The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the central government on a petition, filed by the Centre for Public Interest, against amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act. The government has been asked to respond within six weeks.

In their petition to a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Ajay Rastogi, the advocates Prashant Bhushan and Rohit Singh have argued that the amendments have rendered the Prevention of Corruption Act “almost ineffective by completely diluting the scope of some of the original provisions, by deleting some of the earlier offences and also by introducing new provision, which in effect would protect corrupt officials and exponentially increase level of corruption”.

In particular, they have objected to the introduction of Section 17A(1), which states that prior approval must be sought from the government before an investigation is initiated against any of its officers.

Earlier, such approval was necessary only for inquiries against officials above the rank of a joint secretary. The amended legislation also provides immunity from arrest to all officers. Earlier, only officers above the rank of a joint secretary had this immunity.

“This is the third attempt by the Union of India to introduce a provision which has already been twice held to be unconstitutional by this honourable court vide,” the petitioners said.

Bhushan and Singh have also questioned the removal from the Act of Section 13 (1) (d) (ii), which made abuse of their position by a public servant an offence. They have demanded that the provision be restored, LiveLaw reported. “It [Section 13 (1) (d) (ii)] has been under attack for more than a decade by the decision makers which includes the political parties irrespective of their ideologies and stated position of opposing corruption,” the plea states.

The amendment bill was first floated in 2013 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.