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Legislative History, Object And Scope Of The The Prevention Of Corruption Act, 1988, Definitions Of Public Servant And Public Duty

The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is an important piece of legislation in India aimed at combating corruption among public servants and other individuals. It was enacted to replace the earlier Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, and has undergone several amendments to strengthen the legal framework for preventing and prosecuting corruption.

Legislative History:
  1. Pre-Independence Era: Before India gained independence in 1947, there were no specific anti-corruption laws at the national level. Some states had their own laws to deal with corruption, but there was a need for a comprehensive legislation to address corruption at the national level.
  2. Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947: In the post-independence era, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 was enacted to address corruption among public servants. This act defined various corrupt practices and prescribed penalties for offenders. However, over time, it was felt that the act lacked teeth and needed significant amendments to make it more effective.
  3. Enactment of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988: In response to the need for a more robust anti-corruption law, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was enacted. This act introduced several significant changes and updates to the previous legislation. It expanded the definition of public servants, added new offenses related to corruption, and increased the penalties for corrupt practices.
  4. Amendments: Since its enactment in 1988, the Prevention of Corruption Act has undergone several amendments to address emerging challenges and strengthen the fight against corruption. Some of the notable amendments include:
    1. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013: This amendment introduced significant changes, such as redefining certain terms, introducing stricter penalties, and provisions related to the prevention of bribery of foreign public officials.
    2. The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018: This amendment focused on issues like the need for prior sanction for prosecuting public servants, and it introduced the concept of "undue advantage."
    3. Various other amendments were made to align the law with changing circumstances and to meet international obligations related to anti-corruption efforts.

  1. Prevention of Corruption: The primary objective of the act is to prevent corruption among public servants, including government officials, members of law enforcement agencies, and individuals employed in public offices. It aims to create a deterrent against corrupt practices by imposing stringent penalties on those found guilty.
  2. Punishment for Corruption: The act seeks to punish individuals involved in corrupt activities, including the acceptance of bribes, illegal gratification, and abuse of official position for personal gain.
  3. Promotion of Transparency: It aims to promote transparency and accountability in government and public administration by criminalizing corrupt practices that undermine the principles of integrity and honesty.
  4. Protection of Whistleblowers: The act includes provisions to protect whistleblowers who report corruption. It encourages individuals to come forward with information about corrupt practices without fear of retaliation.


  1. Definition of Offenses: The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, defines various corrupt practices, including bribery, illegal gratification, and abuse of official position. It specifies the actions that constitute corruption and prescribes penalties for offenders.
  2. Applicability to Public Servants: The act primarily applies to public servants, including government officials, officers of public sector undertakings, and individuals employed in public offices. It covers a wide range of public servants to ensure comprehensive coverage.
  3. Private Sector: The act is not limited to public servants. It also applies to individuals working in the private sector who are involved in corrupt practices related to public servants. This means that individuals in the private sector who offer bribes or engage in other corrupt activities with public servants can be prosecuted under the act.
  4. Bribery of Foreign Public Officials: The act includes provisions related to the bribery of foreign public officials, aligning India's laws with international anti-corruption conventions. It criminalizes offering bribes to foreign public officials for obtaining or retaining business or other advantages.
  5. Prior Sanction for Prosecution: The act includes provisions that require prior sanction from the appropriate authority for prosecuting public servants, ensuring that frivolous or politically motivated cases are not filed against them.
  6. Penalties: The act prescribes penalties for various offenses, including imprisonment and fines, which are designed to deter individuals from engaging in corrupt practices.
  7. Whistleblower Protection: The act includes provisions to protect whistleblowers from victimization, ensuring that individuals who report corruption are not subjected to harassment or retaliation.

Public Duty: Sec 2 (b)

The act defines "public duty" as a duty in the discharge of which the State, the public, or the community at large has an interest. This definition is significant because it helps determine whether a particular action or omission falls within the scope of the act.

Public Servant: Sec 2 (c)

"Public Servant" under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 can be:
  1. Government Employees: Anyone who works for the government and is compensated, either with a salary or fees/commissions, for carrying out public duties.
  2. Local Authority Employees: People employed by local government bodies.
  3. Employees of Government-Related Organizations: Individuals working in organizations established by government laws or controlled or financially aided by the government, including government-owned companies.
  4. Judges and Legal Authorities: Judges and those authorized by law to make legal decisions, such as arbitrators or individuals appointed by courts.
  5. Election Officials: People responsible for tasks like maintaining voter rolls and conducting elections.
  6. Duty-Oriented Officeholders: Those holding positions requiring them to perform public duties.
  7. Cooperative Society Leaders: Presidents, secretaries, or office-bearers of registered co-operative societies involved in agriculture, industry, trade, or banking that receive government financial aid.
  8. Education and Examination Personnel: Individuals involved in universities, including professors, teachers, or employees, and anyone providing services for examinations on behalf of universities or public authorities.
  9. Employees of Assisted Institutions: Office-bearers or employees of educational, scientific, social, cultural, or other institutions that receive financial support from the government.

Written By: Harshavardhan Prakash Deshmukh, 4th Year Of B.A.LL.B. - Modern Law College, Pune,

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