The ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions has refused to provide an answer to the Parliament on whether the proposed amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act will make investigation of corruption charges against officials difficult.
The ministry — which oversees all administrative matters relating to central government employees — has reportedly formulated an amendment which makes approval from the Central and State Governments mandatory for the investigative agencies prior to investigation against the serving and retired bureaucrats.
Such amendments have been repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court in the past on the grounds that making it mandatory to seek approval from an officials seniors before beginning an investigation would alert the official about the investigation itself.
To seek permission for investigation, the investigating agency such as the CBI or CVC would have to furnish all the important pieces of evidence that it has against the official to his superior(s).
Because of this, said the Supreme Court in 2004, “there will be no confidentiality and insulation of the investigating agency from political and bureaucratic control and influence because the approval is to be taken from the Central Government which would involve leaks and disclosures at every stage.”
When Janata Dal United MP Harivansh asked in a written question whether inserting such a clause would make “any kind of probe against corrupt officers.. a very cumbersome process,” Jitendra Singh, minister of state for personnel, replied as follows.
“It is premature to comment upon the hypothetical proposition which relates to implementation of a proposed legislation.” In effect, the statement seems to imply that the ministry has no idea whether the new law that it proposes will make investigations cumbersome or not.
It is very rare for ministers to refuse to answer questions from Members of Parliament, even if the question refers to things which are in common knowledge.
The current dispensation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be tougher on corruption compared to the previous UPA government, and many have criticized the government’s move to re-introduce such as amendment.