New Delhi: With the alleged involvement of big corporates in a spate of scams apparently weighing on his mind, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said government is considering changes in law to make private sector bribery a criminal offence.
Speaking at the Biennial Conference of CBI and state anti-corruption bureaux, the Prime Minister said India has ratified UN Conventions against corruption and to meet its requirements a slew of measures which include amendments in laws pertaining to anti-graft measures.
“To meet the requirements of the Convention, we have introduced a Bill in Parliament to make bribery of foreign public officials an offence. We are considering changes in our laws to criminalize private sector bribery,” he said.
But the Prime Minister did not not provide any details of how private sector bribery will be dealt with.
He said Government is working on ways and means to minimize discretionary powers of public authorities and the issue of a public procurement law to minimize irregularities in the award of government contracts worth thousands of crores of rupees every year.
The Prime Minister however said “Whatever we might do to minimise the opportunities for corruption, the sad reality is that we cannot build a totally fool-proof system. There will always be some instances of corrupt practices in the work of public authorities.”
He urged the CBI that people induldging in corruption must realise that that they can not possibly get away from the law and would sooner rather than later suffer the consequences of their wrongdoing.
“There is a need for speedy and thorough investigation into allegations of such wrong doings, followed by expeditious prosecution to bring the guilty to book. This would act as a powerful deterrent against corruption,” he said.
The Prime Minister said expectation from the CBI are well known but need repetition because this because sometimes in the routine of daily work the larger scheme of things are forgotten.
“We expect from the CBI the highest standards of honesty and professionalism and a total disregard of any extraneous considerations, particularly political pressure, in its work…And professionalism demands facelessness, in the best traditions of our civil services,” he said.
He cautioned “premature publicity” given to cases can harm the cause of justice.
“We must also not forget the distinction between a deliberate attempt at wrongdoing and honest mistakes, sometimes inevitable in decision-making processes under conditions of uncertainty,” the Prime Minister said.
On CBI Director’s concerns of pending sanctions of prosecution and delay in trials, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said government has decided that if an authority refuses to grant permission for investigation or sanction for prosecution, the reasons for such denial would have to be informed to the next higher authority.
“Delay in the trial of cases remains an area of serious public concern. To reduce pendency of CBI cases under trial, we have taken a decision to set up a committee under a retired Supreme Court judge to review cases pending trial, which are more than ten years old, and suggest ways and means for their speedy disposal,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the best way to fight corruption is to reduce opportunities for corrupt practices.
“If government decisions are transparent and the responsibility of individual public servants in the decision-making processes is clearly known, the deterrence against illegal private benefit in public work is so much more enhanced,” he said.
Singh said Right to Information Act is a potent tool in ensuring such transparency and accountability in our public life and urged that public authorities to disclose as much information as possible.
Earlier, Prime Minister distributed medals to the officers of the CBI which included Deputy Director S J M Gillani who was given gallantry award on Republic Day, 2005 for an anti-terrorist operation in the Valley.
While N Surendran DSP in Chennai got Gold medal for best investigating CBI officer for 2009, Senior Public Prosecutor R N Dash and Public Prosecutor S K Kantiwal were given medals for best prosecutors for the year 2008 and 2009 respectively.
Besides, Suman Bala Sahoo, West-Bengal cadre IPS officer, AIG Vigilance J Nayak, Senior SPs Bhupinder Kumar and Ganesh Verma were also given police medals.