Growing need for Indian firms to comply with anti-bribery norms

The issues of corruption and bribery have taken centre stage in India's political theatre over the last year or so. In 2011, India ranked 95 in the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption. At a time when there's much furore over the need to strengthen the country's anti-graft laws, it is interesting to note that there are a few stringent provisions of foreign anti-corruption laws that extends their applicability to many Indian companies.

The international framework in respect of anti bribery laws is set out in the mandate of the United Nation Convention Against Corruption. The UN Convention encourages member countries to criminalise inter alia bribery of foreign and international public officials, abuse of function and private sector bribery, prompting member states to enact laws in this regard. Further, an international consensus on the standards for criminalising bribery can be seen in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. The OECD convention also provides for a host of related measures to implement this objective. The 38 countries that are signatories to the convention have either passed enactments, or are in the process of enacting laws to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 1977, in the US (FCPA), and The Bribery Act, 2010, in the UK (UKBA) are the most important among a series of anti-bribery legislation passed by countries that have an extra-territorial reach, including, to companies in India. While India has no corresponding statute in force, the central government has introduced The Prevention Of Bribery Of Foreign Public Officials And Officials Of Public International Organisations Bill, 2011, in Parliament in furtherance of India's obligations under the UN Convention that India has recently ratified. It is yet to become a law.

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