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New anti-graft law to protect honest civil servants: Arun Jaitley

LiveMint logoLiveMint 25-03-2017 PTI

Mumbai: Stating that an erroneous commercial decision of a public servant cannot always be seen as corrupt, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the amendments to the anti-graft law would protect the honest bureaucrats.

Jaitley said the current Prevention of Corruption Act was drafted in 1988 during the pre-liberalisation era in line with the erstwhile needs of the system. But the minister said the fundamentals of the anti-graft law in the liberalisation era have to be changed, where public servants, bankers and politicians are involved in taking commercial decisions now.

“What subsequently appears to be an erroneous decision in the hindsight, is not necessarily a corrupt decision. That distinction between an erroneous decision and a corrupt decision is very thin in the 1988 law and therefore it needs to be restructured,” Jaitley said at a Business Standard award function in Mumbai on Saturday evening.

He said the amendments to the anti-graft law have been brought to Parliament and the select committee has suggested some marginal changes in its report. “Once those amendments are brought in, even in accordance with the recommendation of the select committee, the public servants and those taking commercial decisions, including the bankers, would be sufficiently empowered without the fear of consequences in taking honest commercial decisions,” he said.

Talking about the current state of banks, which are reeling under non-performing assets (NPA) pressure, Jaitley said the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are working on a speedy resolution. NPAs have crossed 9.3% or around Rs9 trillion as of the December quarter.

“We have had a series of meetings. The government has taken some initiatives, Parliament has framed the laws, RBI has issued circulars (for NPA resolution). “We believe some people are quite satisfied in exploiting the inability of the system and keep on defaulting. And, I think, this needs to end. Hopefully over the next few days you will be hearing from us a series of steps to negate that,” the minister said.

Talking about the goods and services tax (GST), he expressed confidence that the biggest tax reform would be rolled out from 1 July.

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