Tag Archive | M Veerappa Moily

Use Norms – Not Discretion – To Punish Crime: ARC – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                         July 8, 2007

Use Norms – Not Discretion – To Punish Crime: ARC

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Government experts have called for guidelines ”so that sentencing across the country for similar offences becomes broadly uniform.”

Inconsistency in punishments judges award is among issues figuring in the latest report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission on Public Order.

English: An unfair administrator barnstar

Justice v Discretion – A matter of balance (Photo: Wikipedia)

”To effectively deter crime, penalties must not be discretionary,” Commission Chairman M Veerappa Moily told United News of India Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani.

According to the findings Moily gave Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week, ”there is a view that in India there is a real problem arising from a lack of consistency in sentencing practices across the country.
”This is also compounded by broad executive discretion in commuting sentences and granting pardon,” the Commission said.
With Dr Singh’s approval, a 12-member Group of Ministers headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was set up three months ago to consider the recommendations.
Feedback is yet to come.
The first such Commission headed by Morarji Desai functioned during 1966-70, but some of its key recommendations are yet to be implemented.
The Moily Commission underscored that sentencing guilty persons is an important and ultimate phase of the criminal justice system.
The trouble, experts say, is that not all laws specify a minimum punishment, which gives judges the leeway to let the guilty off with a slap on the wrist– undermining deterrence.
Thus offences like bribery and cheating are punishable under the Indian Penal Code with imprisonment ”which may extend to one year.” The fact that they are among the commonest crimes is a reflection of the level of deterrence law effects.
The IPC was enacted in 1860. But even the Biological Diversity Act 2002 makes contravention punishable with imprisonment ”which may extend to five years.” No minimum punishment.
”Criminal laws normally provide for a maximum sentence that may be imposed if an offence is proved,” the Commission said, adding that a minimum punishment is prescribed in only ”a certain category of offences.
”The courts have a wide discretion in deciding the quantum of punishment,” according to the Commission.
Advocates of such discretion say it ”is necessary in order to enable the judge to impose a punishment depending upon the circumstances of each case.” They say criminal courts do not have ‘total discretion’ in deciding the sentence and, for subordinate courts, the rulings of the High courts and the Supreme Court also act as guidelines.
They also argue that in a big and diverse country like India it may not be possible to codify each and every situation, and may be best to leave it to the courts’ judgement.
But critics say ”there are instances when such wide discretion has resulted in varying punishments for similar crimes in similar circumstances.”
They say there should be statutorily-backed guidelines to help judges arrive at the quantum of punishment in each case.
The Commission has recommended that the Law Commission lay down guidelines for Trial Courts ”so that sentencing across the country for similar offences becomes broadly uniform.” It has also recommended strengthening the training for trial court judges ”to bring about greater uniformity in sentencing.”
Western experience is that guidelines help ensure ”certainty and fairness” and avoid ”disparities” among defendants with similar records and criminal conduct, while allowing flexibility for mitigating factors.
Britain, for instance, set up a Sentencing Guidelines Council to frame or revise sentencing guidelines to which ”every court must… have regard.” In the United States, a Sentencing Manual and Table lay down a range in months within which the court may sentence defendants based on nature of their offence and criminal history.
Originally mandatory, the guidelines were made discretionary two years ago by a US Supreme Court decision, which cited Americans’ constitutional right to trial by jury.
Starting June 2006, the 2nd Commission has so far submitted five Reports:
— Right to Information – Master Key to Good Governance;
— Unlocking Human Capital – Entitlements and Governance – a case study;
— Crisis Management;
— Ethics in Governance; and
— Public order.
The Commission proposes to submit nine more and has been given a 7-month extension by the Union Cabinet up to March 31, 2008.
UNI MJ

 

Drawing Line Between Trial And Punishment ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                                          March 25, 2011

M. Veerappa Moila

M. Veerappa Moily (Photo: Nestlé)

Drawing Line Between Trial And Punishment !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – More than 300,000 under-trials were let out of custody after a special drive begun early last year but with new arrivals daily the number in prisons remains almost what it was– more than 200,000.

”Imagine the plight in absence of such an effort,” was how a senior government official responded when asked about the impact of the special drive, which, he pointed out, has been extended.

Article 21 of the Constitution lays down that ”No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

A statistic to bear in mind: roughly two out of every three prisoners in India are under-trials– only one is a convict serving sentence.

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana

Guilty or Innocent (Photo: publik16)

That, critics say, is a telling reflection of a justice system ostensibly committed to treating an accused as innocent until proven guilty.

For instance, 162 of 543 Members elected to Parliament in 2009 faced criminal charges as against 128 in 2004. Correspondingly, 76 and 58 of them faced serious charges.

Of 813 legislative assembly members in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, which go to the polls next month, 204 faced criminal charges, 83 of them serious charges.

Serious crime cases include those involving murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, robbery and extortion.

The special drive was an initiative by Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily to decongest prisons.

”We want to dispose of as many as two-thirds of the under-trial cases by July 31,” Dr Moily told journalists on Republic Day eve 14 months ago. ”The mission begins January 26.”

The exercise involved expediting legal process for some 200,000 under-trials as part of a National Mission for Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms.

In a jurisprudence known to let even those accused of serious crimes get bail or get elected to legislatures, many under-trials are believed to spend longer in jail than their alleged petty crimes warrant.

By law anyone arrested has a right to be informed of any charges he or she faces, consult a lawyer of his or her choice and to be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of arrest.

Lawyers say that without legal aid, those who cannot afford bail inevitably suffer prolonged incarceration during the pendency of investigation by police and trial by a court.

Experts say they languish simply because they are illiterate, do not know their rights or charges they face, and cannot afford lawyers– although Rs 50 crores is spent annually on legal aid.

According to a National Human Rights Commission consultant, India’s prison capacity in December 2008 was 293,144 inmates, against which 386,791 inmates were actually in prison– 264,502 of them under-trials and 122,289, convicts.

While authorities have been acquiescing in the miscarriage of justice, the victims’ plight has, from time to time, evoked concern at home and abroad with critics assailing India’s tortuously slow courts.

India is bound by several international human rights conventions and for decades the government as well as courts have been aware of the violations.

An early official reference to the plight of under-trial prisoners came in the findings of K F Rustamji, a National Police Commission member, 32 years ago.

He saw under-trials as ”dumb, simple persons, caught in the web of the law, unable to comprehend as to what has happened, what the charge against them is, or why they have been sent to jail,” and prisons as a system ”slowly grinding thousands of people into dust.”

Indeed, the first public interest litigation– Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs Home Secretary, State Of Bihar… 1979– brought to light how undertrial prisoners had been in jail longer than if they had been charged, tried, convicted and given maximum punishment.

Supreme Court lawyers recall a September 1977 judgement by Justice V R Krishna Iyer who held that ”the basic rule may perhaps be tersely put as bail, not jail.”

Among exceptions he spelt out ”are circumstances suggestive of fleeing from justice or thwarting the course of justice or creating other troubles in the shape of repeating offences or intimidating witnesses and the like.”

”It made clear that incarceration in the name of judicial custody and protracted or delayed trial is itself criminal as it hits at the very base of Article 21,” says advocate Ravi Prakash Gupta.

Eight years ago, National Democratic Alliance Law Minister Jana Krishnamurthy drew attention to the plight of more than 200,000 under-trials.

”It’s a shame,” he said, that in independent India men and women have to await their day in court for over ten years.

The yearly cost to public exchequer for under-trials upkeep was then estimated at Rs 4.6 crore.

Although under-trials’ guilt is yet to be proven, they remain in prison almost indefinitely.

Experts say unlike convicts, found guilty, they are not even entitled to such basics as uniforms, literacy lessons or work.

NHRC consultant Lakshmidhar Mishra says children and juveniles are worse off inasmuch as they are put up in regular jails with hardened criminals contrary to law for lodging them in police lockups or observation homes, which are neither adequate in number nor adequately equipped.

There was no let-up until about a year ago, when a move to cut two thirds of under-trial cases was announced by Dr Moily of the United Progressive Alliance.

Addressing lawyers on November 26, 2009, marked as Law Day, the Minister regretted the justice system’s failure to give every citizen equal protection of law.

”A necessary corollary to the guarantee of the rule of law is Article 14 of the Constitution,” Dr Moily reminded.

Article 14: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

”Unfortunately,” he admitted that ”justice delivery system in its working in India has not been able to guarantee this protection to every citizen– man, woman and child.”

The government asked High Courts to identify under-trials not involved in heinous crimes or preventive detention so that their cases may be put on a fast track to expedite pressing cases.

The Indian Constitution guarantees speedy trial. But the commodity is routinely in short supply, with litigation often taking years, even decades.

Indian courts have close to 31 million cases pending, a factor that discourages justice seekers at home, investors from abroad, and has even judges advocating alternative ways of resolving disputes.

Hope may be hard to entertain given hundreds of High Court judgeships and thousands of lower judicial posts perennially vacant and inconsistent sentencing practices across India undermining the deterrent value of law.

Government figures show that there were 213,739 under-trials in prison as the drive got underway.

Over the next six months or so, only 43,504 were convicted and 50,282 discharged.

As many as 309,728 under-trials were released after having been kept in jails for unspecified periods.

About the same time, 399,115 new under-trials arrived in prisons across India, to wait for their day in the court.

Government data indicate that of 612,854 under-trials in prison for unspecified periods– ranging from a day to possibly several years– merely 7.09 per cent were actually convicted in those six months or so.

The figures made available do not, for instance, specify how long individuals spent in jail on what sort of charges before they were convicted, discharged or released.

Nor has there been a mention of compensating any who might have been jailed or held without basis.

Any compensation awarded by human rights or other authorities is discretionary, depending on how a given judge feels at the moment– hardly fair.

No compensation is mandated by the Indian Constitution or statutes for wrongful confinement.

In a telephone interview with United News of India special correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani, Dr Mishra called it ”a significant omission,” and agreed that a remedial legislation is needed.

But given the pace of legislation in India, remedies are neither swift nor easy.

The figures indicating that the number of under-trials in prison at the end of the drive was 212,454– just 1,285 less than at the outset– do not necessarily reflect a nationwide trend.

In 16 out of 27 States or Union territories for which the Justice Department has received figures, the numbers actually went up.

West Bengal led in this increase with 14,238 under-trials put into prisons while 9,337 were released, an increase of 4,901 under-trials in prison.

It was followed by Orissa, with an increase of 4,305, Rajasthan, 3071, Haryana, 1,737, Jharkhand, 1,726, Bihar, 1,550, Chhattisgarh, 1,516, Gujarat, 1,086, and Assam, 1,000.

Smaller increases were reported by Andhra Pradesh, 678, Punjab, 677, Kerala, 652, Manipur, 238, Tripura, 118, Himachal Pradesh, 107, Goa, 106, Nagaland, 69, and Arunachal Pradesh, 47.

One State which reported the highest decline was Uttar Pradesh which released 77,205 under-trials while putting in jail 55,287, an actual decrease of 21,918.

It was followed by Madhya Pradesh, where the number of under-trials in prison declined by 748, Karnataka, 643, Uttarakhand, 569, New Delhi, 356, Maharashtra, 257, Mizoram, 156, Meghalaya, 112, Sikkim, 58, Chandigarh, 11, and Daman and Diu, 1.

The Department had no figures immediately from Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Andaman and Nicobar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.

The programme originally scheduled to end on July 31, ”is continuing,” Dr Moily told journalists a few weeks ago.

From citizens’ perspective locking up innocent, law-abiding individuals is as undesirable and indeed repugnant as letting crooks and lawbreakers roam free or shape laws or societies.

UNI MJ NK 1749

Cutting 2/3rd Undertrial Cases By Mid-2010 – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                     November 26, 2009

English: SVG version of the coat of arms of th...

CIArb Coat of arms (Photo: Wikipedia)

Cutting 2/3rd Undertrial Cases By Mid-2010

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – A move to cut two thirds of undertrial cases by the middle of next year was announced by Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily today.

The announcement may mean freedom for many of 170,000 Indians in jail for periods longer than entailed by petty offences they are alleged to have committed.

The plight of such undertrials has evoked concern for years, without much remedy at hand given the painfully slow system of justice at work.
Dr Moily spoke about the plan at two separate events in the Capital, one marking the National Law Day and another opening an India Chapter of a United Kingdom-based arbitration institute._
Addressing the Bar Council of India, a statutory body of a million lawyers across the nation, Dr Moily regretted the Justice system’s failure to give every citizen equal protection of law.
Advocates celebrating the day were reminded that ”a necessary corollary to the guarantee of the rule of law is Article 14 of the Constitution.”
The Article says: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
”Unfortunately, Justice delivery system in its working in India has not been able to guarantee this protection to every citizen– man, woman and child,” Dr Moily noted.
Dr Moily estimated the number of undertrials in prisons in India at more than 300,000– 70 per cent of the jail population, which means only 30 per cent inmates are serving sentences after conviction.
Roughly 200,000 inmates have been in jail for several years, essentially because of delays in the justice delivery system, officials say.
The second event was the opening of the India chapter of the London-based Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) for ”faster resolution of pending court cases.”
Declaring the Chapter open, CIArb Director General Michael Forbes Smith stressed ”assured level of training and experience” and maintaining the highest standards of professional conduct in the practice of private dispute resolution.”
The 94-year old Institute with 11,000 members across more than 100 countries is a ”not for profit, UK registered charity working in the public interest through an international network of 31 Branches and Chapters.
Indian courts have close to 31 million cases pending, a factor many litigants find discouraging, as indeed do many businesses contemplating to invest in India owing among other things to a promise of cheaper labour.
Indian Arbitration yet to pick up Arbitration is an alternative way to settle disputes, but despite ripe grounds– court delays and huge arrears– it has yet to pick up in India.
A good many arbitral awards are known to have ended up in courts again, rendering the alternative not much of one.
Investors are often known to decline a resort to Indian rbitration.
As one of the speakers at the opening pointed out, arbitration in India does not appear to have emerged as a cost-effective and speedier alternative to courts.
Retired Chief Justice of India J S Verma told audience it’s ”quite disturbing” to know the fees of some professionals, as indeed how much richer, more affluent some judges are ”post-retirement.”
Justice Verma, introduced as one of the few Judges who accepted no post-retirement office of profit, stressed that arbitration was not intended to make ”us richer after we retire… The mindset has to improve.”
Asked how arbitrators who violate ethics are dealt with, the CIArb Director General told United News of India Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani that a conduct panel goes over complaints.
Depending on merit, a case may be referred to a disciplinary tribunal and possibly result in debarment, Smith said. But he could not immediately recall such instances.
He said complaints are sometimes made by disappointed parties seeking to appeal the arbitrator’s award by means of a personal attack on the ability or competence of an arbitrator.
UNI MJ KJ

EVMs – Good Idea. But Is It Time Yet ? – By Mukesh Jhangiani

December 20, 2010

EVMs – Good Idea. But Is It Time Yet ?*

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – A conference segment scheduled to hear two Western experts’ claims that electronic voting machines used in India are not tamper-proof was called off, sponsors say.

