India to toughen anti-bribery regulations

A new bill to crack down on corruption is reportedly moving through the Indian parliament while a related initiative will address private sector bribery for the first time.

A bill criminalizing bribes made with foreign public officials will be moved afresh in India’s parliament, according to local media reports. A bribe made to, or received from, a foreign public official can lead to an imprisonment of up to seven years under the legislation, which policymakers are still reviewing. 

The bill highlights a campaign by emerging market governments to crack down on corruption – which private equity dealmakers and others say impedes investment and increases risk. Governments including China, Russia and more recently India have proposed new measures to prevent bribery – which is often accepted as a feature of normal business practice in many developing countries – but critics say a lack of enforcement has led to limited change.

India’s government is also considering amending its Indian Penal Code to criminalize acts of bribery in the private sector, which the code currently does not address. A draft amendment has been circulated for consideration by policymakers, according to a Times of India report earlier this year.

The bribery bill moving through Parliament additionally expands the powers of the government to enter into cooperation agreements with other countries for joint investigations and enforcement action.

Of the 174 countries ranked on Transparency International's 2014 corruption perception index, India sits in the middle of the pack at 85th – tied with Jamaica, Peru, and Thailand, among others.