First things first, if you are looking for sections, subsections, codes and definitions regarding the anti-corruption law in a lingo that is strictly legal this is not the article for you, my friend. However, if you are looking for a witty insight regarding the whole Lokpal bill v. Jan Lokpal bill saga please feel free to hop on board.
The ride from CWG to 2G via Adarsh society has been a bumpy one and quite frankly, we have had enough. Now, I know that I haven’t really chosen an issue that can be categorised as ‘fresh’. For all I know as I sit here writing this piece your facebook account might be getting painted red in support of one Anna Hazare. However, even if not fresh it nevertheless is intriguing.
I am not here to rant about corruption either. Because, let’s face it, who the hell am I kidding? You are as much familiar with corruption as anybody else. You have been there and seen corruption pop its ugly face and make those loathsome passes at you while you are out there minding your day to day business. Like it or not, irrespective of your sex, corruption has eve teased you in the face while you have stood helplessly.
However, the national mood of revulsion is building and it won’t be long before we see the defaulters pay through nose. The precedent that Anna Hazare has set in gathering such massive support in such less time speaks for itself. He has successfully waged a war against graft and is definitely sending a clear message that he is going to nip it at the bud which indeed is a very welcome move.
The demand for an anti-corruption watchdog (not to forget with teeth) is hanging fire since almost forever. The Lokpal bill had been gathering dust for almost four decades. Opposition despite all the hullabaloo never really cared to bring to the fore the infirmities of the official version of the Lokpal bill. If not for Anna’s selfless crusade we could have very well bid farewell to the idea of an effective ombudsman to check graft. So Kudos to the sweet old man for shaking things up!
But is that enough? While Anna’s intentions are far from being questionable nevertheless there is a valid doubt in one’s head and that is if his followers will deliver what is sought. True, the protests by Anna Hazare and his followers has lead the government to announce the formation of a joint committee. It will witness a cross between the government and the civil society which in turn will give birth to an effective Lokpal.
But before we go through with that there are things to be taken care of. For starters, both the versions, that of the government and of the civil society, are far from practical application. While the former renders the Lokpal ineffective, the latter transforms it into such a monster that it might end up hurting those only who it seeks to serve. The aim is to make the Lokpal effective yet accountable and none of the either versions provides for effectiveness and accountability simultaneously. Which is one of the biggest shortcoming in the present scenario. On government’s part the need of the hour is to lend a helping hand in building up an ombudsman which is not just strong and independent but is also not just advisory or is circumscribed in any other way. Whereas, there is no denying the fact that the very idea of lacing the Lokpal with leviathan like powers seems to pose a threat to the very purpose that it seeks to achieve. To gadget the Lokpal with sweeping powers could equally be a recipe for corruption, after all as they say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The term we are looking for is ‘reasonable restraints’. For instance, to ensure accountability on the part of Lokpal a clause for appellate judicial review by the apex court might come in handy.
Secondly, all doesn’t some to be well within the joint committee and for obvious reasons. While the government seeks to believe that the legislating is a constitutionally guaranteed prerogative of the executive and the legislature the civil society activists beg to differ. This is resulting into unnecessary distraction from the job in hand. A war of nothing but futile arguments won’t help us reach the purpose. Both the government and the civil society activists, as it looks, seek the same end just that the means are different. The answer lies in bridging the differences and building a common mean.
Thirdly, we need to make the entire process as autonomous as is possible. For instance, the draft bill laces the Lokpal with power to issue search warrants. However, a better mean would be to depute the CBI officials from its anti-graft wing to serve directly under the Lokpal’s control. Also, the need to let go of CBI from under the executive’s control is imperative and might help in a big way to combat the corrupt.
Lastly, the preservation of public-faith in the civil society activists is the major key to succeed in this endeavour. Recently, the much-touted selection process has also come under heavy scrutiny and the presence of a father-son duo in the five members that are proposed by the civil society to draft the bill is a move that is not really being welcomed. In a country with a reserve that is flooded with human resource, are we so famished in talent that we had to go for ‘the principle of dynasty’? Something we scathingly attack the political class for following. The civil society activists must not forget that they are out there because they pose their ‘impeachable integrity’ to be there biggest strength. Any step that might raise doubts in the head of the public at large might hinder them from seeking their resolve. Thus, the maintainability of public trust in them should be of utmost importance to them.
However all the glitches apart, Anna and his army have done a great job. Whatever might be the pros and cons of Anna’s war against graft, the massive public support it has achieved shows nothing else but a lot of aggression in the public. The snow-balling response that Anna received has shaken the very foundation of the government. The government does not seem to be laid-back anymore, at least in its approach to capitulate quickly to the demand of the public. Let’s just hope that this crusader against the social evils leads us through successfully.
Until then, it’s raining scams.
4th Year student, UILS, P.U, Chandigarh.
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]