Its not just ministers, the recent spate of scams over the last year have also brought the bureaucracy under the scanner with as many as ten top former bureaucrats standing accused in cases of corruption since last year. Indian bureaucrats are now demanding protection from post-retirement legal tangles. Several former secretaries are in talks with the prime minister's office (PMO) to amend laws which they claim may be misused against them, reports CNBC-TV18’s Malvika Jain.
As many as 10 retired policy makers have been accused of criminality is decision making in the recent past. Whether it's the 2G scam, the coal scam, the irrigation scam or for that matter the Adarsh housing society scam, it is the manner and motives behind decision making that have been challenged by investigating agencies like the CBI.
While it may seem that our systems are maturing and powerful cannot escape the scrutiny of the law, several former bureaucrats disagree. N Gopalaswami, former home secretary, said, “Sometimes some of these things can be vindictive. Government changes new government comes and just starts a prosecution against "xyz".
Last year Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured that government officials would not be unnecessarily harassed. Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires prior sanction of the government before prosecuting former bureaucrats. However, no such provision exists in the Prevention of Corruption Act.
L Mansingh, Former Secretary, Consumer Affairs said, "You expect an investigating officer to decide what advice a secretary has given to a minister in an economic ministry then there has to be screening and that screening has to be removed from government's discretionary decision making."
Civil servants are also critical of Sec 1 (d) (iii) of the PCA that calls for prosecution of civil servants in case their decision leads to pecuniary advantage to any person without any public interest. This is a key provision under which most former bureaucrats have been charged in recent scams.
This provision was proposed to be amended in 2008 - but is yet to be amended. "Unless that is done, you cannot engender any sense of security in bureaucrats," Gopalaswami added.
The big question is - can bureaucrats be held criminally responsible for recommendations to the political bosses?