The case of former coal secy and the anti-corruption law

HC Gupta would have had some relief if the pending amendments were cleared

GN Bureau | May 23, 2017


#Prevention of Corruption Act   #bureaucracy   #corruption   #HC Gupta   #UPA   #coal scam  
Illustration: Ashish Asthana
Illustration: Ashish Asthana

 
A senior bureaucrat, apparently much respected among the administrative circles, faces two years in jail. His crime: a decision that may have come from the political leadership.
 
HC Gupta, a former coal secretary, is among the three bureaucrats convicted by a special court in a coal block allocation case. They have been slapped with two years in jail and a fine of Rs 1 lakh each, though court has granted them bail to appeal in the Delhi high court.
 
CBI had charged Gupta with presenting false information before the minister – prime minister Manmohan Singh was holding the charge of the coal ministry back then.
 
The court had last week convicted Gupta, KS Kropha (then joint secretary in the coal ministry) and KC Samaria (then director, coal allocation- i section of the ministry) of criminal conspiracy and cheating under the Indian Penal Code and for corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
 
There are two issues at stake here: one, the responsibility of the bureaucrat in executing what may essentially be a political call, and two, the pending bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act which, among other things, aims to provide relief to bureaucrats in such circumstances.
 
As Mukul Sanwal, a former secretary to the government of India, explained in his column in Governance Now, the definition of corruption in Section 13(1)(d) of the existing PCA covers various indirect forms of corruption including the obtaining of “any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage” by illegal gratification or by “abusing his position as a public servant”. The section defines “Abuse of Official Position” under the overall category of “criminal misconduct by a public servant”. The amendment bill replaces this section with a definition of criminal misconduct by a public servant in terms of fraudulent misappropriation of property under one’s control, and intentional, illicit enrichment and possession of disproportionate assets. 
 
“Currently, an investigating officer has only to establish that legal provisions, guidelines and rules were violated which led to pecuniary advantage to somebody, including a third party, and not necessarily the public servant. There is no requirement to prove a direct trail of money, or any other quid pro quo, with respect to the public servant in the decision-making process. 
 
“This anomaly of treating administrative decisions as part of a criminal conspiracy is now sought to be rectified in the amendment to the PCA recently approved by the select committee of the Rajya Sabha. It conforms to widely accepted international practice and is far from being a conspiracy of the ‘political establishment’ reflecting the ‘power of babudom’,” writes Sanwal.
 
The amendment bill has been subject to much debate, especially for the shield it offers to the bureaucrats. “The bill has replaced the definition of criminal misconduct. It now requires that the intention to acquire assets disproportionate to income also be proved, in addition to possession of such assets.  Thus, the threshold to establish the offence of possession of disproportionate assets has been increased by the bill,” explains the PRS Legislative Research in its analysis of the bill.
 
This necessity arose in the scam-a-day times of the UPA regime, when bureaucrats were perceived to be afraid of taking administrative decisions, leading to what was called policy paralysis.
 
On the other hand, a section of anti-corruption activists has opposed raising “the threshold to establish the offence”, as it may weaken the fight against graft – even if Gupta’s case seems one of a kind.
 
One way out, arguably, is what Sanwal advocates: “The problem in dealing with it is not the revival of the ‘single directive’, requiring prior approval of government or Lokpal to initiate an inquiry into allegations of corruption against public servants. The real problem is the focus on a single definition of corruption unrelated to criminality, the organisational context ignoring the many ways corruption now takes place and the enforcement model.”
 

Comments

 

Other News

When Jaitley asked me to guess his age...

Sometime in 1999, I took Arun Jaitley out for meal for the column, “Lunch with Business Standard”. As is his wont, he chose his own place for lunch. It was at the Chambers at the Taj Mansingh hotel, an exclusive domain of the high and the mighty Delhi. As we sat down for the meal

Thus ends the Chidamba-Run!

The arrest of Palaniappan Chidambaram, former union minister of home & finance, by the CBI, albeit after his much dramatic disappearance and reappearance, has brought an end to his long run from the arms of law. As a finance minister, being at the other end of the law, the former ministe

What Imran’s rant against RSS tells us about Modi’s Kashmir policy

An unintended consequence of the inversion of Article 370 and the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories is the curious revival of Pakistan’s interest in Indian history and sociology. For the first time in decades, a Pakistan prime minister made the Rasht

On a Personal note with actor Neeraj Kabi

Neeraj Kabi, a critically acclaimed self-taught actor, theatre director, and acting teacher, has worked in Odiya, Hindi and international cinema, theatre, television and web series. In 2014 he was honoured with the best actor award at the 4th Sakhalin International Film Festival for his role in the fil

Talking to Trump, Modi hits out at Imran’s anti-India rhetoric

Prime minister Narendra Modi has told US president Donald Trump that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s “incitement to anti-India violence” was not good for peace in south Asia. Modi and Trump had a telephonic conversation – their first since the Aug 5 move to chang

Paediatricians call for junking unhealthy food

As children are consuming more and more fast foods and sweetened beverages are becoming, leading to obesity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has come out with guidelines on such substances. The dietary guidelines under its nutrition chapter



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter