April 9, 2011
Jailing Corrupt Politician, Officer Or Judge !
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – With a 72-year-old fasting for five days, the government today announced a panel to draft within 83 days a Bill for Lok Pal– 45 years after it was conceived to regulate Indian governance.
Anna Hazare broke his fast amid euphoria at authorities yielding on an issue government after government has dodged for decades without discarding the idea outright.
The announcement listed ten members, five each representing the United Progressive Alliance government and the activists, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as chairman and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, as co-chairman.
”The Joint Drafting Committee shall complete its work latest by 30th June, 2011,” the announcement by the Law and Justice Ministry said.
The members include Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Water Resources and Minority Minister Salman Khursheed on one hand, and septuagenarian Hazare, Justice N Santosh Hedge, advocate Prashant Bhushan and activist Arvind Kejriwal on the other.
Dr Moily has been named convenor.
Experts hailed the development but were cautious about expectations.
”What we have witnessed over the past week is anger, real anger of people, reflecting injustices that have been building and must be redressed and the guilty punished,” said former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah. ”This anger must be properly channelised for national and public good.”
A document titled Salient Features of Jan Lok Pal Bill circulated by activists who pitched their camp at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday spelt out some of the ideas they brought to root out corrupt.
— Creating an institution called Lok Pal at the centre and Lokayukta in each State so ”completely transparent” that any complaint against even its own members is investigated and a guilty ”officer dismissed within two months;”
— ”Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments” so that ”no minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations;”
— Giving Lok Pal complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician;
— Recovering any public exchequer or government loss caused by a corrupt act from the perpetrator at the time of conviction;
— Imposing financial penalty on officers guilty of not doing ”any work” of a citizen in prescribed time and giving it to complainant as compensation;
— Ensuring cases against corrupt do not linger– giving a year for investgation and another year for trial– so that ”corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years;”
— Lok Pal members to be selected by citizens, besides judges and constitutional authorities– not politicians– through ”a completely transparent and participatory process” to preclude induction of corrupt or weak individuals;
— Merging anti-corruption agencies– vigilance commissioners and anti-corrupt investigators– into Lok Pal;
— Requiring Lok Pal to provide protection to those victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
Activists say citizens denied ration or voter cards or passports could turn to a Lok Pal as could those having difficulty lodging complaints with police, for instance.
Anyone with complaints about, say, the quality of roads or abuse of public parks or other works could also request investigation into possible corruption by elected or other officials. ”The guilty will go to jail within two years.”
Although Lok Pal, as a political ombudsman was conceived 45 years ago, it is still nowhere around.
”We have been misled completely,” Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade spokesman Shambhu Dutta Sharma, who, too, has been campaigning for a Lok Pal said of government failure to pass a law. ”We cannot trust any longer.”
The concept of Lok Pal– inspired by Sweden’s ombudsman– grew out of an interim report on redressal of citizens’ grievances submitted in 1966 by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Morarji Desai.
Two years later, the Lok Pal and the Lok Ayuktas Bill, 1968 was introduced in the 4th Lok Sabha, when late Mrs Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.
It was considered by a joint committee of the two Houses of Parliament and passed by the Lok Sabha in 1969. It was pending in the Rajya Sabha when the Lok Sabha was dissolved. The bill lapsed.
Resistance to the bill appears manifest in the fact that even after being tabled seven more times– in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001– it has never again been put to vote.
While authorities did not enact a Lok Pal they certainly did not reject it– possibly because doing so might have placed on them the onus to find a substitute.
Indeed, in 2007, a second Administrative Reforms Commission recommended appointing a national ombudsman called Rashtriya Lok Ayukta instead of Lok Pal.
Critics say corruption in public life has been sinking lower and lower, compounded by a virtually unaccountable governance.
Agencies or institutions once created in public interest appear to have become part of the problem instead of being instrumental in finding solutions.
The past year or so has seen unprecedented– in sheer size– allegations of financial irregularities levelled at the UPA government.
Public mind has been disillusioned by one scam after another whether it is 2G– underselling mobile phone licences at public cost notionally estimated at Rs 1.75 lakh crores– or Rs 70,000 crore extravagance in organising Commonwealth games.
”Hopefully,” Justice Shah said, ”there will be a proper bill. But at the same time before any Bill is put to vote there must be a thorough public debate about it in which citizens not just experts or authoritative figures should be heard on their opinions, questions, concerns and suggestions. No doubt we need a strong Lok Pal, but we also need a strong executive, legislature and judiciary.”
For rule of law to find a sound footing in India, the nation must attend to a lot more legislative reform, experts acknowledge.
UNI MJ SK 2308
- Defence Bribery Affair Underscores Need For Appointing Lok Pal – By Mukesh Jhangiani – March 18, 2001
- If Authorities Don’t, NGO Will Constitute People’s Lok Pal – By Mukesh Jhangiani – July 26, 2001
- Activists Hail Lok Pal Bill, Defer ‘People’s Lok Pal’ Move – By Mukesh Jhangiani – August 14, 2001
- House Panel Wants PM, MPs In Lok Pal’s Ambit – By Mukesh Jhangiani – January 30, 2002
- Whither Reform – Time To Audit Law-making – By Mukesh Jhangiani – February 19, 2006
- Rampant Corruption Damages Public Sphere: Thinker* – By Mukesh Jhangiani – December 22, 2010 mukeshjhangiani.wordpress.com
- Jailing Corrupt Politician, Officer Or Judge !* – By Mukesh Jhangiani – April 9, 2011