Stating that “some institutions and their functioning have to be protected”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday that “ingratitude is a political sin”. He was responding to a question on whether there is a need to protect officers of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and security agencies from “false” and “politically motivated” charges.
The question was raised by former IB Special Director Rajinder Kumar, who was accused by the CBI in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. The home ministry and CBI have been at loggerheads over granting sanction to prosecute Kumar and three other IB officials in the case.
Taking questions from the audience after delivering the 28th IB Centenary Endowment Lecture at Vigyan Bhavan on Wednesday evening, Jaitley was asked by Kumar whether “there is a need to protect officers of security agencies, particularly intelligence agencies, for work done by them in the discharge of their duties”. Kumar claimed that politically motivated false cases were filed against IB officers who “at times, operate in a gray area” and “they are hounded out while they cannot defend themselves.”
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“I know what you’re referring to. But this principle applies across the world… whether it applies to officers of security agencies, officers of armed forces, or police officers who operate in dangerous areas. Being in public life and politics, one could be sitting on either side of the House, depending on which way politics takes a turn, and one must keep in mind (that) some institutions and their functioning have to be protected,” Jaitley replied.
“If I put it in one sentence, ingratitude is a political sin. We’ve seen this across the board, in those who are busy fighting insurgency or those who are fighting anti-national activities. Therefore, in a political slugfest, we must be careful that we don’t make them an instrument. I hope the people concerned have learnt their lessons,” he said.
Responding to another question, Jaitley said: “It is extremely popular to say the anti-corruption law must be made more stringent and more unreasonable. That is the more popular way these days in politics, particularly when political discourse also tends to become more vulgar.”
In his lecture, Jaitley said the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was framed in the pre-liberalisation era and does not differentiate between corrupt and erroneous decisions. There is an urgent need to expedite the review of the Act to bring it in tune with the modern economy, he added.
Keeping erroneous decisions within the preview of the Act “dissuades civil servants from taking correct and bold decisions in the interest of the economy”, he said. “Defence purchases, commercial decision-making, disinvestment and privatisation are examples of decisions which have suffered on this count. There is thus an urgent need to expedite, review and amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to bring it in tune with the requirements of the liberalised economy,” said Jaitley.
He said the amendments introduced by the government are before Parliament, and when “Parliament gets out of this dysfunctional phase, I hope they are taken up at some stage”.
Jaitley said the nature of offences have changed with the transition of the economy from the “pre-Independence” era to the “Licence Raj” era and the current post-liberalisation era. The world economy is integrated today and technology is a great facilitator, he added.
“Technology also facilitates economic crime. Money laundering, bank frauds, corruption, market manipulation, taxation frauds, are operations which are frequently seen in the liberalised era,” he said. “The investigative agencies have to continuously upgrade their skills to be ahead of the perpetrators of these crimes.”