Giving a bribe will soon be as much an offence as accepting it under changes planned to the country’s anti-corruption law. The government also proposes to hold corporate leaders accountable for such acts of their employees.
In an overhaul of the law, the government for the first time proposes to criminalise bribing — in line with the UN convention.
Addressing concerns over private sector corruption, the proposed law says senior private company officials -- such as directors or manager-secretaries — will face jail if found to have agreed or connived in bribing a public servant. But the bigger worry for them is the clause that says they will also be held accountable if the payoff can be attributed to their neglect.
The move — proposed in the amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act introduced in the Rajya Sabha last month — is primarily aimed at targeting the “supply side” of corruption.
At present, the law only targets bribe-takers and treats everyone else — including givers — as abettors, an offence which is difficult to prove.
The maximum jail term for bribery will be increased from five years to seven. The minimum sentence will go up from six months to three years.
“Since giving bribes wasn’t a substantive offence but only abetment, the courts also took a lenient view of bribe-givers,” a CBI officer said.
Talking about “big-ticket corruption” at a gathering of anti-corruption officers last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was mostly related to operations by large commercial entities and promised to make corporate failure to prevent bribery a new offence.
But in doing so, the officer said, the government may have made it more difficult to prosecute corrupt public servants. The draft bill seeks to withdraw immunity for bribe-givers who testify against public servants.
“Who is going to blow the whistle on the corrupt and testify against them if we have to book the bribe-giver too?” the officer said. The move would make it easier for corrupt public servants to get away, the officer said.