Both houses of Parliament Passed new Anti-Corruption Bill To Punish Bribe Givers and Takers
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A new anti-corruption Bill was proposed by the BJP government in a move to amend the decade-old 1988 anti-graft law to make it possible to punish both bribe givers as well as bribe takers. After the extensive debate at the Lok Sabha, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill was passed with 43 amendments on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. The Bill had already received Rajya Sabha‘s ascent last week.

The need of the New Bill

The Bill proposes several measures to tackle corruption in our country. During the debate, APJ Reddy (TRS) questioned the effectiveness of the new Bill and observed, “corruption was involved from birth to death as, at every stage of life, one should have to pay the bribe for any work.” But every party members present at the Lok Sabha agreed that rampant corruption has stalled India’s development and progress.

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Minister of State, Jitendra Singh, explained his government’s zero tolerance policy towards corruption is reflected in the Bill. Minister Singh said that Prime minister Narendra Modi wants to eradicate corruption from every level of government and hence the new Bill is pushing for enhancing transparency and accountability of the government and stringent laws under the new provisions of the Bill.

Debates over the new Bill

Congress MP, K H Muniyappa voiced his opinion regarding the new Bill stating, “electoral reforms were badly required to check corruption in the system. Corruption can be tackled to some extent if money is not involved in polls right from the panchayat to Parliament.”

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also stated that the opposition will support the government if it was serious in tackling corruption “rather than making claims.” Chowdhury alleged, “Under your rule, India, which was known as the land of saints, has turned into a land of semesters…Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and many others fled the country after defaulting on banks’ money.”

BJP MP Prahlad Joshi vehemently countered Chowdhury’s allegations and reiterated, “the loans were sanctioned by banks after they were pressurised by the top people in the UPA government.” He also pointed out that the current NDA government is doing their utmost to root out corruption from the country.

TDP member K Nirmala also doubted the government’s sincerity in eliminating corruption and alleged that the “central government was using the anti-corruption laws for their vested political interests. There is a need to effectively implement these laws.” APJ Reddy from the TRS party concurred and voiced his concern, “the new Bill would discourage whistleblowers to come forward.”

CPI-M leader B Khan mentioned about the Sarada scam of West Bengal and stressed government inaction as the moot cause for concern in the case. He also alleged that the West Bengal government is using delay tactics in appointing of the anti-graft ombudsman Lokpal. Idris Ali leader of the TMC led government of West Bengal claimed all allegations are misplaced as “Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is a symbol of honesty.”

K Geetha from YSRCP party was of the opinion that “excessive regulation, lack of transparency and lack of transparent laws led to corruption,” as she herself was once a victim of such corruption. Pappu Yadav, ex-RJD MP from Bihar stated, “corruption was worse than terrorism.” Yadav also stressed on the fact that “funding of political parties should be made more transparent as it impacted the election process. People including officers and politicians need to be investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies,” and this should start from him otherwise “cribbing politicians” should resign if they cannot act.

Provisions proposed under the new Bill

  • Enhanced transparency and accountability
  • Bribe-taking and bribe giving are both punishable by laws
  • Prior approval for investigation of all government officers, not just those at Joint Secretary level and above as was the earlier norm, to prevent harassment of honest officers
  • Speedy trial of corruption cases with the verdict being delivered within two years in such cases
  • Immunity from arrest would now be available for all government officers unlike before
  • Bureaucrats will be ensured protection from false and malicious complaints even after their retirements
  • The punishment for bribe takers has been increased to three years minimum imprisonment and can extend up to seven years as well as heavy fine can be imposed on the wrongdoers.

The effectiveness of the new law

India is currently ranked at 100th in World Bank’s – Ease of Doing Business Index 2018 from its 2017 rank of 130th which is a reflection of India’s economic growth and development. MNC’s are showing their interest in deepening business interests in India as corporate giant Samsung has opened a new manufacturing unit in Noida from where they are hoping to increase production to the tune of 120 million in the next three years. Modi government’s Make in India campaign is showing success as new job openings in manufacturing, production, operations, IT, infrastructure and pharmaceuticals are on the rise. GST scheme and demonetisation may have hit India’s growth initially but experts predict annual GDP gains of 8-10% in the years ahead. That would not be far short of China in its boom years.

Corruption in this situation has already become an impediment to India’s growth. Loans written off or considered likely to turn sour are near a fifth of the loan book at state-owned lenders, which have about 70% of market share. The resulting losses have left banks short of capital for fresh loans. In this backdrop, Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill is not only a necessity but is a boon for the Indian economy. The Narendra Modi government going into elections in 2019 will also garner much public support and sympathy because of this progressive legislation but it is still best to opt for caution as legislation alone cannot serve the ultimate purpose if it is not implemented diligently and with utmost honesty.

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