“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today”….Mahatma Gandhi
Hardly any day passes without any news of corruption in India. The root of corruption lies in the inability of the political and administrative authority to understand and accept that under the Indian Constitution, the citizen is sovereign and that his/her rights are the basis of governance of the country. The fight against corruption is not possible for an individual without the active participation of people. We seem to be living in an ‘India’ where there is a scam in a week if not a scam a day. For this very reason the people are taking the issue of corruption very seriously. More and more policymakers, businesses and civil society organizations have begun to confront the issue openly. Nagarajan Vittal, the former Central Vigilance Commissioner of India, who advocated a right to corruption free service to be the fundamental right of every citizen, emphatically pointed out that it is necessary to sensitise the entire population of the country and bring together every citizen who wants to fight corruption. Gradually this sensitization is taking place whether in the form of the emergence of the role of civil society against corruption or the common masses of the country. Examples can be drawn from the recent Egyptian Movement against the tyranny of their ruler and the Indian Anti-Corruption Movement demanding a better Lokpal Bill.
An eye-wash sponsored by the State
Eight times in the history of this Republic, governments have tried to get the Lokpal Bill enacted. The Bill has been introduced in Parliament in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1995, 2001, 2005 and 2008, but was never passed. But no government – from Indira Gandhi to that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh – could succeed in installing an all powerful ombudsman to probe graft cases against the high and the mighty in the country. The basic idea of the Lokpal is borrowed from the office of ombudsman, which has played an effective role in checking corruption and wrong-doing in Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway) and other nations.
Government’s action in the year 2010
On 2010, again the government proposed to introduce the Lokpal bill into the Parliament. But it has many lacunas; the most important among them is the drafting committee itself. The other loopholes are as follows:
Lokpal will have no power to initiate suo-moto action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public.
Lokpal has been proposed to be an advisory body. Lokpal, after enquiry in any case, will forward its report to the competent authority.
Lokpal is restricted to preliminary enquiry. It is not endorsed with any powers to file a case against culprit.
Lokpal will have jurisdiction only on MP’s, ministers and PM. It will not have jurisdiction over the government officers.
The selection committee consists of Vice President, PM, Leaders of both houses, Leaders of opposition in houses, Law Minister and Home minister. Barring Vice President, all of them are politicians whose corruption, Lokpal is supposed to investigate.
The birth of Jan Lokpal bill
Due all these flaws and ambiguities in the Government Lokpal bill there was a great need to establish an independent body as proposed by Anna Hazare and other people of civil society that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year. The convict’s ill-acquired wealth would be also confiscated under the system. The bill also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without interference and the need for permission from the government.
Anna Hazares’ fast unto death is the stepping stone for the unicorn named, Jan Lokpal Bill. The salient features that have been proposed by the civil society with the help of Anna Hazare are as follows:
- The Jan Lokpal Bill seeks to establish an institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state. Like the statutory bodies of Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No political influence of any minister or bureaucrat will be there on the Lokpal.
- Under the present anti-corruption bill investigations in any case will have to be completed within six months or not more than 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.
- The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
- 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.
- The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer will dismissed within two months.
- 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.
- It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
In the government’s version of the bill, the Lokpal would have no power to initiate suo moto action or receive complaints of corruption from the general public. It was to only investigate complaints forwarded by the Lok Sabha Speaker or Rajya Sabha chairman. In short, the Lokpal was envisaged as an advisory body whose powers would be limited to recommending actions to a “competent authority”. Most agree that a joint committee to draft a new Lokpal Bill is a welcome decision. Eighteen Indian states have already created the Lokayukta (a body mandated to investigate matters related to corruption and mal-administration by public servants) by passing the Lokayukta Acts. Then why should not there be a strong central law to deal with corruption.
Arvind Kejriwal, one of the core members of the India Against Corruption group, who drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill believes that the Jan Lokpal Bill is bigger than the implementation of RTI act; it will make the politicians go to jail and punish them for being corrupt. Though the Jan Lokpal Bill is criticised as for giving excessive power in the hands of the Lokpal but at the same time, the state in which India is at the moment, that is the state of unaccountability on part of anti-corruption machinery, lack of faith in the working of the CVC and CBI and scams being revealed every other day; there is a need of a stringent law on the same lines as that of the Jan Lokpal Bill. The need of the hour is to have an effective cop who can investigate and prosecute the high and mighty without interdiction from the very people who need to be prosecuted.
But only creating a powerful Lokpal who can prosecute the corrupt is not the solution to the deeply entrenched problem of corruption. As it is said that Corruption is all pervasive, hence we need to create a credible and accountable Lokpal to check corruption at the central level. The Jan Lokpal Bill is not an end in itself but a means to an end. As the joint committee meetings will progress, hopefully a powerful entity of Lokpal is created which can gradually remove the evil of corruption will be formed and the reformed bill proves to be the much needed piece of legislation for the citizens of India.
NK Gupta, Corruption in India, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, Pg. ix.
 N Vittal, Corruption in India: The Roadblock to National Prosperity, Academic Foundation Publication, New Delhi, Pg. 1-5.
 Sunil Sodhi, Combating Corruption in India: the Role of Civil Society, July 2000.
 See supra note 3, Pg. 10.
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Arnab Naskar and Mohinder Pratap Singh Libra
Students, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]