The central government is committed to provide adequate protection to performing officers while being zero-tolerant towards corruption, Union minister Jitendra Singh said today. His assertion assumes significance as a special CBI court had yesterday sentenced former coal secretary H C Gupta to two-year in jail in a coal block case.
The sentencing has caused a feeling of angst among serving bureaucrats who feel that it may paralyse bureaucracy as officers would be hesitant in taking any decision.
“While being zero tolerant towards corruption, we will also give adequate protection to the performing officers,” the minister said during a press conference.
He was referring to changes in the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act being suggested by the government.
As per a bill to change the PC Act, all central government employees, including those who have retired, will be getting a ‘shield’ from prosecution as it would be made mandatory for investigating agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take the Centre’s prior approval before conducting any inquiry against them.
The move is also based on the recommendation of a Parliamentary committee, which had suggested the shield for public servants by making it mandatory for the agencies like the CBI and the police to take “previous approval” of competent authority before conducting any inquiry or investigation against a public servant—including from peon to secretary.
However, such an approval will not be necessary for cases involving “arrest of a person on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept any undue advantage for himself or for any other person”, the panel had said.
The bill may come up during the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament, the minister suggested.
Gupta and two serving senior officials — K S Kropha and and K C Samaria — were sentenced to two years in prison for irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Madhya Pradesh to a private firm.
They became the first public servants to be convicted and sentenced for the multi-crore coal block allocation scam, unearthed during the previous UPA regime.
Gupta, a 1971-batch officer of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), was the coal secretary between January 1, 2006 to November 30, 2008.