09 August 2018

India amends anti-corruption legislation to cover bribe-givers

India introduces changes to its anti-corruption legislation to hold political bribe-givers accountable.

India has passed an amendment to its anti-corruption laws to allow authorities to pursue businesses and individuals paying bribes to Indian government officials. India’s lower house passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2018, amending the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, thus criminalising the paying of bribes to government officials.

Widening the net

The legislation aims to widen the net of those who may be subject to the act. Before the amendment, it was a criminal offence for a government official to receive a bribe but not to pay an official a bribe. Under the amended act, individuals caught paying a bribe could be imprisoned for up to seven years. There is no minimum sentence for the crime and guidelines on sentencing have yet to be released. The amendment also makes it a criminal offence for a business to bribe a public official. The act now means a business can be found guilty of bribery if anybody associated with that business is found to have bribed, or promised to bribe, a public official in return for business or any kind of commercial advantage. Companies operating or planning to invest in India face high corruption risks, despite government stepping up its efforts to counter corruption, red tape and bribery. Corruption is especially prevalent in the judiciary, police, public services, and public procurement sectors. There is a high risk of corruption when dealing with India’s judiciary, especially at the lower court levels. Bribes and irregular payments are often exchanged in return for favorable court decisions

Guidelines expected

In cases where a federal government official has received a bribe, the law will be enforced by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. Where the bribe was paid to a state government official, local enforcement agencies will investigate and prosecute. Further guidelines on corporate fines are also awaiting publication. In both cases, guidelines are expected sooner rather than later and are expected to be formulated through an inter-ministerial consultation process, likely to include the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Personnel and Ministry of Corporate Affairs. However, according to the Global Investigations Review local media are critical, saying parts of the amendment soften anti-corruption laws applying to government officials.