New Delhi,Azaan Javaid(dna): Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday evoked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during an event organised by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) when he cautioned the probing agency to differentiate between "errors of judgement in decision making" and "deliberate corruption in decision making". The minister also shared his views on the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 which he said should be re-visited in the present context.
Speaking at the DP Kohli Memorial Lecture here, Jaitley said the decision-making process in the government is getting hindered because of judicial supervision of corruption cases which puts pressure on investigators to make a case, creating fear among officials that a genuine error in decision-making may come under scrutiny.
"In the past, a large number of criminal cases have had a serious effect on the business environment of India. The overkill coming from various institutions has not helped the growth rate of the economy. It is thus important that deliberate corruption by decision makers must be dealt with separately from errors in judgement while making decisions," Jaitley said.
"Today courts supervise investigation. The question of courts supervising investigation puts the investigator on the defensive. He then follows the golden rule that if I give a report that the accused is prima facie not guilty, questions are going to be raised on me and therefore I must somehow make a case and if the accused has good luck then he gets a fair trial," the minister said.
Interestingly, former PM Manmohan Singh somewhat held similar views and was quoted saying, "Actions that prima facie show mala fide intent or pecuniary gain should certainly be questioned, pronouncing decisions taken with no ill-intention within the prevailing policy as criminal misconduct would certainly be flawed and excessive".
The former PM had responded to ex-CBI director Ranjit Sinha when the latter had mentioned about "impropriety by policy makers" in his welcome address at an international conference organised by the CBI on its Golden Jubilee in 2013.
The minister also called for an end to the"culture of suspecting decision making", which according to him, can be achieved by revisiting the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
"The liberalisation process started in 1991 but the language of the present Prevention of Corruption Act, which was drafted in the pre-liberalisation era of 1988, is deterring a large number of public servants, including civil servants from taking decisions," Jaitley said.
He also said phrases like "corrupt means", "public interest" and "pecuniary advantages" have to be redefined in the present context to differentiate between the act of corruption and honest error.
The finance minister went on to elaborate on the 'pressures' faced by CBI officers due to judicial supervision in criminal cases often forcing the probing agency to loose the distinction between prosecuting and persecuting.
"With the courts monitoring CBI probes, it becomes imperative on investigators to make as strong a case as possible and let fair trial be left to accused's good luck. This leads to hindrance in economic decision making which becomes like passing the parcel. Nobody is expected to be perfect, but if there are two institutions which we cannot afford to be imperfect, one is the judiciary and the second is the CBI." Jaitley said.
CBI director, Anil Sinha, confirmed that the FM had brought up the topic of re-visiting the Act during some interaction but refused to delve further on whether he and Jaitely were on the the same page with regards to the suggestion.