Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday spoke strongly against the ‘witch hunt’ against the bankers by investigative agencies and said the Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA) was ‘badly drafted’, which urgently needs to be amended.
He went on to say that in a federal structure the State police cannot investigate central government functionaries in an apparent reference to the recent arrest of Bank of Maharashtra officials made by Pune police; the Minister however, did not name any official.
Bankers have been complaining to harassment by investigative agencies now, for decisions made many years back. After the Bank of Maharashtra incident, the Indian Banks’ Association has made an appeal to the government against such practices.
“It (POCA) was a pre-1991 piece of legislation… it was one of the most badly drafted laws,” Mr Jaitley, who is the first one from government to speak on the issue, said at a seminar organised by State Bank of India.
“It creates a legislative system where even bonafide decisions in a post-mortem done after 10 years are found to be erroneous and people are held accountable,” he said.
Mr Jaitley was the finance minister since the present NDA government came into power but recently moved out due to illness, which is seen as temporary. He still continues to be minister in the government though without any portfolio.
He said it is important to amend the POCA with the suggested amendments of the standing committee and bring it in tune with the modern times of decision making.
“If that was not done, I would not join the chorus of blaming any decision maker or banker for any delay in decision making,” he said.
There has been a number of cases of bankers been named by investigative agencies long after their retirement. Like last week, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed chargesheet against two former Canara Bank chairman and managing directors (CMD), AC Mahajan and S Raman for cheating the bank. While Mr Mahajan retired from Canara Bank in July 2010, Mr Raman retired in September 2012.
Indicating the recent arrests of Bank of Maharashtra officials, Mr Jaitley questioned whether state government police should investigate the decisions taken by central government agencies.
“If the state police were allowed to investigate centre [central govt functionaries] it would completely upset the federal balance…. otherwise you will have a minister, a cabinet secretary or secretary of central governmnt or director of RBI or Sebi being investigated by sub-inspectors of the state police,” he said.
Mr Jaitley warned that threat to federalism comes from the state and such events could paralyse the decision making process.
“There can be situations including the one that I am obliquely indicating at where the threat to federalism comes from state and not from centre…We may get sadistic pleasure against it quoting precedents but it will have paralysed a decision making process,” he said.
Bankers were clearly happy with the Mr Jaitley’s comments. “We were very encouraged by the speech of Arun Jaitleyji. These were the issues that were bothering us for couple of months,” SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar said.
Terming that the Bank of Maharashtra arrest came out of the blue, Mr Kumar said, “It was totally unexpected and unwarranted. It rattled the entire banking community in service and retired.” (END)