India to ratify UN convention against corruption

“Corruption threatens the integrity of markets, undermines fair competition, distorts resource allocation, destroys public trust, and undermines the rule of law”- G-20 Summit, Seoul.

India is all set to ratify the global convention against corruption seven years after the treaty came into being, taking on an obligation to check corruption in private sector amid the unravelling of multiple scams in the country. India is one of the fourteen countries which had not ratified it out of 140 countries who are signatories to the UN Convention.

The government is readying a law to meet the conditions of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), but independent experts say India is already in a position to ratify the agreement. The proposed law will deal with corruption and bribery in the private sector.

At the G-20 summit in Seoul early November, India signed the group’s anti-corruption action plan, which requires it to ratify and fully implement the anti-corruption convention. Currently, India does not have a specific law to deal with corruption in private sector, although there are elaborate safeguards in the form of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. However, the Act is meant to check corruption in the government sector.

A group of Ministers set up by the Prime Minister have decided that instead of modifying the current law, there should be a separate law for the private sector. The draft legislation will be examined by the GoM before it is sent to the Cabinet.

With India ratifying the Convention, India will be able to seek full cooperation of the signatory countries in investigation of cases, especially with respect to off-shore bank accounts held by Indians.

India has slipped to the 87th spot out of 159 countries in Transparency International's latest ranking of nations based on the level of corruption from the 84th position. The government is now battling corruption allegations in allotment of 2G spectrum to telecom companies in 2008. The latest in the series is the bribes for-loan scandal involving some state-run lenders and real estate firms.

The G-20 summit finalised an anti-corruption action plan at the Seoul Summit, which was signed by India. The G20 countries also agreed to establish clear and effective channels for mutual legal assistance and other forms of international cooperation on corruption. The group also sought specialised expertise for asset recovery in an appropriate agency by the next year’s summit to be held in France.

What is the UNCAC?

The Convention is the first international treaty against governmental corruption, which, according to the UN, “is a major obstacle to development in poor countries.” It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on October 31, 2003.

The purposes of the UNCAC, as stated in the statement of purpose are: to promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption efficiently and effectively, strengthen international cooperation and technical assistance to check and fight corruption, and promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and property.

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