Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday warned that 'mindless atmosphere of negativity and pessimism' over the issue of corruption could damage the image of the nation.
"The mindless atmosphere of negativity and pessimism that is sought to be created over the issue of corruption can do us no good. It can only damage our nation's image and hit at the morale of the executive," Singh said while addressing the 19th Conference of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and State Anti-Corruption Bureaux here.
"We need to ensure that even while the corrupt are relentlessly pursued and brought to book, the innocent are not harassed. The importance of making a distinction between bonafide mistakes and colorable exercise of power in investigation of corruption cases cannot be over emphasized," he said.
Singh said the government is committed to take all possible steps to ensure 'probity, transparency and accountability' in the work of public authorities.
He said the government is considering amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, not only in view of the judicial rulings on its provisions, but also with the 'purpose of filling certain gaps in the legislation and bringing it in line with current international practice'.
Singh said: "Experience has shown that in a vast majority of cases, it is difficult to tackle consensual bribery and the supplier of the bribe goes scot free by taking recourse to the provisions of the Act. This would be taken care of in the proposed amendments."
"Experience has also shown that big ticket corruption is mostly related to operations by large commercial entities," he said.
"Experience has also shown that big ticket corruption is mostly related to operations by large commercial entities. It is therefore also proposed to include corporate failure to prevent bribery as a new offence on the supply side. We are also examining how the Act can be amended to protect honest public servants more effectively," Singh said.
The PM said India's investigation agencies need to continuously upgrade their skills and techniques to match the newer methods of corruption.
Singh said: "Regular in-service training and frequent exchanges with the top anti-corruption agencies in the world over, would help in this process. I am told that the CBI Academy has gradually evolved into a center of excellence."
"I would like all State Anti-Corruption Bureaux to utilize its services optimally for training their officials. I also believe that collaboration between the CBI and the state anti-corruption agencies in the area of capacity building would benefit both," he said.
The PM urged the CBI and other anti-corruption agencies to 'feel free to engage professionals' who have the expertise which can assist them in conducting an impartial enquiry in complex cases.
He said institutions established with special focus on economic offences should be more 'broad-based and need not be confined only to persons with a policing background'.
"An open mind in this regard could help in imparting credibility to our investigations and securing, also, higher conviction rates," the PM said.
Singh made the comments at a time when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is facing severe criticisms from its alliance partners and the opposition parties over its recently announced reform measures and corruption charges.