The Big Picture – Prevention of Corruption Act: Should it be amended?
The provisions of the prevention of the corruption act have always invited a lot of debate
among people in government and officials. The union finance minister has revived the
debate again by stating that there is a need to review and amend the act. He says that the
provision of section 13 of the act has been deterrent for effective functioning of government
functionaries and officials. Incidentally, the former Prime Minister and Coal secretary are
facing charges. Meanwhile many other officials across the country have been facing charges
under this clause.
The Law Commission has already made some proposals to the Prevention of the Corruption
Act. The government has said that some of the provisions in the Act were not in conformity
with the “changed environment and were apparently having an adverse impact even on
disinvestment and defence production and procurement, areas high on the government’s
policy agenda. Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act defines what constitutes
criminal misconduct by a public servant and specifies penal provisions, which includes jail up
to seven years, against such persons.
Many public servants have said there was real fear of getting entangled in criminal cases
even if their action was in public interest. The constitutionality of section 13 is already under
challenge in the Supreme Court. Incidentally, the previous UPA government had decided to
revoke this clause from the Act after it was highlighted that fear of penal action for bonafide
actions was preventing bureaucrats from taking even routine decisions.
However, many experts have also been opposing this move. They say that government
officials will act lawfully only if such acts are in place.