Parliament passes anti-graft Bill that punishes bribe givers too

New Delhi: The Parliament on Tuesday passed an anti-corruption Bill that provides for punishment to bribe givers and takers, and extends prior nod for prosecution to former public officials with the Lok Sabha given its assent to the law.

The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, passed by the lower house after a reply by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh, was passed by Rajya Sabha last week.

In his reply, the minister said the Bill provides safeguards to officers who perform their duties with honesty.

“We have brought amendments so that honest performing officer does not get intimidated or his initiatives get killed, ” he said.

Singh said the “historic legislation” has provisions to ensure speedy trial in corruption cases.

“For any corruption case we will bring guidelines for decision to be ordinarily given in two years,” he said. The minister said the government aimed at taking strict measures against corruption while also ensuring good work atmosphere.

Referring to delay in appointment of Lokpal, he said the blame laid with Congress as it did not get enough seats for its leader to be recognised as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

The Leader of Opposition is a member of Lokpal selection panel. Singh said the government had sought to include the leader of the largest opposiiton party in the meetings concerning appointment of Lokpal.

Many members who took part in the debate stressed on the need for electoral reforms to curb corruption.

Some opposition members accused the government of “diluting” the anti-corruption act through the amendments. They also cautioned the government over the provision to punish the bribe giver.

Shiv Sena member Arvind Ganpat Sawant targeted the Modi government over demonetisation and asked if its stated objectives had been achieved.

Citing some other decisions related to the government, he said “it is easy to talk about corruption and difficult to walk the talk”.

He asked if expenses of a party meeting addressed by Prime Minister or a Chief Minister are borne by the exchequer or the political party concerned.

“Election is den of corruption, school admission is den of corruption,” he said.

The Bill provides for imprisonment from three to seven years, besides fine, to those convicted of taking bribes. Bribe givers have also been included in the legislation for the first time and they can be punished with imprisonment up to seven years, fine, or both.