Sunday, Nov 18, 2018 | Last Update : 11:49 PM IST
Of course, this can cut both ways, as it may be difficult to pin corrupt officials due to blanket protection.
It appears that the new anti-corruption law in force after the presidential assent will protect politicians and bureaucrats while going after bribe givers who can now be jailed even for offering an inducement. The logic behind framing it in this way is justifiable as it has been done to protect honest administrators in government who would otherwise be loath to take decisions lest frivolous charges be brought against them. The old law had given extraordinary powers to the CBI. It has a not-so-great reputation for seeing prosecution through against corrupt officials, but mega-deals could keep all public servants on its radar, even retired ones. While honest errors of judgment might occur even among good administrators, the fear of being hounded used to tie them up so much that the officers could bring the government to a standstill.
One of the key movers of this reform, Union minister Arun Jaitley, wished to correct a fundamental flaw in the old law of the pre-liberalisation era, under which investigators would file chargesheets even when in doubt about whether corruption was indeed involved in any decision-making. Of course, this can cut both ways, as it may be difficult to pin corrupt officials due to blanket protection. The ideal way would be to set up a judicial committee to assess the charges made against administrators and ensure that frivolous and malicious charges are ignored and permission to probe granted only in what appear to be credible cases of corruption. Under the new law, the CBI has to seek prior approval from a competent authority before framing charges. To avoid conflict of interest, it will be best if a judicial committee is this authority.