Parliament passed the Anti-Corruption Act [highlights]

The Parliament on 24-07-2018, passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to enhance transparency and accountability of the government and make anti-graft provisions under the law stringent. The Bill amends various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988. The Bill provides for imprisonment from 3 to 7 years, besides fine, to those convicted of taking bribes. Bribe givers have also been included in the legislation for the first time and they can be punished with imprisonment up to 7 years, fine, or both.

Key Features of Bill

  • ‘Undue advantage’ expanded: The previously limited definition of ‘undue advantage’ expanded to now include ‘anything other than legal remuneration’, thereby fundamentally widening the scope and ambit of the offence of corruption.
  • Gifts criminalised: Gifts received for established undue advantage/malafide motive are now considered an act of corruption. Previously all gifts were exempt from scrutiny, allowing for abuse.
  • Collusive bribe givers criminalised: For the first time, the ‘giving of bribe’ has now been made a direct offence on par with ‘taking of bribe’ (earlier was viewed only as abetment). At the same time, protection has been built-in against coercive bribery, as long as the victim comes forward within 7 days.
  • Corporate bribery criminalised: For the first time, superior functionaries of a commercial organisation will be held responsible, if their employee/agent is proven to have bribed with their approval, for advancement of the organisation’s interests.
  • Immediate forfeiture: For the first time, law enforcement is empowered with powers for immediate attachment and forfeiture of illegal property of a public servant, invoking provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The ‘possession’ of ‘illicit property’ itself, is sufficient cause for prosecution.
  • Redefines Criminal misconduct: The bill redefines provisions related to criminal misconduct to only cover two types of offences viz. illicit enrichment (such as amassing  of assets disproportionate to one’s known income sources) and fraudulent is appropriation of property. Prior approval for investigation: It makes mandatory for taking prior approval of relevant Government or competent authority to conduct any  investigation into offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant. Such approval will be not necessary in cases that involve arrest of person on spot on charge of taking a bribe.
  • Protecting the honest: The threat and fear of unjust, malafide prosecution abusing existing loopholes and legal anomalies, had scared bonafide officers into a policy paralysis, fearful of decision-making. Therefore, to empower honest public servants to perform their duty without fear or favour, as per laid down laws, policies and procedures; corrections have been made for protecting their bonafide decisions from malicious threats and harassment.
  • Trial Time limit: The bill set trail time period within two if it is handled by special judge. In case of delays, reasons for it must be recorded for every extension of 6 months obtained. However, total period for completion of trial may not exceed 4 years.
  • Penalties for offences: The Bill modifies definitions and penalties for offences related to taking bribe, being habitual offender and abetting offence.

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