Jan Lokpal – An idealistic yellow brick road?

Thu, Sep 1, 2011

Social Issues

Corruption in our country has reached a startling magnitude. The 2G Scam has become infamous to the extent of embarrassment for us. This is due to some policies that have created huge motivations for its increase, together with the lack of an effective institution that can investigate the corrupt. Over the years, our country has adopted various policies by which natural resources and public possessions have been allowed to be acquired by private sector without transparency. These policies allow the organizations to take away and sell the funds by paying the government a royalty, which is usually less than 1 per cent of the value of the resources. This provides vast scope for bribe and weaves the path for corruption. We have also not been able to set up effective institutions to keep a strong check on the frauds. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is still under the administrative control of the government whereas the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which is supposed to supervise the CBI, has been unsuccessful, since its own selection process is puzzled with difference of interest.

The draft Jan Lokpal bill looks to create an association that will be mainly independent of those it looks to keep an eye on and which will have useful powers to investigate and prosecute all public servants. Since corruption involves misbehaviour and gives rise to criticism, the draft proposes that the Lokpal will supervise to pursue disciplinary proceedings against government servants. Thus, wrongdoing by government servants will come under the compass of an autonomous authority rather than the government. It is considered that if the Lokpal finds that an agreement is being given for fraudulent deals, it can stop the agreement. It cannot otherwise interfere with government policies.

It is being thought that this bill will structure a head in charge with massive powers and no liability. There is a delusion that the planned Lokpal would have legal powers; there isn’t any such stipulation in the Lokpal bill. The utter requirement right now is to have a useful investigator who can search and take legal action against the powerful without any sort of prohibition coming from any chunk of society. There are some important clauses in the bill. Firstly, it is authorized to function clearly and visibly so that everything related to its execution is known to the citizens. Freedom from disclosure provided in the Right to Information Act could also be incorporated. Secondly, the Lokpal’s orders will be subjected to re-examine in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Thirdly, the constituent of the Lokpal may well be removed for bad behaviour by the Supreme Court. Apart from all this, there is some disapproval of the Lokpal selection method. Given the attrition in the honesty of most of our organizations, it was thought that the best bet would be to have a mixed selection committee to create transparency and public involvement into the selection process. That is why in the draft bill Ministers were asked to be kept out.

We have witnessed how the Prime Minister, Home Minister and leaders of the opposition have usually chosen frail and bendable CVCs. As a result the draft bill suggests a selection committee encompassing the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Rajya Sabha Chairman, the two senior most judges of the Supreme Court, two senior most Chief Justices of High Courts, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Election Commissioner, and the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. These would be accompanied by the leaving people of the Lokpal. This projected selection of the group certainly needs to be argued upon and possibly enhanced during open discussions and dialogues by the drafting committee that takes place in the future.

Lokpal has certainly caught the eye of the masses today. The agitation for its formation has taken unprecedented levels. Like any other major agitation, this one also has several groups of society following it and some against it. Whether or not, this agitation materialises successfully or not, only time will tell. One must not, however, be under any misapprehension that the Lokpal bill by itself would solve the basic crisis of corruption. The side someone takes is a matter of subjectivity and sensitivity. But irrespective of that, we all probably agree that it is a reality check for all of us. As we all are a part of same society, which we call ‘corrupt’ by choice. Until we are sound enough to deal with the policies that generate vast opportunities for corruption and huge organizations that become too dominant for any other association to control, the struggle will not be complete.

Saurabh Awasthi

Master in Business Administration(2011-2013)

IIT Kanpur

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