"Errors of judgement are distinguished from criminal acts," the prime minister said at a conference here on curbing corruption and crime barely a month after fresh charges filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the coal allotment case rocked the top echelons of the executive.
"Over time, investigating agencies have been increasingly enquiring into administrative decisions and also matters relating to policy making. Such cases require great care in investigation," the prime minister said. "While actions that prima facie show mala fide intent or pecuniary gain should certainly be questioned, pronouncing decisions taken with no ill-intention within the prevailing policy as criminal misconduct would certainly be flawed and excessive."
Last month, the Prime Minister's Office came under the lens after the CBI filed a fresh set of charges on the coal allocation case, this time finding fault with the actions of then coal secretary P.C. Parakh in allocating some bocks to private player Hindalco.
Singh: Errors of judgment are distinguished from criminal acts
Both Parakh and the PMO clarified later that the decision on the award of coal block to Hindalco, taken in 2004-05, was fair and taken in good faith and no ulterior motive was required to be attributed on the matter.
At that time, the coal portfolio was with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself and the secretary had acted at the behest of his political master.
"Policy-making is a multi-layered and complex process in the government, and will increasingly become more so," the prime minister told the conference of CBI and State Anti-Corruption Bureau on Common Strategies to Combat Corruption and Crime.
"Therefore I don't think it would be to appropriate for a police agency to sit in judgment over policy formulation, without any evidence of mala fide," he added.
"It is also important that errors of judgment are distinguished from criminal acts. As I have said on earlier occasions, decision-making in a world of uncertainty is a highly risky operation and some decisions which appear sensible ex-ante may ex-post turn out to be faulty," he said.
"Our administrative set up has to be so managed that the fear of the unknown must not lead to paralysis in decision making."