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 giving 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.
The bill makes specific provisions related to giving a bribe to a public servant, and giving a bribe by a commercial organisation and it also modifies the definitions and penalties for offences related to taking a bribe, being a habitual offender and abetting an offence.
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.
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.
Noting the ideal situation is when the nation and society becomes incorruptible, he said: "But maybe we are yet to evolve to that level of evolution. To be fair, 70 years is a very small life span in the history of a democracy or a nation. We are still evolving and when we evolve to that level of incorruptibility, then we will not require a legislation like this or any further amendments."
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 opposition 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.
Citing some other decisions related to the government, Shiv Sena's Arvind Ganpat Sawant 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.