India's plans to make it a crime for private sector entities to seek or give bribes owes its origin to the 2005 UN convention on corruption, which brought the private sector under the gaze of anti-bribery efforts.
Government officials said the home ministry draft amendment circulated to states for their comments was largely inspired by the British version of the bribery law, regarded as one of the toughest in the world. The UK Bribery Act, however, deals with the private sector as well as the public one.Anupama Jha, executive director at Transparency International-India (TI-India), said it was a positive step to bring private businesses under the anti-corruption law.
"It is high time we focussed on the supply side of corruption as well… and punish those that pay bribes as well," she said, pointing that the Central Vigilance Commission's draft national anti-corruption strategy had also made this recommendation.
TI-India had recently counted how the private sector was not a victim of corruption any longer, but was hand-in-glove with public officers.
The report had pointed to "collusive corruption", where public servants join hands with the private sector, particularly in the power, mining and oil sectors.
"The government must (install) a strong deterrent tool to curb corruption in the private sector," the report said.
Team Anna member Manish Sisodia said he too was all for laws to criminalise private sector corruption.
But, at the same time, he suggested there should be safeguards to prevent harassment of the common man.
"Governments have always been quick to frame tough laws for the common man, not people in authority," he said.
Police officers, however, concede that the existing draft had a serious potential for misuse, particularly considering the widely fluctuating level of training and supervision in the country.