Officers should not be harassed for bonafide mistakes: Prime Minister
[dropcap]H[/dropcap]olding that honest officers should not be harassed for bonafide mistakes made while making “well-meaning” decisions, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today warned that if this was not done, decision making will suffer badly and governance will be stifled.He also called for moderation of public debate about corruption as “unwarranted condemnation” of the decisions and imputation of “guilt and malafide” on decision makers need to change.
Addressing the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Prime Minister said it was an ultimate aim of any anti-corruption mechanism to contribute towards improvement of the processes of governance and delivery of services which can happen only when bold and innovative decision-making was encouraged.
“Therefore, we must make sure that honest officers are not harassed for bonafide mistakes that they might make while taking well-meaning decisions,” he said, adding that CVC should live upto the words of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who had said the commission should be a fearless champion of the man of integrity and source of terror to corrupt officers.
“We must ensure the championing of the cause of the man of integrity in all our institutions. In the scenario in which this does not happen, decision-making would suffer badly and instead of improving the processes of governance, we would end up stifling them,” Singh said.
The Prime Minister said during the last 10 years of UPA rule, fight against corruption has undergone transformation with time.
“This process of change has particularly picked up in the last 10 years of the UPA government. New laws have been enacted to ensure probity, transparency and accountability in administration,” Singh said, citing statutes like the Right to Information Act and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.
He said that there have been very vigorous debate on corruption in the country in which civil society and media were active participants.
“I believe that this debate has been for the good. It has led not only to increased awareness in the people about their rights and the responsibilities of public authorities but also a realisation in public authorities of the heightened expectations that people have from them,” he said.
Singh said, “In the past few years, we have been witnessing a very vigorous public debate in our country on matters relating to corruption, with accusations flying thick and fast.
“While informed discussion on such matters is certainly desirable, much too often we see a trivialisation of complex public policy issues. This is accompanied by unwarranted condemnation of the decisions taken and imputation of guilt and malafide on part of those who took the decisions,” the Prime Minister said, noting that “there is a need to change this state of affairs.”
Expressing willingness to further insulating CBI, the Prime Minister, however, said that oversight of political executives was expected in a democracy.
“Investigating agencies have always enjoyed complete autonomy in investigation of criminal cases. Our government has also been willing to do more to insulate the CBI from extraneous influences.
“However, it is also necessary to ensure that the political executive exercises the oversight that it is expected to in a democratic polity over any investigating agency,” Singh said.
He said another balance that agencies like CVC must maintain is between the need to be careful and detailed and the need for speed.
“Matters like disciplinary proceedings and grant of vigilance clearance must be disposed of in time. Excessive delays make such exercises meaningless,” he said.
The Prime Minister said a number of new laws are under consideration of Parliament which include the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, the Public Procurement Bill and a bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“These legislative initiatives have been accompanied by administrative steps in the same direction. Greater use of information and communications technology has also helped in increasing transparency and reducing opportunities for corrupt practices,” he said.