The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) is a crucial piece of legislation that seeks to prevent and combat corrupt practices among public officials. Section 9 of the Act pertains specifically to the prohibition of acceptance of gratification by public servants.
The section states that any public servant who accepts or obtains, or agrees to accept or attemptsto obtain from any person, for himself/herself or for any other person,any gratification whatever other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act done or to be done by him/her shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend up to five years plus fine.
This provision is aimed at counteracting the menace of corruption within the ranksand hence has far-reaching implications on society. It effectively criminalizes conduct that undermines integrity and trust in government institutions while promoting transparency and accountability.
Numerous judicial pronouncements have elaborated on this provision’s interpretation over time. In Mohd Iqbal Vs Stateof J&K AIR 1970 SC 1475 andV.Ram Reddy vs State Govt.Of A.P.AIR1951 Madras56,the Supreme Court held that even if no undue favoritism was accorded nor anything wrong as such committed by a Public Servant in exchange for illegal gratification received, he could still be punished under section9. The reasoning behind such judgment stems from the fact that mere acceptance itself amounts to moral turpitude under law.
Further supporting precedent can also be foundin P.Chidambaram Vs Central Bureau Of Investigation(2019) SCCOnline SC1245 wherein it was heldthat even thoughhe had accepted consultancy fees from INX Media Group allegedly without approval when he was Union Finance Minister yet his arrest would only commence after dismissal/rejectionof anticipatory bail because great reputation loss wouldbe caused otherwise.In Jagjit Singh Vs State of Delhi,(2010) 12 SCC183,it was opined that “gratification” under section9is a wide term, including any payment made to gain an illegal advantage.
In this context, it is evident that NRIs are not exempt from the purviewof Section9. Any NRI who is also a public servant must be aware of its implications and ensure compliance with its provisions. This can include refraining from accepting or soliciting gratification/gifts/benefits in kind that exceed legal remuneration for services rendered. Moreover, as per Section24 of the Act,the extraterritorial jurisdiction extends to citizens of India outside India hence rendering NRIs liable under Indian Law even if they reside overseas.Non-compliance could lead to imprisonment and fine along with lasting reputational damage.
In conclusion,Section 9 of the Prevention Of Corruption Act is a potent tool in fighting corrupt practices among public servants.This provision makes it imperative for all public servants including NRIs who intend to stay connectedto their roots,to abide by standards set forth by law when engaging in activities related tothe practice of their profession or executing official duties in India.The jurisprudence on this subject serves as guidancein understanding the scopeand applicabilityofthis provisionand underscores the importanceof ethical conduct within governmental institutions.