The government has shielded its officials from harassment by anti-corruption sleuths but left the private sector at the mercy of the police under a proposed anti-bribery law targeting the private sector.
The home ministry’s proposed amendment to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalises bribery amongst individuals, trusts and firms and prescribes a maximum jail of 7 years for the guilty.
But it gives the police a free hand to probe and prosecute private sector entities for bribery without permission from any authority. It also doesn’t lay down the minimum rank of the police officer who can investigate the crime, a stipulation that is often used in penal laws to reduce abuse.
This is in stark contrast to the government rule that bars investigators from probing high-ranking officials and ministers without specific approval. Government sanction is also required to file chargesheets against public servants.
Besides, the Prevention of Corruption Act — that applies to public servants —bars any officer below the rank of an ACP from probing bribery charges against officials.
The stringent provisions for the private sector have received widespread support from state governments cutting across political lines.
Only Himachal Pradesh opposed. “To allow the police or other investigation agencies to meddle in the affairs of private sector without any specific information and without proper and high-level safeguards has the potential to destroy businesses,” the HP chief secretary’s office told the home ministry.