New Delhi: With the alleged involvement of big corporates in a spate of scams apparently weighing on his mind, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said government is considering changes in law to make private sector bribery a criminal offence.

Speaking at the Biennial Conference of CBI and state anti-corruption bureau, the Prime Minister said India has ratified UN Conventions against corruption and to meet its requirements a slew of measures which include amendments in laws pertaining to anti-graft measures.

"To meet the requirements of the Convention, we have introduced a Bill in the Parliament to make bribery of foreign public officials an offence. We are considering changes in our laws to criminalize private sector bribery," he said.

But the Prime Minister did not provide any details of how private sector bribery will be dealt with.

He said the Government is working on ways and means to minimize discretionary powers of public authorities and the issue of a public procurement law to minimize irregularities in the award of government contracts worth thousands of crores of rupees every year.

The Prime Minister however said "Whatever we might do to minimise the opportunities for corruption, the sad reality is that we cannot build a totally fool-proof system. There will always be some instances of corrupt practices in the work of public authorities."

He urged the CBI that people indulging in corruption must realise that  that they cannot possibly get away from the law and would sooner rather than later suffer the consequences of their wrongdoing.

The Prime Minister said expectation from the CBI are well known but need repetition because this because sometimes in the routine of daily work the larger scheme of things are forgotten.

He cautioned "premature publicity" given to cases can harm the cause of justice.

"We must also not forget the distinction between a deliberate attempt at wrongdoing and honest mistakes, sometimes inevitable in decision-making processes under conditions of uncertainty," the Prime Minister said.

On CBI Director's concerns of pending sanctions of prosecution and delay in trials, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said government has decided that if an authority refuses to grant permission for investigation or sanction for prosecution, the reasons for such denial would have to be informed to the next higher authority.

"Delay in the trial of cases remains an area of serious public concern. To reduce pendency of CBI cases under trial, we have taken a decision to set up a committee under a retired Supreme Court judge to review cases pending trial, which are more than ten years old, and suggest ways and means for their speedy disposal," he said.

Congress backs PM’s move

Backing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the move to make changes in law to make private sector bribery a criminal offence, Congress on Friday said corruption is not limited to only one segment.
     
Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi described as significant the Prime Minister's comments that government is considering making changes in law relating to private sector bribery.
     
"What is the wrong in the Prime Minister raising it? How can you not have regulatory mechanism for private sector or for that matter for any other sector. Why corruption should not be checked in private sector? Is corruption limited to only one sector?, Singhvi said.
     
"It is significant comment he has made," he added.
     
Singhvi observed that a 'Chinese wall' cannot be drawn for segments that selectively want to be excluded from the regulatory mechanism.
     
He also denied any vindictiveness over the Income Tax Department slapping a fresh notice to Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal asking the former IRS officer to pay over Rs nine lakh in dues by this month-end.
     
"There is nothing new in the notice. The notices in this issue were issued to Kerjiwal much before Team Anna had come into picture. A fresh notice can be served in an old process.
This is totally unrelated (to the Lokpal movement). It is wrong to read any motive into it," Singhvi said.
     
"Only because there is a Lokpal movement does not mean all old issues will cease to exist. Earlier, the Office of the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCIT) had on August five issued a notice to Kejriwal in the case, he added.

(Agencies)