The Lokpal Bill has an illustrious history, or rather a chequered past. It becomes even more significant to discuss its journey till now after the Upper House of the Parliament finally passed the bill on Tuesday (17 December) and sent it to Lok Sabha for review. The Lokpal Bill may have started catching the fancy of common people with the advent of Anna Hazare on the stage in 2011, but its roots were sown almost five decades ago in 1963 when the term Lokpal was coined and the bill was first introduced in the lower house five years later.
For those who are not certain about what does Lokpal bill stand for and what it actually means, it is a proposed anti-corruption law that demands establishment of an institution of Ombudsmen to inquire into corruption allegations against government officials. The present Lokpal Bill is several versions older than what it was in 1968. Its clauses have become more incisive and inclusive with the passage of time.
Time has been the testimony to a series of debates over the power one can bestow upon the Ombudsman and possible encroachment into the periphery of Executive and Judiciary functions of the country. However, as conscientious citizens of India and important stakeholders of the country, it would do us good to make a nonpartisan analysis of the upside and downside of the government’s proposed Lokpal Bill.
Advantages of Lokpal Bill
- The major advantage lies in the nature of the legislation proposed. The clauses are aimed at tackling a major socio-political problem – corruption.
- Unlike the traditional system, the Lokpal Bill proposes to give decision making power to highly qualified individuals who are neither bureaucrats nor politicians.
- This bill has been in the pipeline for almost five decades, which is a clear indication that people across generations had faith in this legislation.
- It is expected that the corruption cases will witness a speedy conclusion and the decision will be swifter. The turnaround time for justice to be meted out will be less.
- Moreover, people will not get lost in the size of Indian judiciary system and they can count on a single entity to report crime and get their grievances redressed.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen had voiced his discontentment over the proposed legislation. Besides saying that it is not well thought out, he pontificated that the challenge is to integrate it “without undermining the democratic structure” and at the same time, “making corruption easily to be dealt with by the judicial system.”
Disadvantages of Lokpal Bill
- First and foremost criticism of government’s Lokpal Bill is the clause which prevents Lokpal from receiving complaints of corruption from common people. It has to be at the Parliament’s mercy to get access to those complaints.
- Proposed Lokpal Bill treats the institution only as an advisory body. After Lokpal makes an enquiry in any case, it has to forward the report to the ‘competent authority’, which will have the final powers to decide whether to take action or not. That makes Lokpal completely toothless.
- Lokpal is deprived of police powers and therefore it cannot register an FIR. In such a situation, enquiries conducted by Lokpal will be considered as “preliminary enquiries”. There’s no mention on the procedure following the acceptance of Lokpal’s report. Who is going to file the chargesheet in the court and initiate prosecution? Moreover, who is going to appoint the prosecution lawyer?
- There’s no clarity on the role of CBI once Lokpal Bill becomes a law. The question still remains whether CBI and Lokpal will investigate the same case or will CBI be restricted to investigating politicians only?
- Government’s Lokpal bill talks about punishment (amounting to imprisonment) for ‘frivolous’ complaints. However, if the complaint is found to be true, the Ombudsman will not have the power to send the corrupt public servants to jail!
- Lokpal Bill proposes jurisdiction only on MPs, Ministers and PM and not on officers. It is understood that any corruption is perpetrated collaboratively by the officers and politicians. According to government’s Lokpal Bill CVC will look into the role of bureaucrats while Lokpal will look into the role of politicians. This will surely create a bottleneck.
- Lokpal will have no power to probe any case against PM that deals with foreign affairs, security and defence. This is another way of saying that corruption in defence deals will be out of Lokpal’s jurisdiction and hence no scrutiny is possible.
Although certain amendments are being made on the bill, some sections of the social activists are yet to consider it as strong enough to rise up to the occasion.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.
Not too much of a social person.Like to be with just a handful of people, aspire to lead a healthy and happy life with a satisfying job in hand. Hate fake people and more than that I get offended with lies.Can't butter people no matter what the reason be!!
What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, why it's important
India | NDTV Correspondent | Updated: August 16, 2011 14:53 IST
Anna HazareJan Lokpal Bill
The Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year.
Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and former Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist), the draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission.
Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and other known people like Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Anna Hazare and Mallika Sarabhai are also part of the movement, called India Against Corruption. Its website describes the movement as "an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption. We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption."
Anna Hazare, anti-corruption crusader, went on a fast-unto-death in April, demanding that this Bill, drafted by the civil society, be adopted. Four days into his fast, the government agreed to set up a joint committee with an equal number of members from the government and civil society side to draft the Lokpal Bill together. The two sides met several times but could not agree on fundamental elements like including the PM under the purview of the Lokpal. Eventually, both sides drafted their own version of the Bill.
The government has introduced its version in Parliament in this session. Team Anna is up in arms and calls the government version the "Joke Pal Bill." Anna Hazare declared that he would begin another fast in Delhi on August 16. Hours before he was to begin his hunger strike, the Delhi Police detained and later arrested him. There are widespread protests all over the country against his arrest.
The website of the India Against Corruption movement calls the Lokpal Bill of the government an "eyewash" and has on it a critique of that government Bill.
A look at the salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill:
1. An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
2. Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.
3. Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.
4. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
5. How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
6. So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month's time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
7. But won't the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won't be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.
8. What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
9. What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
10. It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
................................ Advertisement ................................
................................ Advertisement ................................