Probe agency should not sit in judgement over policy: Manmohan
Holding that errors of judgement should be distinguished from a criminal act, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said it would not be appropriate for a police agency to sit in judgement over policy formulation, without any evidence of malafide.
He said it would be flawed to term the decisions taken without any malafide or monetary gains as criminal misconduct.
Dr. Singh’s comments came in the backdrop of cases registered by CBI in coal and other recent scams.
“While actions that prima-facie show malafide intent or pecuniary gain should certainly be questioned, pronouncing decisions taken with no ill-intention within the prevailing policy as criminal misconduct would certainly be flawed and excessive,” Dr. Singh said at an international conference organised by CBI here on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee.
Asking the agency to take great care while probing matters related to policy and administrative decisions, Dr. Singh said, “Policy-making is a multi-layered and complex process in the government and it would not be appropriate for a police agency to sit in judgement over policy formulation, without any evidence of malafide.”
He said in order to insulate public servants from apprehensions of “ill-informed inquiry or investigation” and allow them to take decisions based on their judgements “lines of confidence” must be drawn between investigating agencies and honest officers.
“It is also important that errors of judgement are distinguished from criminal acts. As I have said on earlier occasions, decision making in a world of uncertainty is a risky operation and some decisions which appear sensible ex-ante may ex-post turn out to be faulty. Our administrative set up has to be so managed that the fear of the unknown must not lead to paralysis in decision making,” he said.
Dr. Singh said ‘the protection of the honest’ is a facet of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and is an obligation chargeable on the State.
“It is with this in view that the Prevention of Corruption Act (Amendment) Bill, 2013 has been introduced in Parliament, to amend a provision which presently criminalizes, even in the absence of any mens rea, any action of a public servant that secures for any person a pecuniary advantage,” the Prime Minister said.
Dr. Singh said charge sheets must be filed after going through rigorous scrutiny.
“A trained mind is necessary for discovering criminality. When a charge sheet is filed, the charge sheet must go through rigorous process of scrutiny and there must be a high chance of securing conviction in that case,” he said.
The Prime Minister said there was a need for greater professional expertise in the CBI, including from non-police organisations.
“I have touched upon this subject earlier also but this is something that is well worth repeating,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that fact that economic growth also implies greater opportunity for corruption is often forgotten in public debates on graft.
“We can’t be all the time just running down institutions of governance because there have been cases of wrong doing,” Dr. Singh said.
The Prime Minister said there was need to put the debates on corruption in correct perspective.
“While we must maintain utmost vigilance in preventing corruption and do our utmost in ensuring transparency, accountability and probity in public life, it is also important to ensure that the work of nation building goes on at a quick pace,” Dr. Singh said.
He said public debate needs to concentrate a little more on what it would take to make our progress even faster.
“I think it needs to concentrate more on how to improve infrastructure, how to improve the delivery of services and how to build institutions. It also needs to concentrate more on the achievements that we can legitimately be proud of,” he said.