The passage of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill by the parliament in July promises deep-seated reforms in the anti-bribery regime in India. Under the bill, the act of obtaining, accepting or attempting to obtain an undue advantage, with or without improper performance of a public duty by a public servant, was made an offence punishable with up to seven years imprisonment.
Under the present law, only abetment of acts relating to bribery were punishable and it was presumed that acceptance of advantage was in return for improper performance of a public servant’s public function. The bill contains no such presumption of wrongdoing. The bill also omits the previous provision safeguarding a person giving a bribe from prosecution based on their statement in a corruption trial. The bill requires that commercial organizations follow guidelines in order to prevent their members from engaging in bribing a public servant.
The bill further provides that inquiry or investigation into any offence can be conducted only with prior approval of the concerned authority except in cases where a person is required to be arrested on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept undue advantage, i.e. arrest on being caught red-handed. The decision by the authority has to be given not later than three months after the request, extendable by not more than one month.
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