The Modi government has revived the plan to amend the anti-corruption law to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to protect honest civil servants from the CBI.
The department of personnel and training is finalising amendments to tone down provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act that enable investigating agencies to book honest government officials, discouraging them from taking decisions.
The previous UPA government, too, had debated the amendments for nearly nine years but could not see them through Parliament.
The Modi government’s emphasis on protecting officers comes in the backdrop of the PM’s assurance to top civil servants to back them all the way for decisions taken on merit.
Secretary-level officials had told the PM at their first interaction in early June that the fear of being harassed by probe agencies deterred them from taking decisions during the United Progressive Alliance regime.
One of the key provisions -- dubbed “draconian by officials – to be knocked down lets anti-corruption agencies book civil servants who take a decision that benefits an individual without any public interest.
“Given that nearly every decision benefits someone and it is very difficult to prove public interest, this provision is prone to be misused,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.
A senior police officer, who served the CBI for years, conceded the fear wasn’t misplaced. “You will find this section is invoked in nearly every corruption case even when the agency does not have to prove much,” the officer said, wishing not be identified.
Another amendment will require probe agencies to take the government’s permission before prosecuting retired officers as well, a shield already available to serving officers.
“As it stands, the law requires the CBI to take permission to prosecute an officer but is free to prosecute them for the same case after they retire,” a government official said.