With the advent of human societies, corruption has become a big problem. It
was one of the vital factors for the decline of the Roman Empire. In its
traditional sense, corruption refers to 'Moral Impurity'
. The word
corruption has its origin from the Latin word 'Corruptio' which means to spoil,
pollute, abuse, or destroy. The concept of corruption has been changed with time
and it varies across cultures.
In a wide sense, it can be defined as any deviation from the norms. It has also
been given religious norms in countries like Iran. Today, corruption means
"Improper behaviour of an official position". According to Transparency
International, Corruption means "the abuse of public office for private gain".
There have been different conceptions of corruption and the reasons for that are
Culture, Jurisdiction, and methodology. Corruption is basically an illegal or
immoral act of a person to obtain some gain to perform a duty which he is anyhow
bound to perform without that consideration.
The distinction between bribery and corruption
Most people have muddled the meaning of these related words and are usually
considered to be of the same meaning, however, they are different. Corruption is
the unlawful usage of power by a person in public authority or performing public
duty whereas bribery is a form of corruption that involves giving and taking
gifts for personal gains, it includes the money and other benefits.
Corruption in India
Corruption has been one of the major issues for the steady growth of the Indian
economy. In India, 50% of the population has, at least once, involved in the
taking and giving of bribes. One of the major contributors to corruption is the
trucking industry which is forced to give millions of rupees every year to
various police stops at the highways.
India was ranked 86th among the 180 countries that participated in the
Corruption perception index, the survey of transparency international in
2020. However, it was a slight decline from the 80th position in the 2019
report, but still, there is no complacent improvement. In another survey,
conducted among Asian countries, India was found to have the highest rate of use
of bribes and personal links to gain access to public services. Even for
obtaining personal governmental documents, rampant use of bribes is observed.
Anti-corruption laws in India
Prevention of corruption act is the principal act dealing with the procedure for
corruption cases, enactment of special courts, and penalties for people involved
in the act. There are also a number of laws dealing with matters of corruption
i.e., Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Prevention of Money
Laundering Act, Right to Information act, Central Vigilance commission act, Lok
Aayukta acts of States, etc.
Prevention of corruption act, 1988
This act was enacted on 9th September 1988 with the objective to counter
corruption in government agencies and public sector undertakings in India.
Before the advent of this law, the Indian penal code dealt with cases where
public servants were involved but after 1945 the need for special legislation
was felt because of the inadequacy of the IPC, and hence the Prevention of
corruption act was first enacted in the year 1947. The act of 1947 was later
replaced by the act of 1988 aiming to strengthen the law by extending its
This act contains 31 sections with the objective to consolidate and amend laws
relating to matters of corruption. This act is applicable to public servants.
In State of Madhya Pradesh v. Ram Singh
, 2000 Supreme court held that
the provisions of the Prevention of corruption act were enacted to make
effective laws for the prevention of bribes and corruption amongst public
servants. In this case, the court further held that this legislation is to curb
the illegal activities and it must not be construed liberally in favour of the
Salient features of the Act
It incorporates under itself the old prevention of corruption act and some
changes, some sections from the Indian penal code and the criminal law amendment
act. It has enlarged the scope of public duty and public servant. The burden of
proof used to be on the prosecution but this act has been shifted to the person
This act makes it clear that the investigation of such cases should be made by
an officer equivalent to or above the rank of a Deputy superintendent of police.
Earlier the employees of the central government, UTs, Banks were not included in
the scope of a public servant but this act included them under its ambit.
Through this act bribes, misappropriation, obtaining pecuniary advantage and
disproportionate possession of property have been accepted as corrupt acts.
Investigation Agencies for Anti-Corruption policies
Anti-corruption laws were made with the objective to curb corrupt and illegal
gain of money and other related things. Investigation agencies are formed to
fulfill this objective. These agencies have tried their best to implement these
laws. These are also responsible for spreading awareness against corruption.
- Supreme court and High courts:
A public interest litigation can be directly filed in these courts regarding
corruption in the public sector and if the court finds any merit in the
case, it can transfer the case to the central bureau of investigation for
- Central vigilance commission:
It was created in the year 1964, it is the apex body for vigilance in
corruption cases. It was created under the CVC (Central vigilance
commission) act. It is an independent body and free from the control of
- The central bureau of Investigation:
This agency has been set up by the government to investigate cases related
to corruption especially in the UTs. It has now become the premium
corruption investigation agency. Very large and intense cases are generally
referred to them for investigation by states, Supreme court, and high
- Anti-corruption bureau:
These are the agencies of the state police and these agencies work within
their state. Each state has its own anti-corruption bureau and officials
appointed in these agencies do not perform the general conduct of the
police, however, they only investigate cases related to corruption.
These agencies have powers only to investigate a case under the prevention of
corruption act dealing with a public servant and public duty, let us understand
Who is a Public Servant?
