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Need to review Prevention of Corruption Act: Jaitley

‘Fear of penal action a deterrent to effective functioning of officials,’ says Jaitley.

arun jaitley, arun jaitley idea exchange, arun jaitley indian express, arun jaitley land allocation, arun jaitley prevention of corruption act, arun jaitley news, business news Arun Jaitley said that the NDA would work to keep its allies on board on the issue.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said there was a need to take a fresh look at some provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act because fear of penal action, even for honest decisions, was a big deterrent to effective functioning of government functionaries and officials.

“Your question itself indicates honest decision-making can not be subjected to any penal action. Either there can honestly be two different opinions; or there can be even honest errors,” he said responding to a question on how his ministry will go ahead with strategic disinvestment with officials fearing CBI queries post stake sale.

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Pointing out that the Act was of the pre-liberalisation era, Jaitley said, “I do believe whether it is disinvestment or it is defence purchases, because of the kind of interpretation which has been given to some of the provisions in Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act … they have been a great deterrent and they require a fresh look in the changed environment. I understand that the Law Commission has already made some recommendations in that direction.” He was speaking at the Idea Exchange programme organised by The Indian Express.

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The Union Budget 2015-16 has targeted receipts of Rs 41,500 crore from disinvestment in PSUs in addition to Rs 28,500 crore from strategic sales. A number of strategic sales including that in Hindustan Zinc Ltd and Laxmi Vilas Palace in Udaipur during the NDA government’s term (1998-2004) are being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act defines what constitutes criminal misconduct by a public servant and specifies penal provisions, which includes jail up to seven years, against such persons.

The finance minister expressed hope of meeting the disinvestment target for the current fiscal, pointing out that the Rs 24,500 crore raised from stake sales in 2014-15 was the highest ever.

Meanwhile, stressing that amendments to the Land Acquisition Act are required due to oversights in the original legislation by the UPA in 2013, Jaitley said that the NDA would work to keep its allies on board on the issue.

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“We will certainly make every effort to bring them on board,” he stressed, when asked about allies who opposed the Bill that has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.

Ahead of the Reserve Bank of India’s first monetary policy review of 2015-16 on April 7, Jaitley also stressed that the rupee must find its own value.

“It will always be a subject of debate as to whether we need a strong rupee or a weak rupee — currently, the rupee should realise its real value and it should stabilise at its own real value rather than the RBI weakening it or strengthening it,” he argued.

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Pointing out that it is only the Indian currency and the Swiss Franc that have remained stable against the US dollar in recent times, the finance minister stressed that the market must determine the real value of the currency.

A strong rupee could hurt Indian exports and many experts have been calling for another interest rate cut by the RBI. The minister also expressed hope that banks would eventually transmit the 50 basis point cut by Reserve Bank of India while pointing out that they too have been facing challenges due to a slowing economy and high deposit rates.

‘Section 13 requires relook’

* Section 13 (1) (1) defines criminal misconduct by a public servant to include “any gratification” and “dishonest or fraudulent” misappropriation of any property entrusted for himself or any one else.

* Section 13(2) prescribes imprisonment of between 1-7 years along with a fine for any public servant guilty of such misconduct.

* CBI has used the Section against Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh in the alleged coal block allocation scam.

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* Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had called for a revoking Section 13(1)(d) of the Act.

* The UPA government had tabled Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013.

First published on: 02-04-2015 at 02:04 IST
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