The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved changes in the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, raising the imprisonment term as a penal provision, ensuring speedy trials and bringing under its ambit 'non-monetary gratification'.
The proposed amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 provides for more stringent punishment for the offences of bribery—both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker, according to a statement.
“It would fill in perceived gaps in the domestic anti-corruption law and also help in meeting the country's obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) more effectively,” it said.
As per the new changes in the bill, the penalty is increased from six months to three years and to a maximum of seven years imprisonment from the present five years. The seven-year imprisonment brings corruption to the heinous crime category,” it added.
At the same time, the official amendments propose to confer the powers of attachment upon the trial court (special judge) instead of the district court.
The average trial period of cases under PC Act in the last four years has been above eight years. It is proposed to ensure speedy trial by providing a trial completion within two years.
However, intentional enriching by public servants will be construed as criminal misconduct and possession of disproportionate assets as proof of such illicit enrichment. Non-monetary gratification has also been covered within the definition of the word gratification.
It is also proposed to extend the protection of prior sanction for prosecution to public servants who cease to hold office due to retirement, resignation, etc. Further, prior sanction for inquiry and investigation shall be required from the Lokpal or Lokayukta, as the case may be, for investigation of offences relatable to recommendations made or decision taken by a public servant in discharge of official functions or duties.
The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was enacted in 1988 and added the developments later to match with the international practice. These developments include India ratifying UNCAC, the international practice on treatment of the offence of bribery and corruption.
Early this month, the Delhi government relaunched a telephone helpline encouraging ordinary citizens to records call of bribe seekers. The 24-hour helpline 1031 can be used to lodge complaints against corruption in Delhi.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)