Section 161 and Section 165A of the Indian penal code were repealed by the PCA.
The definition of a public servant is given in Section 2(c) of the PCA.
According to which any person who is:
- Government Employee;
- An Employee At Local Authority;
- Employed In Central, Provincial Or State Act, Or An Authority Or A Body
Owned Or Controlled Or Aided By The Government Or A Government Company;
- Any Judge Or Any Adjudicatory Function By A Person;
- Authorised By A Court Of Justice;
- Any Arbitrator Or Competent Public Authority;
- Performing Electoral Roll Or To Conduct An Election Or Part Of An
- Authorised Or Required To Perform Any Public Duty;
- President, Secretary Of A Co-Operative Society;
- Chairman, Member Or Employee Of Any Service Commission Or Board;
- Who Is A Vice-Chancellor Professor, Reader, Lecturer, Or Any Other
Teacher Or Employee;
- Who Is An Office-Bearer Or An Employee Of An Educational, Scientific,
Social, Cultural, Or Other Institution.
In State of Maharashtra & Anr. v.Prabhakar Rao & Anr
., Supreme court
held that the definition of public servant given in Section 21 of IPC is not
relevant in PCA,1988.
Various Supreme Court judgments have added certain people to the ambit of public
servants. They are managing directors of private banks, MLAs, Ministers, persons
discharging public duties and chairman of municipal council, etc.
What is a Public Duty?
It is defined in Section 2(b) of the PCA. According to Section 2(b):
It means a duty in the discharge of which the State, the public, or the
community at large has an interest.
Offences & Penalties
Section 7 of this act deals with offence relating to public servants being
bribed. It includes the act of obtaining, accepting, or attempting:
- To obtain an undue advantage, with the intention to perform public duty
either by himself or by another public servant;
- To obtain undue advantage as a reward for the improper or dishonest
performance of public duty;
- Performs or induces another public servant to perform an improper public
In P. Satyanarayana Murthy v. State of AP,
2015, the Supreme court held that to
establish a crime under Section 7 and 13 of PCA, it is necessary to have proof
of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification by the accused.
Section 8 of this act relates to an offence of bribing a public servant.
According to which, a person if gives or promises to give an undue advantage to
another person or persons, with intention – To induce public servant to perform
a public duty improperly, or to reward such public servant for improper
performance of his duty. A person will not be liable if he is compelled to give
such undue advantage.
: Imprisonment for a term up to 7 years or fine or both.
In Prakash Singh Badal v State of Punjab
, the Supreme court held that the
gratification is not restricted to pecuniary gratification. The scope of this
section is very wide and also includes public servants accepting gratification
to induce other public servants.
According to Section 13 of this act, a public servant is said to commit the
offence of criminal misconduct, if:
- Misappropriates or converts property entrusted to him for his own use
- Enriches himself illicitly
Imprisonment not less than 4 years but can extend to 10 years,
liable to fine.
In simple terms, if any public servant is found to have possession of any
property or money during his duty hours for which the public servant has no
satisfactory account, he has committed the offence of criminal misconduct.
Supreme court in the case of M.Krishna reddy v. State of Karnataka
 held that
following are the essentials for the offence of criminal misconduct:
By whom corruption cases can be investigated?
- To prove the accused is a public servant
- Nature and extent of illicit pecuniary resource or property
- A known source of income to be proved
- An illicit resource must be proved disproportionate to his income
Section 17 takes into account, the persons authorised to investigate.
According to Section 17:
- In Delhi, an inspector of police.
- In the Metropolitan area, any person of the rank of assistant
- Elsewhere, Deputy Superintendent of police or equivalent.
- Police officer below the rank of Inspector of police if authorised by the
Section 17A takes into account, the inquiry of decisions taken by public
servants in discharge of official duty
According to Section 17A:
Sanctions necessary for the prosecution
- No police officer can conduct an inquiry to alleged offence by a public
servant, where it is relatable to discharge of his official function,
without the approval of:
- In case employed with affairs of Union, the Union government.
- In case employed with affairs of state, the State government.
- In case of any other, authority competent to remove him from his office
- No approval is required for cases involving the arrest of a person on the spot
on the above charges.
According to Section 19, to prosecute an accused under the offence mentioned in
Section 7,11,13 and 15, prior approval is required from the authority whose
affairs are being managed by him or from the person competent to remove him from
In Romesh Lal Jain v. Naginder Singh Rana
, the Supreme Court held that when
a person has left the job or has ceased to be a public servant on the date of cognisance of offence by the court, no sanction is required.
Presumption where public servant accepts gratification other than legal
According to Section 20, where it is proved that an accused public servant has
committed an offence under section 7 or 11, it is presumed that he has taken
that illicit advantage so as to perform his duty improperly unless the contrary
In C.M. Girish babu v. CBI
, the Supreme Court held that the presumption
under Section 20 i.e., the prosecution needs to prove the case without
reasonable doubt which can be rebutted by the accused either through
cross-examination or by presenting evidence.