”The talk was cancelled since they did not come,” a spokesman for the sponsor, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar said in a telephone interview.
The speakers listed: J Alex Halderman, Assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Michigan University, and Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch hacker and WikiLeaks contributor from Amsterdam.
Halderman and Gonggrijp arrived separately in New Delhi last week but were detained at Indira Gandhi Airport for almost 12 hours over a ”technical” violation, an airport official said.
The two had allegedly visited India before on tourist visas and went on to deliver lectures or participate in conferences.
Officials said Indian missions were under instructions not to issue them visas, but lapses occurred in each instance.
Officials did not say whether or what action was taken for the lapses, besides detaining the visa recipients.
Halderman and Gonggrijp were eventually allowed to enter India provided they do not violate the terms of their tourist visas.
According to Gonggrijp’s blog,”this may all be a consequence of the Election Commission of India having us investigated for some made-up conspiracy to destabilise India for daring to prove that the Electronic Voting Machines used here can be quite easily manipulated.”
But any such involvement of the ECI was denied by a senior official. ”Let them lecture all they want,” the official said.
At the same time, officials point out that visitors must honour the terms of their entry as tourists.
Before they were intercepted, both men appeared headed for Gandhinagar to attend the Sixth International Conference on Information Systems Security scheduled December 15-19.
Neither researcher was available for comment, having apparently not reported at the DAIICT event.
The two reportedly co-authored– alongwith six others– a paper titled: Security Analysis of India’s Electronic Voting Machines presented at Chicago, Illinois in October 2010.
An Abstract of the study available through the sponsor website notes that elections in India ”are conducted almost exclusively” using EVMs ”developed over the past two decades by a pair of government-owned companies.”
The EVMs are manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad, with a ‘programme code’ which controls their functioning written onto the chips in the United States by foreign private companies.
The study says the EVMs ”have been praised for their simple design, ease of use, and reliability, but recently they have also been criticised following widespread reports of election irregularities.”
But it says that despite ”criticism, many details of the machines’ design have never been publicly disclosed, and they have not been subjected to a rigorous, independent security evaluation.”
The authors ”present a security analysis of a real Indian EVM obtained from an anonymous source.”
”We describe the machine’s design and operation in detail, and we evaluate its security in light of relevant election procedures.
”We conclude that in spite of the machines’ simplicity and minimal software trusted computing base, they are vulnerable to serious attacks that can alter election results and violate the secrecy of the ballot.
”We demonstrate two attacks, implemented using custom hardware, which could be carried out by dishonest election insiders or other criminals with only brief physical access to the machines.
”This case study carries important lessons for Indian elections and for electronic voting security more generally.”
The study does not say how the researchers got hold of the EVM.
One co-author, Hari K Prasad, was reportedly arrested by a Maharashtra police team on August 21, 2010 from his home in Hyderabad ”on the flimsy charge of ‘theft of EVM’ used for vulnerability demonstration.”
The other five: Scott Wolchok, Eric Wustrow, Arun Kankipati, Sai Krishna Sakhamuri and Vasavya Yagati.
The study concludes that ”despite elaborate safeguards, India’s EVMs are vulnerable to serious attacks. Dishonest insiders or other criminals with physical access to the machines can insert malicious hardware that can steal votes for the lifetime of the machines.
”Attackers with physical access between voting and counting can arbitrarily change vote totals and can learn which candidate each voter selected.
”The design of India’s EVMs relies entirely on the physical security of the machines and the integrity of election insiders.
”India’s EVMs do not provide transparency, so voters and election officials have no reason to be confident that the machines are behaving honestly.
”India should carefully reconsider how to achieve a secure and transparent voting system that is suitable to its national values and requirements.”
It suggests three options:
— A voter-verifiable paper audit trail which combines an electronic record stored in direct-recording electronic voting machines with a paper vote record that can be audited by hand.
— Precinct-count optical scan voting where voters fill out paper ballots that are scanned by a voting machine at polling stations before being placed in a ballot box.
— Simple paper ballots.
”Despite all of their known weaknesses, simple paper ballots provide a high degree of transparency, so fraud that does occur will be more likely to be detected.
”Using EVMs in India may have seemed like a good idea when the machines were introduced in the 1980s, but science’s understanding of electronic voting security– and of attacks against it– has progressed dramatically since then, and other technologically advanced countries have adopted and then abandoned EVM-style voting.
”Now that we better understand what technology can and cannot do, any new solutions to the very real problems election officials face must address the problems, not merely hide them from sight.”
Reservations about the EVMs have been voiced by many.
As early as March 18, 2004, the CEC was petitioned by a group of Supreme Court lawyers to ”modify and upgrade” EVMs to generate a verifiable paper record that permits a proper recount should need arise.
A month later, on April 21, the lawyers reported they were assured by then Deputy Commissioner A N Jha that the EC is ”seriously considering” attaching small printers to EVMs to produce an auditable paper trail that allows recount.
Indian politicians have even cited the experience of some Western nations– Germany, the Netherlands and others– which tried electronic vote but went back to good old paper ballots.
Answering a member in the Rajya Sabha last month, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily acknowledged it all but held that Indian EVMs ”are different.”
Dr Moily said the ECI ”uses strict administrative safeguards in this regard for greater transparency… All of these ECI-EVMs are fully tamper proof.”
He said the ECI EVMs ”are different” in three respects.
They:
— Are stand alone machines– not networked;
— Use a masked One-time Password microcontroller chip;
— Do not use an operating system.
He cited a consensus among Indian political parties achieved in an All Party Meeting on October 4, 2010 to continue using EVMs.
”The only request by the political parties was to consider the possibility of a verifiable paper trail,” Moily said, adding that the ECI has ”already referred that matter to its technical expert committee for examination.”
UNI MJ NK 1617

 

Jailing Corrupt Politician, Officer Or Judge ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                   April 9, 2011

English: Hon. Anna Hazare in Nanded , Maharastra .

Anna Hazare (Photo: Wikipedia)

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