New Delhi: In a first, a Parliamentary Committee has recommended criminalising private sector bribery by bringing in corporates and their executives in the ambit of proposed anti-corruption law and recommended a maximum jail term of seven years along with fine.
Besides, it has suggested punishment for bribe givers too.
At present, there is no law in the country that covers corruption in the private sector or criminalises bribe giving. The panel has, however, not agreed with the government’s proposal to include non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the jurisdiction of a proposed anti-corruption law and exempted “charitable services" from it.
The committee that examined changes in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in its report recommended a shield for public servants and suggested a mandatory conditions for probe agencies like CBI to take “previous approval" of competent authority before conducting any enquiry or investigation against a public servant—including from peon to secretary.
However, such approval will not be necessary for cases involving “arrest of a person on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept any undue advantage for himself or for any other person". The report of the select committee of Rajya Sabha on the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, was submitted on Friday.
As many as 19 Sections of the 28-year-old anti-corruption law were proposed to be amended through the bill, which were examined by the panel. The committee has recommended time-bound trial of corruption cases within two years.
In order to contain corporate corruption, the bill has proposed to increase the liability of commercial organisation to the extent of making its in-charge guilty of offence of corruption, if its agent or employee offers undue advantage or bribe to public servant.
“A commercial organisation shall be guilty of an offence and shall be punishable with fine, if any person associated with the commercial organisation gives or promises to give any undue advantage," the panel said.
It has recommended exclusion of business “including charitable services" by such commercial organisations.
In case the offence is proved in the court to have been committed with the consent or connivance of any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the commercial organisation, such individuals shall be guilty of the offence and shall be liable for imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and extendable up to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine, the panel said.
The proposed Section 8 of the amendment bill criminalises the act of bribe-giving as an independent offence and provides that any one who offers, promises or gives undue advantage to any person to induce the public servant to perform public duty improperly would constitute cognisable offence.
“The Committee feels that mere offering of bribe may not be appropriate to be an offence unless it is accepted or demanded. The Committee, therefore, suggests that the words ‘offer’ may be deleted from proposed Section 8," the report reads.
A person who gives or promises to give bribe may be charged under the proposed anti-corruption law, it said. The committee has proposed to penalise a person who abets corruption.
It said whoever abets any offence of corruption, whether or not that offence is committed in consequence of that abetment, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than three years but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
The panel has endorsed enhanced punishment from three to five years imprisonment as minimum punishment for habitual offenders. The amendment bill had proposed enhanced imprisonment of five years and ten years, as minimum and maximum punishment, for such offenders.