Drawbacks of this act:
- No provision to tackle corruption in the private sector:
This law has been
unable to tackle corruption in the private sector. This law is only confined to
the public sector and deals with the misconduct of the public servants only.
- Delay in Justice:
the system of justice is very slow in this law. A/c to
section 19, prior approval to suspend a public servant before launching
prosecution against him delays the case. While investigating, considerable time
is taken by authorities to acquire required permissions.
- Hostile Witness:
to convict a public servant, the case has to be proved
without reasonable doubt. No exception has been put up to this date. Witnesses
often change their support because of influence, allurements, etc, and thus the
prosecution fails to prove without reasonable doubt. Hence, many accused are
declared not guilty on the basis of doubt.
One day a person [A] goes to a public office for getting his land documents and
he meets a public servant [PS] who is in charge of those documents. A asks PS
for those documents but PS compels him to give Rs.20, 000 as gratification other
than the official charges of those documents. A is facing a situation where the
PS is demanding illicit gratification to perform his public duty. So A decides
- Where to go for complaint?
A can contact the nearby Anti-Corruption Bureau [ACB]. A will have to file an
application at that office and show or present some reasonable evidence for that
complaint. This complaint is filed by ACB without enrolment and action by the
ACB immediately. For this plans are made for the trapping action and the
complainant is given instructions for that.
- Actions to be taken?
When a person complains against corruption, he is provided with a digital voice
recorder and is directed to record the conversation between the two regarding
the demand of illegal gratification. The person has to once again visit that
office and record the conversation so that there exists proof of demand by the
When the person has recorded that conversation, he once again has to contact the
ACB and submit the voice recorder. The voice recorder will be checked by the ACB
and if there exists any evidence, another complaint is filed and further action
- Further action to be taken
The number on the currency which is to be given to the accused is noted by ACB
officials and they usually apply a layer of Phenolphthalein on that currency and
is then handed over to the complainant and he is directed not to touch the
currency and give the currency only in the hands of the accused.
when is mixed with sodium carbonate solution turns the solution to Pink. This
helps in the trap action because when the hands of the accused are submerged in
the sodium carbonate solution if the solution turns pink it is an indication
that the accused has touched those currencies and this becomes proof for the ACB.
Relevant permissions regarding the trap action are taken by the ACB from the
District collector but in the name of Secret action. This action is kept secret
The complainant is directed to go to the office and record the conversation and
after giving the bribe, inform the ACB. The ACB then performs the trap action.
If the ACB finds that currency with the accused, then the fingers of the accused
are submerged into sodium carbonate solution, and if the solution turns pink and
the number on the notes are matched, the ACB arrests the accused, and the case
is transferred to the court along with that evidence. The accused is firstly
suspended by the competent authority before initiating proceedings against him
and then the court proceeds.
The Prevention of corruption act has been the primary legislation to define the
offence and its penalties. Lack of awareness is one of the most important causes
for not to decline corruption cases. The new legislation has improved the old
provisions and added some new features but still, there is a long journey to
curb corruption. There are a few drawbacks to this legislation. The question of
a hostile witness is still left unanswered.
To prove without reasonable doubt has become a loophole for offenders to escape
from the penalties and thus this legislation still needs improvements. However,
the prevention of corruption act is somehow able to decrease corruption which is
evident from the report of transparency international. This act needs to
establish more stringent provisions and a better approach to deal with complex
Written By: Ayush Dewangan,
- Leslie Holmes, Corruption A Very Short Introduction32 (Oxford University
- SERCO.COM, https://www.serco.com/about/serco-code-of-conduct/our-business/bribery-and-corruption
(last visited Oct. 8, 2021).
- Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Prevention_of_Corruption_Act,_1988&oldid=1038790501
(last visited Oct. 11, 2021).
- State Of Madhya Pradesh & Ors v. Shri Ram Singh, A.I.R 2000 S.C. 870.
- Prevention of Corruption act, 1988, § 2, No. 49, Acts of Parliament,
- State Of Maharashtra And Anr. v. Prabhakarrao And Anr., JT 2002 Suppl 1
SC 5, (2002) 7 SCC 636
- Prevention of Corruption act, 1988, § 2, No. 49, Acts of Parliament,
- Parkash Singh Badal v. State of Punjab , 2007 1 SCC.
- M.Krishna reddy v. State, JT 1994 (4) SC 645.
- Romesh Lal Jain Vs. Naginder Singh Rana & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 336.
- C.M Girish Babu v. CBI C.M Girish Babu v. CBI, 2009 3 SCC 779.
- Prevention of Corruption act, 1988, § 19, No. 49, Acts of Parliament,
Semester III, B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) -
Hidayatullah National Law University