Govt seeks views of public on proposed anti-graft law

New Delhi: In the backdrop of uproar over corruption and black money issues, Government has sought suggestion from people on a proposed anti-graft law which will facilitate extradition and prosecution of foreign public officials involved in bribery.

In a public notification, the government sought views and suggestions of general public on the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill, 2011 which prohibits accepting or giving gratification by or to a foreign public official or official of public international organisation and makes such acts punishable with imprisonment of upto seven years.

The suggestions on the Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on the last day of the Budget Session and would help India ratify the UN Convention on Corruption, will be accepted till April 30.

Bribery involving foreign public officials in international transactions is not covered under the existing Acts. "Therefore, a need has been felt to bring a legislation to give effect to the Convention," says the Bill.

India already has in place a framework for combating corruption under certain laws – Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 – which cover a number of areas that need international standards for criminalisation of bribery.

"Article 16 of the Convention requires that each State Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence, the giving or taking of undue advantage to or by a foreign public official, directly or indirectly," says the Bill.

It confers power upon the central government to enter into agreements with foreign countries for enforcing the provisions of the proposed legislation. It also makes provision declaring the offences as "extraditable offences".

Certain provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, would be amended to include provisions of the new legislation.

Under the bill, "foreign public official" means any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative or judicial office of a foreign country.

The term "official of a public international organisation" means an international civil servant or any person authorised by such an organisation to act on behalf of that organisation.

During the G-20 Summit in Seoul, India had signed its anti-corruption action plan, which requires it to ratify and implement the UN Convention.

In February, a Group of Ministers had decided to recommend a "stand alone" legislation on corruption to amend the relevant Indian laws to enable India ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption.

Once a signatory country ratifies the Convention, its private citizens, including businessmen, who indulge in corruption are liable to be punished.

Indian agencies can seek cooperation of the signatory countries in investigating cases where they have information about the accused or his kin holding bank accounts in foreign countries.

The Supreme Court has termed the issue of corruption and black money as a "serious" matter which has to be dealt in the best interests of the country.