Topic of the day:-“Layers Of Protection: On Changes In Anti-Corruption Law”

The amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, adopted recently by both Houses of Parliament, are a mixed bag. Moves to make changes in this law, aimed at combating corruption in government, were initiated during the UPA’s second term in office and largely centred on the misuse of one provision — Section 13 (1) d. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had criticised this section, under which public servants are culpable for securing a pecuniary advantage for another “without any public interest”, for ignoring a foundational principle of criminal law: mens rea. This resulted in many honest officials being prosecuted even when they gained nothing and merely exercised their power or discretion in favour of someone. Insofar as it had a chilling effect on governance and deterred bold decision-making, the amended form may have a liberating effect on honest officials. Besides, it is more concise and restricts criminal misconduct to two offences: misappropriating or converting to one’s own use property entrusted to a public servant or is in his control, and amassing unexplained wealth. There was concern initially with the wording, “intentionally enriches himself illicitly during the period of his office”, as it raised a doubt whether the ‘intention’ to amass wealth would also have to be proved. Now an explanation has been added that a person “shall be presumed to have intentionally enriched himself” if he cannot account for his assets through known sources of income. By making citizens liable for offering a bribe to a public servant, the anti-corruption law has been brought in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption. The only exception to this rule is when one is forced to give a bribe. This exception kicks in only when the fact that one was forced to pay a bribe is reported to a law enforcement authority within seven days. The penal provision can empower people by allowing them to cite it to refuse to pay a bribe. At the same time, what happens when the police or any other agency refuses to register a complaint? People may be left in the lurch with no redress. Further, it may render them vulnerable to threats from unscrupulous public servants who collect money to speed up public services but do not deliver. The most unacceptable change is the introduction of a prior approval norm to start an investigation. When a prior sanction requirement exists in law for prosecution, it is incomprehensible that the legislature should create another layer of protection in the initial stage of a probe. Public servants need to be protected against unfair prosecution, but a genuine drive against corruption needs a package of legislative measures. These should contain penal provisions, create an ombudsman in the form of a Lokpal or Lokayukta, as well as assure citizens of time-bound services and whistle-blower protection. Laws to fulfil these objectives are either not operational or are yet to materialise.


1) Mixed bag

Meaning: A diverse assortment of things or people.

Example: “we have a mixed bag of destinations and holiday choices for you”

Synonyms: Assortment, Variety

2) Combating

Meaning: Take action to reduce or prevent (something bad or undesirable).

Example: “an effort to combat drug trafficking”

Synonyms: Attack, Oppose

3) Centred on

Meaning: To have something as the main subject of discussion or interest.

Example: The discussion centred around reducing waste.

4) Culpable

Meaning: Deserving blame.

Example: “mercy killings are less culpable than ‘ordinary’ murders”

Synonyms: Guilty, Responsible

Antonyms: Blameless, Innocent

5) Pecuniary

Meaning: Relating to or consisting of money.

Example: “he admitted obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception”

Synonyms: Financial, Fiscal

6) Prosecuted

Meaning: Institute or conduct legal proceedings against (a person or organization).

Example: “they were prosecuted for obstructing the highway”

7) Discretion

Meaning: The freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.

Example: “local authorities should use their discretion in setting the charges”

Synonyms: Choice, Option

8) Governance

Meaning: The action or manner of governing a state, organization, etc.

Example: “a more responsive system of governance will be required”

9) Deterred

Meaning: Prevent the occurrence of.

Example: “strategists think not only about how to deter war, but about how war might occur”

Synonyms: Prevent, Avert

Antonyms: Encourage

10) Liberating

Meaning: Making you feel free and able to behave as you like.

Example: Taking all your clothes off can be a very liberating experience.

11) Concern

Meaning: Anxiety; worry.

Example: “Carole gazed at her with concern”

Synonyms: Anxiety, Worry

Antonyms: Serenity, Indifference

12) Enriches

Meaning: Improve or enhance the quality or value of.

Example: “her exposure to museums enriched her life in France”

Synonyms: Enhance, Improve

Antonyms: Spoil, Devalue

13) Amass

Meaning: Gather together or accumulate (a large amount or number of material or things) over a period of time.

Example: “he amassed a fortune estimated at close to a million pounds”

Synonyms: Gather, Collect

Antonyms: Dissipate

14) Presumed

Meaning: Suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability.

Example: “I presumed that the man had been escorted from the building”

Synonyms: Assume, Suppose

15) Enforcement

Meaning: The act of compelling observance of or compliance with a law, rule, or obligation.

Example: “the strict enforcement of environmental regulations”

Synonyms: Imposition, Application

16) Lurch

Meaning: An abrupt uncontrolled movement, especially an unsteady tilt or roll.

Example: “the boat gave a violent lurch and he missed his footing”

17) Render

Meaning: Cause to be or become; make.

Example: “the rains rendered his escape impossible”

Synonyms: Make, Leave

18) Unscrupulous

Meaning: Having or showing no moral principles; not honest or fair.

Example: “unscrupulous landlords might be tempted to harass existing tenants”

Synonyms: Unethical, Immoral

Antonyms: Ethical, Honest

19) Incomprehensible

Meaning: Not able to be understood; not intelligible.

Example: “a language which is incomprehensible to anyone outside the office”

Synonyms: Unintelligible, Indecipherable

Antonyms: Intelligible, Comprehensible

20) Whistle-blower

Meaning: A person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity.