have a liberating effect on honest officials. Besides, it is more concise(संक्षिप्त) and restricts(रोकना/सम्बन्धी सीमाओं) criminal misconduct(क़सूर/दुराचार) to two offences(अपराधों/अपमान) misappropriating(दुरूपयोग/ग़बन करना) or converting(परिवर्तित/रूप बदलना) to one’s own use property entrusted(सौंपा गया/न्यासित) to a public servant or is in his control, and amassing(एकत्र करना/ढेर लगाना) unexplained(अस्पष्टीकृत) wealth(संपत्ति). There was concern initially with the wording, “intentionally enriches himself illicitly(अवैध रूप से/अनुचित ढंग से) during the period of his office”, as it raised a doubt whether the ‘intention’ to amass wealth would also have to be proved. Now an explanation has been added that a person “shall be presumed(परिकल्पित) to have intentionally(जानबूझकर /अभिप्रायपूर्वक) enriched(समृद्ध/बढ़ाना) himself” if he cannot account for his assets through known sources of income.

By making citizens liable(उत्तरदायी/जिम्मेदार) for offering a bribe(रिशवत/घूस) to a public servant, the anti-corruption law has been brought in line with the UN Convention(सम्मेलन/परंपरा) Against Corruption. The only exception to this rule is when one is forced to give a bribe. This exception kicks in only when the fact that one was forced to pay a bribe is reported to a law enforcement authority within seven days. The penal(दंडात्मक /सज़ा योग्य) provision can empower people by allowing them to cite it to refuse to pay a bribe. At the same time, what happens when the police or any other agency refuses to register a complaint? People may be left in the lurch with no redress. Further, it may render(बनानेवाला/प्रस्तुत करना) them vulnerable(कमजोर/आलोचनीय) to threats(खतरे/आशंका) from unscrupulous(बेईमान ) public servants who collect money to speed up public services but do not deliver. The most unacceptable(अस्वीकार्य/अमान्य) change is the introduction of a prior approval norm to start an investigation. When a prior(पूर्व) sanction(स्वीकृति) requirement exists in law for prosecution, it is incomprehensible(समझ से बाहर) that the legislature(विधान मंडल) should create another layer of protection in the initial stage of a probe(जांच/छानबीन). Public servants need to be protected against unfair prosecution, but a genuine(वास्तविक/मूल) drive against corruption needs a package of legislative measures(उपायों. These should contain penal provisions, create an ombudsman in the form of a Lokpal or Lokayukta, as well as assure(आश्वासन) citizens of time-bound services and whistle-blower protection. Laws to fulfil these objectives are either not operational or are yet to materialise(अमल में लाना।/व्यवहार में लाना).

 

 

 

Important vocabulary

1.Combating(मुकाबला)
Synonyms: cope, fight,, oppose, repel, resist
Antonyms: support, surrender, yield, agree, give in

2.Culpable(अपराधिक/सदोष)
Synonyms: guilty, impeachable, liable, reprehensible, responsible
Antonyms: immune, irresponsible, blameless, inculpable, innocent

3.Discretion(निर्णय/विवेक)
Synonyms: attention, foresight, maturity, prudence, responsibility
Antonyms: carelessness, disregard, ignorance, indiscretion, negligence

4.Entrusted(सौंपा गया/न्यासित)
Synonyms: allocate, assign, authorize, commend, commit
Antonyms: deny, hold, keep, retain, withhold

5.Amassing(एकत्र करना/ढेर लगाना
Synonyms: assemble, collect, compile, garner, hoard
Antonyms: disperse, divide, scatter, separate, disburse

6.Enriched(समृद्ध/बढ़ाना)
Synonyms: embellished, enhanced, fortified

7.Bribe(रिशवत/घूस)
Synonyms: blackmail, compensation, gift, graft, gratuity
Antonyms: hindrance, loss, penalty

8.Liable(उत्तरदायी/जिम्मेदार)
Synonyms: accountable, amenable, bound, chargeable, obligated
Antonyms: irresponsible, unaccountable, excusable, freed, immune

9.Render(बनानेवाला/प्रस्तुत करना)
Synonyms: encourage, persuade, reassure, satisfy, bag
Antonyms: hold, keep, take, withhold, conceal

10.Assure(आश्वासन)
Synonyms: encourage, persuade, reassure, satisfy, bag
Antonyms: discourage, dissuade, distress

 

 

Credit To The Hindu News Paper

The amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, adopted recently by both Houses of Parliament, are a mixed bag. Moves to make changes in this law, aimed at combating corruption in government, were initiated during the UPA’s second term in office and largely centred on the misuse of one provision — Section 13 (1)d. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had criticised this section, under which public servants are culpable for securing a pecuniary advantage for another “without any public interest”, for ignoring a foundational principle of criminal law: mens rea. This resulted in many honest officials being prosecuted even when they gained nothing and merely exercised their power or discretion in favour of someone. Insofar as it had a chilling effect on governance and deterred bold decision-making, the amended form may have a liberating effect on honest officials. Besides, it is more concise and restricts criminal misconduct to two offences: misappropriating or converting to one’s own use property entrusted to a public servant or is in his control, and amassing unexplained wealth. There was concern initially with the wording, “intentionally enriches himself illicitly during the period of his office”, as it raised a doubt whether the ‘intention’ to amass wealth would also have to be proved. Now an explanation has been added that a person “shall be presumed to have intentionally enriched himself” if he cannot account for his assets through known sources of income.

By making citizens liable for offering a bribe to a public servant, the anti-corruption law has been brought in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption. The only exception to this rule is when one is forced to give a bribe. This exception kicks in only when the fact that one was forced to pay a bribe is reported to a law enforcement authority within seven days. The penal provision can empower people by allowing them to cite it to refuse to pay a bribe. At the same time, what happens when the police or any other agency refuses to register a complaint? People may be left in the lurch with no redress. Further, it may render them vulnerable to threats from unscrupulous public servants who collect money to speed up public services but do not deliver. The most unacceptable change is the introduction of a prior approval norm to start an investigation. When a prior sanction requirement exists in law for prosecution, it is incomprehensible that the legislature should create another layer of protection in the initial stage of a probe. Public servants need to be protected against unfair prosecution, but a genuine drive against corruption needs a package of legislative measures. These should contain penal provisions, create an ombudsman in the form of a Lokpal or Lokayukta, as well as assure citizens of time-bound services and whistle-blower protection. Laws to fulfil these objectives are either not operational or are yet to materialise.

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