The Modi government intends to deliver on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to shield honest civil servants from harassment from anti-corruption agencies during Parliament’s Budget Session.
The government is in the process of tweaking its version of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill on the lines recommended by the Law Commission earlier this month.Once the bill is enacted by the Parliament, India’s anti-bribery law would not only comprehensively address the supply side of corruption but also introduce safeguards for honest bureaucrats.
In his interactions with the bureaucracy since June last year, PM Narendra Modi has tried to nudge officers to deliver on their mandate, promising to back them all the way to protect them from harassment.
This would be achieved by making it mandatory for probe agencies to get permission of the Lokpal before registering cases against any public servant and then, the government’s permission before prosecuting them.
The proposed bill also seeks to extend these safeguards to retired public servants.
Also, the bill knocks down a provision that let anti-corruption agencies book civil servants who take a decision that benefits an individual without any public interest.
The bureaucrats feel this provision was a key reason for the policy paralysis that plagued the UPA as the CBI invoked it to book officers who had a spotless reputation.
Incidentally, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had come up with the first draft of the amendments way back in 2008. But the bill ran into trouble with the Left parties that felt the Congress-led coalition’s move would protect corrupt public servants as well. The second edition of the UPA government came up with another version of the bill that reached Parliament, but could never be taken up till the end.
Jayprakash Narayan — who quit the civil service to become a social activist — said the demand for introducing a shield for bureaucrats was not unreasonable, especially after the CBI booked former coal secretary PC Parakh, a retired IAS officer with an impeccable reputation, in one of the coal scam cases.