Commercial entities guilty of bribery must pay fine, says law panel

New Delhi, Aug 27 (IANS) The Law Commission has made recommendations about a proposed anti-bribery bill, suggesting that if a commercial organisation and its officers are found guilty of bribery, the organisation must pay a fine and the officer who has connived should be imprisoned.

In its report to the law ministry on ‘The Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill 2015’, the commission has suggested the law must provide a specific provision that should clarify that payments can be made in the course of routine duties or functions of foreign officials, such as for issuing permits or licenses, processing official documents, and similar services.

“Such defences and exceptions are routinely provided in all other jurisdictions, and it is appropriate that India follows this norm. These defences and exceptions must be available to all persons, including natural persons and companies,” the report said.

It also suggested punishment for the officials of commercial organisations.

“Commercial organisations that are guilty of bribery must be liable to pay a fine. Further, if the offence takes place with the consent or connivance of a senior officer of the commercial organisation, that officer must be punishable with imprisonment.”

“A commercial organisation would also be liable where a person associated with such commercial organisation has committed the offence.

“However, in such circumstances, the commercial organisation may not be liable if it is able to show that it had adequate procedures in place to prevent such conduct,” the report said.

It has suggested that the bill must be applicable only to instances of bribery that occur wholly or partly within India or on an Indian aircraft or ship, or where the bribery takes place abroad, to persons who are citizens or permanent residents of India or bodies that are incorporated in India.

“The offences of abetment of, and attempt to, commit passive and active bribery must be separate, as the ingredients for these offences differ, and ought to carry different penalties,” the report said.

According to a ministry release, the law commission has suggested amendments to the bill in keeping with India’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and existing domestic laws on bribery and money laundering.

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